Before You Start…

Know your Assignment

Before you start researching, look over your assignment to see if there are specific requirements, like:

  • Peer-reviewed journal articles or academic books
  • Sources published within a certain timeframe (e.g. within the last 3-5 years)
  • Citing your sources in a specific style, typically MLA or APA

Knowing this before you start can save you a lot of time & frustration later!

Craft a Search Strategy

Before starting your research, you’ll want to brainstorm keywords to use. You’ll use these keywords much like you do when you’re shopping online, instead of typing in your entire research question or thesis statement.
Boolean Operators

Searching with “AND”
Think of “who, what, when, where, & why” for ways to focus your topic. When you connect keywords with “AND”, you will narrow your search because you will only receive results that include BOTH keywords.
Searching with “OR”
Before searching, brainstorm words or concepts that are similar in meaning and use those as search terms. When you use “OR” to connect keywords, you broaden your search because the database will give you results that include either of your keywords.
Searching with “NOT”
When you use “NOT” with your keywords, you narrow your search because your results will exclude any sources including the second keyword.
You can also TRUNCATE
Insert an asterisk (hold the Shift key & the 8 key at the same time) to get results that include all possible endings of a root word. For example:
“symbol*” will retrieve symbol, symbolizes, symbolism, etc.
“devia*” will retrieve deviates, deviant, deviance, etc.

Connect from Off-Campus

The library gives you free access to hundreds of databases, making it easy for you to find scholarly articles, credible news reports, online books, & more. Most can be accessed from off-campus by following the links on our site & then entering your name & 7-digit College ID.

Not sure what your ID number is? You can look it up using the ID Verification Form. Be sure to check the box to display your College ID with your results. Students may also find their 7-digit College ID in Self Services while faculty & staff will find it in their pay advices, listed as Employee ID number.

How to Find…

Background Information (Reference & Statistics)

The Library’s Online Reference Shelf is a reliable starting point for finding background information for your research assignment. Use the tabs below to find encyclopedias, country background information, statistics, & more for your topic.

Primary Sources

These are simply first-hand accounts or original records of an event. Primary sources may include newspaper articles, diaries, letters, interviews, maps, government documents, oral histories, videos, illustrations, photographs, and more. A primary source may also be the result(s) of original research, including quantitative or qualitative data. Visit our Primary Sources on the Internet page for great starting points..

Secondary sources

These are resources that were created “after the fact” by persons who were not present at the actual event–they are simply reporting on information they have received “second hand”. Secondary sources usually offer an analysis or interpretation of primary source materials. For example, most scholarly textbooks, reference sources like encyclopedias, and even scholarly articles would be considered secondary sources.

Watch & Learn

Problems viewing? Watch it on YouTube.

Books & E-Books

Below are short tutorials from our YouTube Playlist that will will walk you through how to search for books using BLINK, the Library’s online catalog, as well as how to search databases in our E-book collections, where you can connect to over 400,000 books online!

The Library’s Step-by-Step guide can also walk you through everything you need to search BLINK, the Library’s online catalog, including how to place holds, pickup your materials, and renew your items.

Watch & Learn


You can watch over 40,000 academic videos online from Films on Demand, the Library’s database of streaming videos. Our short YouTube video below shows you how to search for, watch, & cite academic films.

Watch & Learn

Academic Journals, Newspapers & Magazines

You have access to millions (literally) of academic articles, newspapers, & magazines from the Library’s Research Databases. Below are short tutorials on our most popular databases, taken from our YouTube Playlist. If you don’t know where to start, try using Academic Search Complete, one of our more general resources.

If your assignment requires articles from peer-reviewed journals, you may also find it helpful to watch Scholarly vs. Popular Articles, & How to Read a Scholarly Journal Article.

Watch & Learn

Citation & Formatting Guides

Whenever you use information from a source, you have to cite it! This includes when you are paraphrasing the information (putting it in your own words), as well as when you quote directly from it. The two most common citation styles that your assignments will require are MLA format & APA format. Look at your assignment directions to see which style is required and, if it doesn’t say which to use, be sure to ask your instructor. The YouTube Playlist below shows you how to avoid plagiarism, use Purdue’s The OWL to set up citations, & how to format your paper in Word.

All about citations
Follow the links below for examples of how to cite different types of resources in your Works Cited (MLA) or References (APA) page.

In-Text Citations
If you’re quoting or paraphrasing (putting it in your own words), you’ll need to know how to do an “in-text” citation within your paper! Readers will use that information to find the full information about the sources in your Works Cited or References page.

Watch & Learn

Plagiarizing is just one example of Academic Dishonesty. Other examples include:

  • Taking credit for work created by someone else or by Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Sharing your work or your instructor’s course materials for use by other students (like uploading them to a shared site like Course Hero).
  • Reusing your own paper (self-plagiarizing) for different courses.
  • Inventing or fabricating evidence, sources, or citations.

In addition to being unethical, violating Academic Integrity may lead to disciplinary action. Visit the Student Code of Conduct on Academic Integrity for more details.