Millsaps College
Research Project Tips
"A poorly planned research project will take three times as long to complete as you think it should. A well planned project will take only twice as long."
-- Martin Raish, librarian

Here are our tips for successful research.
  1. Start as early as possible. Start as soon as you get your assignment.
  2. Read and interpret the assignment carefully and make sure you understand it. Discuss it with an instructor, if necessary.
  3. Find a broad topic that interests you, and start your research using the steps below. Refine your topic along the way so that:
    • It’s broad enough to give you several search options.
    • It’s focused enough that you’re not overwhelmed with information.
  4. Develop research questions. To do this ask yourself - What am I trying to find out? What will my research prove? What answer am I searching for? If you don't know what you are looking for, it will be difficult to find it. Here are some tips for developing a research question.
  5. Start a research log to track your research. A research log is simply a document where you record where you searched, what search terms you used and what sources you find. Keeping careful notes about your research will help you keep from duplicating searches and can help you avoid accidental plagarism.
  6. Follow the steps below to start your research. Ask a librarian if you get stuck. You can email, call, or come by the desk.
Develop a Search Strategy
Library catalogs and databases work differently than Internet search engines and require some specialized search techniques. You can't type your thesis statement or research question into a library database.

Write a research statement or question that describes your topic.
Women should have to register for the selective service in the United States.
Do violent video games have a negative psychological effect on children?
Circle or underline the key concepts in your research statement
Women should have to register for the selective service in the United States.
Write your key concepts and combine them with AND
Women AND selective service AND United States
Write down synonyms for your key concepts. Use a thesaurus if needed.
Women= female
Selective service= draft
United States= America
Take each set of synonyms from strategy 3, combine them with OR and put parenthesis around them.
(Women or woman or female)
(Selective service or draft)
(United States or America)
Truncate words as appropriate, being careful not to over or under truncate.
 (draft* will retrieve draft, drafted, drafting)
Put it all together and decide what you will type in the computer. 
(Women or woman or female) and (Selective service or draft*) and (United States or America)
If you get too few results; check spelling, use fewer search words, try variations of your search terms or acronyms for your search terms, try different abbreviations or use complete words rather than abbreviations, play with your search terms.  This might seem like a complicated process, but even if you just use strategy 1 & will get better results.
Finding scholarly books
Librarians recommend that for almost all research project topics, you start with books. Books will give you an overview and background information about your topic and and for some topics can also give a detailed analysis. Try these steps to get the best books on your topic.

Step 1:
Search the Millsaps Library Catalog which provides access to scholarly books and resources found in the Millsaps Library.

Or search in Big Search and click the check box for "Limit to Library Catalog Only."

Keyword Searching
Figure out the best search terms for keyword searching using the search strategy above, and start searching! Click Millsaps Library Catalog and type the search strategies you came up with above into the "Words or Phrase" box.

If you get stuck, try a broader search. The books you find may have some information on your specific topic in the index or tabel of contents. Heritage students have success searching for books using these types of searches:
  • Topic and Time. Add one of the following time periods to your topic: Ancient, Antiquity, Middle Ages, Medieval or even just History.
    horses and middle ages
    women and ancient
    hinduism and history

  • Topic and Place.
    architecture and rome
    architecture and roman

Subject Searching
  • Click the Millsaps Library Catalog and type a broad topic into the "Subject" box. One simple search to get started is to do a subject search for [Country] history and then browse the subject headings. For example:
      Rome History
      Africa History

    Or try the clicking one of the following broad subject areas:

Step 2: Grab the books off the shelf
and check them out
You need the location, call number and be sure to see if the books is checked out/in.
Tip: Books on the same topic are shelved together, so when you find your book look at nearby books.
Link to listing of Library of Congress Classification Outline

Step 3: Search for eBooks

You may be able to find relevant eBooks on your topic through the library's subscription to an academic collection of eBooks from EBSCO that includes over 100,000 eBooks. These eBooks can be found as results in Big Search and in a separate eBook database. Here is a guide on the library's eBooks.

Step 4: If you can't find the books you need at Millsaps, you can use to find books and have them delivered.

Use similar search terms to the ones above, but you might be able to use slightly narrower terms because in this case you are searching all of the libraries in the world. For example, you might have had to use the terms women and ancient in the Millsaps Library Catalog, but now be a bit narrower and try:
women and sports and ancient

When you find a book that looks interesting, click on its title and read about it. If you would like to get it delivered, click the orange "Request via Interlibrary Loan button" - the book will be delivered to the library, and we will email you when it arrives.  You will need to use it right away and return it because there are fines of $1 a day for each Interlibrary Loan book that is late. More information about Interlibrary Loan:
Finding scholarly articles
When searching for scholarly articles, you can use Big Search to search across most of our databases, or you can search in a specific database.

