Skip to Main Content

Astronomy

Research guide to finding reliable information on Astronomy.

Research Mindset

Develop a research mindset. Understand research as a process of asking questions and exploring. 

The quality of your research depends largely on the questions you ask. Practice asking a lot of them. Adopt the mindset of an explorer or investigator. What qualities and characteristics do successful explorers and investigators have?  Develop a plan; where will you start?  As you begin to explore, you will discover that research can be messy. Expect and welcome twists and turns, keep an open mind, and keep asking questions throughout the process. Use many different kinds of search tools and resources, and conduct many different kinds of searches. 

Think like a researcher: Keep an open mind, be curious, be persistent, patient, maintain high standards, be flexible, and explore

Research takes time and patience; it can also be fun and has value.

Developing your research skills will enable you to identify a problem, collect informational resources that can help address the problem, evaluate these resources for quality and relevance, and come up with an effective solution to a problem. Research skills develop critical thinking and equip you to write better research papers and craft better speeches. You will also improve problem solving skills required to tackle issues in your personal life and in the workplace. 

Steps in Research

Follow these steps.

Keep an open mind. You may need to refine your topic, ask new questions, and repeat steps as you go along.

  1. Identify and define your topic. Put your research topic into a question such as, "What is the debate surrounding vaccination refusal?" Now you can identify the main concepts and keywords, including alternate terms, for your topic.

  2. Background reading will deepen your understanding and vocabulary around the topic, which will help you identify search terms and develop an effective research question. Subject encyclopedias (in print or in Credo Reference) are excellent resources. 

  3. Use Search It! or the library classic catalog to find books. Use your keywords to perform both keyword and subject searches. 

  4. Use Search It! or individual databases to find journal articles. Be sure to choose appropriate databases for your topic.

  5. Search for reliable and authoritative website resources. Try the librarian recommended websites on this guide.

  6. Always evaluate what you find. Consider timeliness, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose.

  7. Cite your sources. Citing gives proper credit to the authors of materials you use and allows your professors to verify your conclusions. 

research shown as a squiggly path, not a straight line

Search Limits and Advanced Searching

Search Limits

Search Limits allow you to narrow your searches either to availability of articles or article type or date of publication. Look for search limits after you have conducted an initial keyword search. Depending on the tool you are using, search limits may show up in the left margin, at the top of the results, or below the search box.

Full Text

The Full-text limit is very useful, as selecting it ensures that you will only see articles on your result page which have the complete text of the article included. Unless you are required to find everything out there is published on a given subject, this limit should be applied every time you search.

Date

Date limits are especially useful when you are looking for articles that are no older than a certain date.

Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed Journals

The Scholarly Journals or Peer-Reviewed Journals limit may be useful too, if those are the only type of articles you wish to see. 

Subject

The Subject limit will help you narrow your results to items that are clearly focused on a particular subject of interest. 

Advanced Searching

Advanced Searching is an excellent option to switch to before even beginning a search. In an advanced search, generally, the database provides several search boxes already connected with the word "AND" and often presents even more limit options.

Keyword & Subject Searching

Keyword Searching

Keyword searching is used by internet search engines, databases, and the library catalog. Keep in mind that the search will find matches for specific words, not concepts. In the library catalog (and most databases) use AND between your words to make sure every word appears in each item of your results. For example, to find books or articles about the formation of stars type:

  • stars and formation

If you're finding results using the word "stars" in a different sense than astronomy, you might want to add the word "astronomy" to your search:

  • stars and astronomy

If you want to find a specific phrase, with the words next to each other in order, use double quotation marks around the phrase:

  • "lyrid meteor shower" 
  • "astronomy magazine"
  • "total solar eclipse"

You might want to broaden your search to include synonyms or other related words. To find either of two words or phrases, use OR between them:

  • stars OR stellar
  • (stars OR stellar) AND formation

You can also use truncation to search for different forms of a word. The asterisk * is used in the library catalog and many databases for this. 

  • stars AND astronom*
  • galax*
  • galax* AND formation
  • (galax* OR stellar) AND form*

In the above searches, astronom* will find astronomy, astronomer, astronomers, or  astronomical, Similarly, galax* will find the words galaxy or galaxies, while form* will find form, forms, formation, formations, formal, formula, formulas, formulations, etc.  Always use at least three letters in word root. You don't want too few letters which will lead to unintended words being included in your search.

Nesting: When combining types of searches, use parentheses (  ) around different parts of the search, as in the examples above. this will clarify which part of the search is done first. 

Capitalization doesn't matter in most library databases. A few databases and search engines require AND and OR to be in all capital letters or they will be treated like regular words in your search. Google uses OR this way. (AND is the default in Google, with no need to type it). 

Subject Heading Searching

Think of subject headings as labels or tags that someone has used to identify the subject of a book or article. The subject headings are standardized so that only one term is used for a specific subject.  Here are a few examples from the Library Catalog:

Evaluate Information

Evaluating the information you find, whether in print or digital format, is an essential aspect of doing research.

Learn to think critically about the source of information and the information within each source by using the Evaluate Your Sources guide (linked below). Once acquired, the habit of critical analysis will serve you in everything you read. 

St. Louis Community College Libraries

Florissant Valley Campus Library
3400 Pershall Rd.
Ferguson, MO 63135-1408
Phone: 314-513-4514

Forest Park Campus Library
5600 Oakland
St. Louis, MO 63110-1316
Phone: 314-644-9210

Meramec Campus Library
11333 Big Bend Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-5720
Phone: 314-984-7797

Wildwood Campus Library
2645 Generations Drive
Wildwood, MO 63040-1168
Phone: 636-422-2000