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Urban Studies and Planning Course Guide: Finding Sources

Library Catalog Basic Search

Home page Search Box

Starting from the Library Catalog Basic Search screen you can search by Keyword, Title, Author, or Subject by selecting the radio buttons and typing search words in the text box.

The default Limits setting will search the entire collection. You may also limit your search to smaller sub-collections: Ejournals (electronic periodicals--not specific articles), Ebooks, NCOD (National Center on Deafness), TCC (Teacher Curriculum Center), Periodicals/Serials (not specific articles), Videos, Reference Room, Special Collections, or Sound Recordings by selecting a collection from the drop-down menu.

Searching for a specific Item

Select an Author or Title search if you know the author (last name, first name) or at least the first few words of the title.

Searching for Items by Topic

There are two ways to search the online catalog for resources on a topic: by Keyword or by Subject.

  • A Basic Keyword search will simultaneously look for words in titles of materials, in subject headings, and in notes fields.
  • A Subject search will locate materials by Library of Congress Subject Headings, which is a controlled vocabulary or standard list of subject terms. The Oviatt Library assigns Library of Congress Subject Headings to all items listed in the online catalog.
  • Another way to find the Library of Congress Subject Heading for your topic is to search the catalog by Keyword, display the record for a relevant title, and select one or more of the Subjects listed for that record.

Library Catalog Advanced Search

For an Advanced search, select the Advanced Catalog Search link on the homepage. The Advanced search allows you to search by keyword in up to four separate fields, and optionally limit your search by language, material type, location, collection, publisher, or publication date.

To start your search:

  1. Select the field you want to search (Author, Title, Subject, Note, or "any field") from the first drop-down menu.
  2. Type keyword(s) in the adjacent text box. Two or more words entered together in one search box will retrieve records containing that exact phrase, unless there is no exact match. If there is no exact match for the phrase entered, the system will retrieve records contain all search terms entered, wherever they are in the record.
  3. (OPTIONAL) For a combined search, enter additional keywords into separate search boxes and choose the appropriate Boolean operators (and, or, and not) from the pull-down menu.

Finding Articles in Magazines, Journals, and Newspapers

Pick a database recommended for your subject from Databases by Subject and then search using keywords.

To locate the full text of an article:

  • If full-text is available in the database, click on the link to full text (HTML or PDF).
  • If full-text isn't available in the database, click the Find Text button to see if we have access to the article in another database or in print in the library
  • If no Find Text button is available or you didn't find the article through our databases, search for the magazine or journal title using the Journals tab in the library catalog.
  • If the full text isn't available through the Library, you can request an Interlibrary Loan for the article(s) that you need. However, you must allow about two weeks for this!

 

Types of Periodicals

Different types of publications have different purposes and different audiences. When we talk about journals/magazines, we can usually divide these publications into three broad categories: scholarly journals, popular magazines, and trade publications.

Check Ulrich's to see if a journal is peer-reviewed/referreed

Scholarly Journals Trade Publications Popular Magazines Newpapers
Current Psychology Research and Reviews Information Today Psychology Today New York Times
Geographical Perspectives Aviation Week and Space Technology Discover USA Today

Can't Find the Book You Need Here?

  • Ask the Library to get the book you need via Interlibrary loan.
  • Check worldcat.org to see if any libraries nearby have the book if you need it immediately.
  • Remember, as a CSUN student you have borrowing privileges from any of the other CSU libraries.

Choose the Right Resource

When choosing resources for your assignment, consider:

  • Assignment requirements—what does the professor want you to cite?
  • Learn about your topic -- You may want to use a reference book like an encyclopedia (print or online) to start out with if you don't have a clear understanding of your topic yet.
  • Time—the more current the topic, the less will be found in scholarly journals or books, which take longer to get published. Recent events will be covered on the Internet, in newspapers and magazines, as well as in the media.
  • Depth of coverage and/or the topic—scholarly journals and books cover topics in more depth than magazines and newspapers. Some topics are not covered by the popular press, e.g., research that would not be of interest to the average consumer.
  • Quality of the resource - see Step 3: Evaluating Sources
Type of Information You Need Try These Resources
Does your topic cover current events? Newspapers, magazines, Internet
Do you need general information on a specific topic, written in a non-specialist style?
Newspapers, magazines, Internet
Do you need in-depth information on a specific topic, written for the college student and above by authorities in the field? Scholarly journals
Do you need more detail and/or has the topic been written about for awhile? Books
Do you need an overview, quick facts, statistics on a topic? Reference books, Internet

Evaluating Internet Resources

Internet resources can be even more challenging to evaluate because dates and authors are not always readily available. Plus, we all know that anyone can create a website. Using the CRAAP test will help you thoroughly evaluate your source, but the following are some important things to consider when reviewing internet sources. 