While Big Search can be convenient, there are some advantages to searching in specific databases. For example, JSTOR and Project MUSE results are not always easily found in Big Search. You can find more results from these databases by searching in them individually.

Peer-Reviewed Journals

  • Peer review is the process by which an author's peers, recognized researchers in the field, read and evaluate a paper (article) submitted for publication and recommend whether the paper should be published, revised, or rejected.
  • Peer review is a widely accepted indicator of quality scholarship in a discipline or field. Articles accepted for publication through a peer review process meet the discipline's expected standards of expertise.
  • Peer-reviewed (or refereed) journals are scholarly journals that only publish articles that have passed through this review process.

To ensure you are finding articles from peer-reviewed journals, click the check box for "Limit to Peer Reviewed" in Big Search or in the database you are searching. If you are unsure if an article is from a peer-reviewed journal, you can try finding the website for the journal online and see if it states it is a peer-reviewed journal. You can also ask a librarian if you are unsure.

Choosing Keywords

You could start by using the same keywords you used to search for books. You will get many more results for articles so you can then narrow down your results. You can add in more specific search terms to your broad terms. As you begin reading in books on your topic, you will find you are interested in specific aspects of the time period and place you are researching. You can use some of the terms you find in your readings to search for journal articles.

Instead of women ancienct greece, you could search more specifically for: pythagorean women

Article Abstracts
When looking through search results for articles, you can click into the article to find the abstract. An abstract acts as a summary of the article and can tell you more about an article than the title and publication information alone. You will still need to read the article, but the abstract can help you decide whether it is an article that fits your topic enough to spend the time reading.
All Items by Source

Articles in Journals/Magazines

Academic Search Complete (Ebsco) Restricted Resource Some full text available
In 2012 the library upgraded from Academic Search Premier to Academic Search Complete. Academic Search Complete includes everything that was in Academic Search Premier, plus more.

Academic Search Complete has:
  • Nearly 13,000 abstracted and indexed journals
  • More than 8,750 full-text journals
  • Full text for nearly 7,800 peer-reviewed journals
  • PDF content dating back as far as 1887
  • Searchable cited references provided for more than 1,400 journals
Featuring thousands of full-text journals, this scholarly collection offers unmatched coverage of information spanning a broad range of important areas of academic study including: anthropology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, civil engineering, engineering, ethnic & multicultural studies, geology, law, materials science, mathematics, music, pharmaceutical sciences, physics, psychology, religion & theology, veterinary science, women's studies, zoology, and many other fields.

NOTE:  If you are on a Mobile Phone, try this link for a cleaner interface.

JSTOR Restricted Resource Some full text available

Full-text back runs of major academic journals. The Arts & Sciences I Collection, to which Millsaps subscribes, includes the complete back runs of 117 titles in 15 disciplines. Established in 1997, it is JSTOR's first collection and includes many of the core research and society published journals in economics, history, political science, and sociology, as well as in other key fields in the humanities and social sciences. This collection also includes a selection of titles in the more science-oriented fields of ecology, mathematics, and statistics.

Project Muse Restricted Resource Some full text available
Index and full text of journals published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Project MUSE offers nearly 250 quality journal titles from 40 scholarly publishers. As one of the academic community's primary electronic journals resources, Project MUSE covers the fields of literature and criticism, history, the visual and performing arts, cultural studies, education, political science, gender studies, economics, and many others.
Iter Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance Restricted Resource

Index to journal articles (and some material in books) pertaining to the Middle Ages and Renaissance (400-1700).

Feminae : Medieval Women and Gender Index
Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index covers journal articles, book reviews, and essays in books about women, sexuality, and gender during the Middle Ages.


L'Annee philologique Restricted Resource

Published by the Société Internationale de Bibliographie Classique, this is a specialized bibliographic database of scholarly works relating to all aspects of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Originally available in print form only, this database includes all volumes of the annual index, beginning with Volume I published in 1928

L'Annee philologique covers a wide array of subjects, including Greek and Latin literature and linguistics—which includes early Christian texts and patristics—Greek and Roman history, art, archaeology, philosophy, religion, mythology, music, science, and scholarly subspecialties such as numismatics, papyrology and epigraphy.

