1. Conduct a thorough reference interview.
- Have the patron provide specifics about their question or topic. Get details!
- What have they already done? Where have they searched? What search terms/combinations of words did they use? What worked? What didn’t?
2. Break down the topic into individual components.
- What level of information does the patron need?
- For lower division undergraduates, databases such as Academic Search Ultimate will probably cover the topic sufficiently.
- Upper division undergraduates or graduate students may need more detailed, subject-specific information. In this case a discipline-specific database is probably best.
- Is there a single best database? Is this a topic that crosses disciplines and will need to be searched in more than one database?
- How much information does the patron need (i.e. a short overview of a topic or multiple peer-reviewed articles)? This can help you determine what kind of database to begin with.
- When do they need the information? If the answer is right now, they will be most successful in a database with full-text sources. If the patron is seeking an overview or just something to get started, a general source or an online reference source may serve them best.