Who Created the Information?

Websites do not always have authors so you'll need to find information on who or what organization is responsible for creating and updating the webpage. The following are links to look for on webpages that should provide more information on who is behind the website.

  • "About Us": usually provides information about the organization or company that is responsible for the webpage.
  • "Mission Statement": this will provide information on what the organizations values or goals are. 
  • "Contributors": provides information on who contributes content to the website, sometimes they'll even list the qualifications of their contributors. This section may also provide information on who funds either the website or the organization. *Beware of websites like Wikipedia where anyone can create an account and edit webpages.

Publication Dates

Finding the date a website was created or last updated can be difficult sometimes. If you can't find a date on a particular webpage, click around and look at the other resources on their website, can you find a date anywhere? Are there links to other sources that are out of date or dead links?

URL Domain Extensions

The following is a list of the most popular domain extensions, which can be used to help determine authority and objectivity. However, domain extensions alone cannot determine if a web source is quality or if it's right for your research.

.gov - Government. The intent of the site is to present official information collected by or about the workings of a government.

.edu - Educational institution. The intent of the site is to educate as well as present information collected by or about the educational institution. *Look out for student work or papers that haven't been published in an authoritative source.

.com - Commercial. The intent of the site is to sell goods or services, as well as provide information about the company.

.org - Organization, usually non-profit. The intent of the site is to present information collected by or about the organization. Sometimes, the intent of the site is to promote a particular point of view. *For more information about the organization check out Idealist.org

.net - Network, usually personal Web pages. The intent of the site is as varied as the individual(s) responsible for the content. *Usually not scholarly in nature, so if it is a personal page then make sure you research who that person is and what their qualifications are.

A more complete list of top-level domains is also available.

When to be skeptical?

  • There is no author or organization associated with the website.
  • There are a lot of advertisements and pop-ups. Just because a website looks professional does not mean that it's authoritative.
  • Websites that ask you to take some sort of action: donate money, sign a petition, give your email, etc. 
  • A website that only cites itself, providing links that only lead you to other resources within the site.

 

Evaluating Library Resources

Is that CRAAP?

Books and database articles should be evaluated to determine their credibility and relevance to your topic before selecting them for a research assignment. Use the CRAAP test below to help you evaluate whether a source is right for your research. 

Currency

  • What is the publication date of the book or database article?
  • How up-to-date are the citations in the bibliography?
  • How current does the information need to be for your topic or your assignment?  

Relevancy

  • Does the information relate directly to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the audience for the publication (scholarly or general)?
  • Is the information primary or secondary in nature?
  • Does it provide general background information or in-depth information on a specific topic? Which do you need?

Authority

Who created the information?

  • What are the qualifications of the author, publisher, or organization responsible for the content of the resource?
  • What are the author's education and/or experience?
  • Look for the author's biography or information about the publisher or responsible organization  either within the publication or use the sources below to find out more about authors, publishers, and organizations:

Information on Authors:

Information on Publishers:

  • Google - look for publisher's home page (check for focus, how long in business, circulation, etc)
  • Worldcat.org - see how many/which kind of libraries have the publication.

Information on Organizations:

Accuracy

  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Can you verify the information in another source?
  • How extensive is the bibliography or list of cited references? Can you use these references to find more information on your topic?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?
  • Have other scholars evaluated or cited the resource?
    • Books
      • Search the title of the book in OneSearch and refine your search on the lefthand side by choosing "book review" under the "format" on the left.
      • Book Review Digest Plus, 1983- present
    • Articles: Search the article title in Google Scholar to see how many times it has been cited and link to the articles that cited it. 

    Purpose

    • What is the purpose of the information? Is it meant to inform you, sell you something or persuade you?
    • Does it present a fair and balanced view of an issue?
    • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religous, or personal biases?
    • Are opinions or propaganda easy to recognize?
    • Are there advertisements that suggest the information might be biased toward selling a product rather than providing objective information?