Abstracts of journal articles are in English, German, Spanish, French or Italian. Books entries often include tables of contents and book review information.

Electronic Books/Online Books

Digital Loeb Classical Library Restricted Resource Some full text available

Digital Loeb Classical Library, from Harvard University Press, contains over 520 volumes of Latin, Greek, and English texts. Users can browse, search, bookmark, annotate, and share content about Greek and Latin Classical history and literature.


Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy Restricted Resource Some full text available
The Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy covers all areas of philosophy in the Middle Ages and part of the Renaissance, ranging from 500 to 1500 CE. It contains general entries on medieval philosophers and medieval philosophies and on the key terms and concepts in the subject area, but it also provides more in-depth details and analyses of particular theories. Furthermore, in order to gain an insight into the social and cultural context of the material, entries are included on the teaching of philosophy, the career of philosophers, and the place of philosophy within the universities.
Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt Restricted Resource

Featuring 600 original articles written by leading scholars, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt goes far beyond the records of archaeology to make available what we know about the full social, political, religious, cultural and artistic legacy of this 5,000-year civilization.

The Encyclopedia offers the most complete picture available of ancient Egyptian civilization, from the predynastic era to its eclipse in the seventh century CE. Here is the Egyptian world in illuminating, accessible detail: art, architecture, religion, language, literature, trade, politics, everyday social life and the culture of the court. Of special interest is the coverage of themes and issues that are particularly controversial—such as the new theories of the origins of complex society in the Nile Valley, new discoveries about Greco-Roman Egypt, and new developments in literature, religion, linguistics and other fields, including the debates about Egypt's African legacy.

Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome Restricted Resource

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome offers a comprehensive overview of the major cultures of the classical Mediterranean world—Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman—from the Bronze Age to the fifth century CE. It also covers the legacy of the classical world and its interpretation and influence in subsequent centuries. The Encyclopedia brings the work of the best classical scholars, archaeologists, and historians together in an easy-to-use format. The nearly eleven hundred articles, written by leading scholars in the field, seek to convey the significance of the people, places, and historical events of classical antiquity, together with its intellectual and material culture. Broad overviews of literature, history, archaeology, art, philosophy, science, and religion are complimented by articles on authors and their works, literary genres and periods, historical figures and events, archaeologists and archaeological sites, artists and artistic themes and materials, philosophers and philosophical schools, scientists and scientific areas, gods, heroes, and myths.

Oxford Reference Online: Premium Collection Restricted Resource Some full text available
Oxford Reference Online contains about 100 dictionary, language reference, and subject reference works published by Oxford University Press. It is a fully-indexed, cross-searchable database of these books plus an expanding range of key titles from the acclaimed Oxford Companions Series, plus the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Also includes the a collection of reference books about Literature and Western Civilization.

NOTE:  Maximum 1 simultaneous user. Please try later if busy.

Primary Sources

Britannica's Original Sources Restricted Resource Some full text available

The site includes original source documents, critical selections and acclaimed works across U.S. and World History, Literature, Social Science, Political Science, Law, Science, Mathematics, Religion, Philosophy, and Language.

You may also take a look at our Finding Primary Sources research guide.

Research Help
Picture: Library / Main Desk

Library / Main Desk
Tel: (601) 974-1073

Coming up with a topic

Here’s a step-by-step method for coming up with a topic and/or topic question:

1. Read through the assignment and/or syllabus and write down any topic at all that interests you.  Make a list of possible topics:  What do you want to know more about?  What do you wonder about?  Just list these topics.

2. If you want to, repeat step one with your lecture-notes or outlines or readings.

3. Once you have generated a list of possible topics, circle the three that interest you most.

4. Do a short free-write on each of these three:  What do you already know about each of these topics?  What do you want to find out?

5. Read your three free-writes:  Which topic interested you most now?

Evaluating Sources (CASA)

-Up-to-date terminology and facts

-Qualifications or credentials of the author, editor, contributors

-Are submissions peer reviewed?


-What topics are covered? How detailed is the source?


-Does the content seem credible? Is the evidence verifiable?

It is important to critically evaluate all information you encouter. Closely look at where the information is coming from. If an author's credentials or citations are not available, then a source is not able to be verified as trustworthy.

Can't find it at Millsaps?
If your article or book is not available at Millsaps Library, you can request a copy through Interlibrary Loan.

Allow at least a week for an article to arrive and two weeks for a book to arrive. If your article is delivered in electronic format, you'll receive an email with the article attached as soon as it has arrived.