Kim TH 222

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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.

Let's say I would like to answer the question: How has the popularity of Cantonese opera performances in Hong Kong changed over the last 100 years?

Main Keyword 1 Main Keyword 2 Evidence Keywords
Cantonese opera Hong Kong opera troupes
Chinese opera Sunbeam Theatre immigration
    popular culture

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 resources you should be using to answer your research question. For example:

Historical resources ("over the past 100 years"): primary sources, newspaper articles (recent and historical)
Critical analysis (how popularity has changed): scholarly articles that look at how interest in Cantonese opera has changed
Definitions (what do I mean by "Cantonese opera" or "popularity?"): background information, marketing materials (how are opera houses advertising performances?)

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 says "Cantonese opera" or "Chinese opera", second search box separated by and says immigr* or globalization, third search box separated by and says "Hong Kong"

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:

Communication & Mass Media: Over 600 journals in communication studies, speech, mass media, journalism and more.

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

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

Sociological Abstracts: Articles and book chapters in the field of sociology

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.

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.

Get Help

Your instructor:
Anna Fidgeon

Ask A Librarian: Get help by text, e-mail, phone or in-person

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:

Find an Article From a Citation

Learn more about the components of a citation and how to find an article using one at the Research Therapy Series' Finding an Article From a Citation.

The Info-Cycle

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