Research Help

Reference DeskResearch is a multi-step undertaking that will require you to use different resources and search strategies as you progress. Below are some suggested tools to use at different stages in the research process.

Selection – Choose an area of inquiry or research question to address.

  • Use HillSearch to find reference works and books that provide a broad overview of your topic.
  • Use popular search engines, such as Google, to explore your topic.

Exploration –Use the information you obtained to narrow your focus or refine your research question. Select particular resources you would like to search and identify possible search terms you will use to locate material.

  • Use HillSearch to find print and electronic books, journal articles, primary sources, audio-visual materials, and government documents related to your topic.
  • Use WorldCat to search for items not held by MacPhaidin Library and order materials using ILLiad, the library’s interlibrary loan system.
  • Use library subject guides to access disciplinary-specific resources.
  • Use library class guides to access materials related specifically to your course. This is only available for some courses.
  • Use popular search engines, such as Google, to access materials in digital collections.
  • Evaluate those web-based materials for authority, accuracy, objectivity and currency.
  • Make an appointment with a reference librarian for one-on-one research assistance.

Collection – Organize the information you collect, making sure you have all the necessary information to properly cite the resources you use.

  • Use RefWorks, a bibliographic management tool, to collect your citations and compile your bibliography.
  • Use the Library’s Citation Guides to ensure your work is properly formatted. On the right-hand side of this link, you will see a drop down menu to select the different Citation Style Guides used in your courses.


  • Visit the College’s Writing Center for help with structuring your final research product.
  • Reference help is also available at the Reference Desk, by calling 508.565.1203 or email.