McFaddin ENG 306

This guide has been archived and may have outdated information or broken links.

Background Information

Getting some background information before you start researching will help you focus your topic and give you an idea of what to look for in your search. Here are some Reference Databases you can use to get a basic understanding of your topic.

Gale Virtual Reference Library: Over 100 encyclopedias, almanacs, and other reference sources.

Opposing Viewpoints in Context: Features viewpoint articles, and topic overviews on controversial topics.

Keyword Brainstorming

Before you start your research, brainstorm some broader, narrower and/or related keywords to help with your research. These keywords can come from your own knowledge of your topic or from searching background information.

My argument: CSUN administration should support a campus smoking ban.

Main Keyword 1 Main Keyword 2 Focus Keyword
CSUN smoking ban administration
university anti-smoking policy asthma
campus   secondhand smoke


Using AND & OR in a Database

Databases search differently than most search engines. Once you've brainstormed your keywords, you can use the words AND & OR to manipulate your search. Here is an example from the General OneFile database:

 First search line is a keyword search for "universit* or campus"; second line is separated by And in a drop down menu and is a keyword search for "smoking ban"; third line is separated by And in a drop down menu and is a keyword search for "'secondhand smoke"

Using an asterisk (*) will truncate your keyword. For example, searching for universit* will search for: universities, university, etc.

Remember- AND narrows your search while OR broadens it. Think of it like a Venn Diagram:

Venn diagram showing two overlapping circles with overlap highlighted Venn diagram showing two ovelapping circles where both circles are entirely highlighted
Returns results with all of your keywords Returns results with any of your keywords

Find Articles in Databases

General/Multi-Subject Databases: These will bring back results from different disciplines and sources

General OneFile
Academic Search Elite

Subject Databases: These will bring back results from a specific discipline:

Business Source Elite: Scholarly articles and business profiles

America: History & Life: Articles as well as dissertations on the history and culture of the United States and Canada

Mergent Online: U.S. and international company data and annual reports

CINAHL Plus: Nursing and health articles

PubMed: Health, biology and chemistry articles

If you need an article or book that we don't have, we can order it from another library through Interlibrary Loan.

College Newspapers: To search for college newspapers, use the LexisNexis database, select News, then Colleges & Universities:

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Online Government Resources Find government information, research and statistics.

Women's Health Resources: A collection of health topics and research from government sites.

American Factfinder: American Census data.

Medline Plus: Easy-to-understand and ad-free medical and health information.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Information on national and international business and labor topics, including the Consumer Price Index, Employment/Unemployment and National Compensation Data.

Evaluating Websites

If you are using a website as a source for your paper, make sure it is a reliable source. Don't know what that means? Ask yourself these questions to determine if the website is authoritative, unbiased, current, and accurate:

 Who is the author and what makes she or he qualified to write on this topic? Who is publishing/hosting this site and are they reputable? Unbiased: Does the author or publisher have a financial or ideological stake in presenting only certain facts? What is the purpose of this site? Current: When was this information published or last updated? Could there be newer information? Accurate: Where is the author getting his/her information from? Can you verify the information in another source?

This video will explain more:

Get Help

Your instructor:
Anna Fidgeon

English Librarian:
Kimberly Embleton

Ask A Librarian: Get help by text, e-mail, phone or in-person
Online How-To Guides and Tutorials

Writing Sources

Citing Your Sources: Get help with APA/MLA Style Citations

The Writing Center: Make an appointment with a writing consultant to help with all stages of writing your paper.

Plagiarism Explained

Find Sources Using the Library's OneSearch Tool

Visit the OneSearch FAQ to learn all about how to use the library's new online OneSearch tool to find articles, books and more. Or, watch the How to Use OneSearch video:

What is a Scholarly Article?

Unsure about what it means when an article is scholarly? This video will explain:

Accessing Library Resources through Google Scholar

Google Scholar

Click on Settings

A screenshot of the home page of the Google Scholar website, with the Google logo and search box. A red arrow is pointed to the link for Settings in the upper right hand corner.

Select Library Links

A screenshot of the upper-left hand corner of the Google Scholar Settings page. There is a list of links for Scholar settings for "search results", "language" and "library links". A red arrow is pointed at "library links"

Search for CSUN, check the box and Save

Screenshot of Google Settings, Library Links page with a search box in the middle showing a search for "CSUN" and the results listing "Open WorldCat- Library Search" and "CSU, Northridge- SFX Find It at CSUN". Both results show a checkmark in the box to their left, with the "CSU Northridge" checkbox circled in red. A red arrow is pointed at the "CSU, Northridge" result and another red arrow is pointed at the Save box at the bottom-right of the results.

If an article is available through a library database, you'll be able to access it by clicking on SFX Find It at CSUN

A screenshot of a Google Scholar Results page, zoomed in on the options to the left of two articles. Links that say "SFX Find It at CSUN" are circled in red.


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