Lerner LRS 491

This guide has been archived and may have outdated information or broken links.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

Credo Reference: Over 200 encyclopedias, almanacs, and specialized reference sources.

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

The Oviatt Library's print reference collection is located on the first floor and contains subject-specific encyclopedias and dictionaries, such as The Dictionary of Art.

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.

Let's say I am doing my Dramaturgy Production Notebook on Guys and Dolls and I'm researching postwar Times Square:

Main Keyword 1 Main Keyword 2 Focus Keywords
Times Square postwar crime
Manhattan mid-century urban decay
New York 1940s gambling
  1945 prostitution

As you start researching, you may find other terms to add to your Keyword Toolbox. Don't hesitate to add or eliminate keywords to find relevant results.

You might also take some time to think about what kinds of information you need and the resources you should be using to get that information. Here are some examples:

Historical resources: newspaper articles covering the time period or significant events, reviews
Critical analysis: scholarly articles that give a detailed synopsis of the play
Definitions and Background Information: biographies, slang dictionaries, photographs from the time period of the play to show dress and hairstyles

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 JSTOR database:

 first search box includes terms "times square" or manhattan, second box separated by AND includes terms "midcentury" or postwar, third search box is separated by AND includes terms violence or gambling or prostitution

Librarian tips & tricks! Putting your search term in quotation marks will make sure the database only searches those two terms right next to each other, like "performing arts". Including an asterisk (*) will truncate your keyword, so immigr* will search for immigrant, immigrants, immigration, 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 Premier
Project Muse

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

Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts: Access to journal articles covering the study of language including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics

Historical Abstracts: Covers scholarly literature in history. All world history (1450 to present) is covered EXCEPT that of the United States and Canada.

Berg Fashion Library: Text, image, and journal content on world dress and fashion

Literature Resource Center: Provides access to contemporary literary criticism and drama criticism

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

Biography Index: Covers biographical information from more than 2,700 English-language periodicals

Literature Criticism Online: Access to references sources Something about the Author, Dictionary of Literary Biography and Literature Criticism Online

ARTstor: A digital archive containing nearly 500,000 world art and architecture images

Art Full Text: Full text articles from the art field from 1997-present

Find more databases on the Databases by Subject page.

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

Searching and Locating Print Resources

Titles in the Oviatt Library's collection are organized under the Library of Congress classification system. The call numbers you see on the spines of our books are essentially the book's address on the shelf as well as a code for the topic or topics the book contains. This allows for easier browsing when you are doing research in a subject area. If you are in the stacks looking for a book, be sure to look around your book's location to find other books on your topic.

If you are on the library website, you can also click on Find Other Books and Articles to locate other items classified under the same subject terms:

" with four links to topics on modern furniture.

Use this Quick Guide: Library of Congress Classification System PDF to find general topic areas.

This video will explain how to find a book on the shelf, once you have your call number in hand:

Writing Sources

Citing Your Sources: Get help with 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:


It is important to evaluate your sources- even if they're scholarly. Use the CRAAP test as a guideline. This video will explain:

What is a Scholarly Article?

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

The Info-Cycle

This video will roughly explain how different information sources are created:

Finding Book or Film Reviews

This video will give an introduction to finding book or film reviews using library databases:

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.