Resourcesbreadcrumb separatorPOST Library Research Servicesbreadcrumb separatorPOST Library: How to Start

Starting Your ResearchStarting Your Research

Think of research as an investigation.  Begin by casting your net wide.  Validate your sources and do not take any one source as the final authority.  Analyze the information.  Here are some information resources to consider:

Internet Research

Online Databases

  • Commercial products compiled by subject matter experts and professional indexers.
  • Complex search functions provide focused results.
  • “Pay-for-play”-- Access them through your local library, university, or community college.
  • Boolean Searching


  • The most current information can be found in journals.  Note: Some law enforcement titles are not indexed in commercial databases.
  • Journals can be divided into three categories: popular, scholarly, and trade journals.  All are useful in research.  
  • Access our current POST library journals list.

Primary Research vs. Secondary Research

A good researcher stays aware of the type of information he/she is accessing.  Primary sources tell the story, while secondary sources put facts and figures into context. Secondary research is important to futurist studies.

Primary (First-hand Information, Directly from the Source)

  • Unedited eyewitness accounts
  • Transcripts of interviews, speeches, TV shows, etc
  • Financial figures
  • First-hand description of event
  • Creative works: literature, plays, etc

Secondary Research (Analysis, Synthesis, Summaries)

  • "Desk research"
  • Financial analysis
  • Summaries of events by individuals not directly involved
  • Criticisms or reviews

Books, Government Publications, White Papers

  • Look here for overview, history, and background information.
  • Good way to locate experts, reports and studies.
  • Government agencies and law enforcement associations produce a wealth of information.