Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Internet Explorer 11 Will No Longer Be Supported as of November 20, 2020. Read More...

Information Literacy Strategies: Finding Information Efficiently

In this guide you will find suggested strategies for finding, evaluating, and using information.

Finding Information Efficiently

The following six steps outline a simple and effective strategy for finding information for a report or term paper, writing the paper, and documenting the sources you use. Depending on your topic and familiarity with the library collections, you will rearrange or repeat these steps. For some subjects, books may be sufficient; for others, journal articles will be best. Adapt this outline to your needs.

Step 1

Identify Your Topic
State your topic as a question. For example, if you are interested in finding out about the use of tobacco products by college students, you might pose the question: "What effect does the use of tobacco products have on the health of college students?" Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question.

Step 2

Find Background Information
Look up your keywords in encyclopedia entries or similar online sources to set the context for your research. Note any relevant items in the bibliographies at the end of articles. Additional background information may be found in your lecture notes, textbooks, and reserve readings.

Step 3

Finding Books in the FAU Libraries Catalog


In this 4-minute video, FAU librarian Alyse Ergood will show how to find books in the FAU Library Catalog.

Step 4

Use FAU's  Search Engine OneSearch to Locate Journal Articles
In this 5-minute video, FAU librarian Ken Frankel will show how to find abstracts and full-text articals in OneSearch.


The Subject Guide pages and LibGuides may also be helpful in making the best selection. If you're doing your work in the library, ask to speak to a librarian about your topic; this will save you time.

When you have located an article from a database, use the FindIt@FAU icon to reach the full-text. If there is no full-text available or if you've reached a non-working link, check to see if FAU owns the periodical by searching the FAU Catalog for the journal title. Another way to reach an electronic journal is through the Electronic Journals search box. For journals not found at the Jupiter campus library or FAU, you will need to make a request from Interlibrary Loan.

Step 5

Evaluate What You Have Found
See How to Critically Analyze Information Sources and Distinguishing Scholarly from Non-Scholarly Periodicals for suggestions on evaluating the authority and quality of the books and articles you have located. If you found too many or two few sources, you may need to narrow or broaden your topic. Check with the library staff or your instructor.

Step 6

Use a Standard Format for Your Bibliography
FAU maintains a web page of links to Citation Styles. This includes APA, MLA and Turabian (Chicago) formats. Publication manuals for each of these styles are kept in our "Ready Reference" section. Please ask staff if you need help locating these or other resources.


Research Tips


Work from the General to the Specific:

Find background information first, then use more specific and recent sources.

Write down What You Find and Where You Found It:

Write (or print out) a complete citation for each source you find; you may need it again later.



The following are a few of the many books designed to help you navigate the research process (ask the library staff for others):

Selecting a Topic, Taking Notes, Organizing a Draft

              MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
Gibaldi, Joseph
7th ed.
New York: MLA, 2009
Call No. REF LB2369 .G53 2009

The Final Product: Format and Documentation

              American Psychological Association. Publication Manual
Various authors
6th ed.
Washington, DC : American Psychological Association, 2009
Call No. REF BF76.7 .P83 2009


              A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations
Turabian, Kate L. and Bonnie B. Honigsblum
7th ed.
Chicago: Univ Chicago Pr., 2007
Call No. REF LB2369 .T8 2007