General Research Tips

  • Start by coming up with a list of key search terms that you plan to try in various ways in each database.
  • Search broadly; don’t just use one database or one keyword.
  • START EARLY!!!!!!
  • Mine the works cited pages of the sources you collect. You may find the best sources by reading what others have read (especially if you admire their research).
  • Remember to take notes. For my book I have a 100 page annotated bibliography that I’ve been keeping in Microsoft Word for the last eight years. You don’t need to be that extreme, but you will forget what you’ve read right after you’ve read it. So write down a few sentences that summarize the argument of each thing you read.
  • Think of research as an experience and a journey. When I start to write something new, I collect all of the sources I want with a really broad conception of what it is I want to know. Then I start to narrow things down as I refine my interests. When I start writing, I discover I need to know more about certain elements of a topic, so I go back and do more research. Don’t imagine this as a one-step process.


This is a link to the University’s U-Find catalog:

Please notice that at the upper right there is a pull-down menu that gives you the option to choose “Local Catalog Only,” or “All I-Share Libraries.” Make sure that you switch this to “All I-Share Libraries” before beginning your search. This process can take a long time, so start ordering your sources as soon as possible. If you haven’t done this before, the first time, you will have to create a new account with your #800, but after that your e-id and password will do the trick. When you find a source you would like to order, click on the “Request 1st Available” tab in the upper right, and make sure they are sending it to our library. You will get an e-mail from the Library when the book has arrived, and you will be able to pick it up at the main desk with your student ID. Notice that you can also change the delivery location. If you are at home for the summer, see if there is a library close to you where the books can be delivered.

Subscription Databases

These are subscription databases that we have paid access to through the University. It is in your best interest to start with these and then branch out to other sites if you need to.You can access these both at home and on campus. Start from the library’s home page: From here, choose Journals Magazines and More, and then All Databases and eResources. This gives you an alphabetized list of all of our resources. If you are at home, when you choose a database it will ask you to log in with your e-id and password, but once you’ve done this, you will have a WORLD of resources at your fingertips that are peer-reviewed!

For our purposes, the databases that you will want to use are:

Modern Language Association International Bibliography
Academic Search Complete
Literature Online

Search each of these for your topic; don’t become obsessed with one. They each have different resources and their own quirks, so it doesn’t hurt to come up with different keywords that you try in each database.

Finding the Actual Full-text Sources

Sometimes these sources will have a “find full-text” button next to the citations. This is good news for you; you can click on it, and it will point you to a site where we have a pdf or html of that source. Other times, you will need to do a bit more leg work, but it will be worth it. Let’s say that in the MLAIB, you find an article that is in a book rather than in a database. Your next step is to order the book from I-Share, or, if I-Share doesn’t have it, you can put in an interlibrary loan request (this goes for articles we don’t have in databases too). Our Interlibrary Loan Department will get you a scan of the item that they will send directly to your email. The interlibrary loan link is sometimes in the “Find Full-Text” pop-up box, but just in case:

Other Online Resources

Google Books

Google Books can be a great resource. Since we don’t have a lot of books on site, I use it a lot when I want to get a quick preview of something to see if it is worth ordering. Sometimes their previews can be enough to find the quote you need to cite for your project.

Google Scholar

As with Google Books, you will find you have access to a lot more in Google Scholar ON campus. I find things here a lot, and use it as a follow-up site after I’ve exhausted all of the subscription services.


Encyclopedias are sources that we  turn to if we want general information, or citations that can help us learn more. THAT is how you should use Wikipedia, it is a place where you can find some general facts and learn where to go for additional information. It is not a scholarly source that you actually cite in a paper, just a starting place. That said, Wikimedia Commons has some of the best access to freely available multimedia objects, so go there as you are working on your multimodal blogs.

Spark Notes and Such

Again, a general reference. Maybe you want to go here to see what common knowledge is about a symbol—cool. Nothing in these sites are citable in a paper though because the information is broad, they haven’t necessarily done the groundwork that goes into a scholarly article, etc., etc.

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