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 research. Here are some databases you can use to search encyclopedias and other reference sources to get a basic understanding of your topic.
Gale Virtual Reference Library: Over 100 encyclopedias, almanacs, and specialized reference sources.
Opposing Viewpoints in Context: Features viewpoint articles, and topic overviews on controversial topics.
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'm doing my research on the history of the rise & fall of Cantonese opera performances in Hong Kong.
|Main Keyword 1||Main Keyword 2||Main Keyword 3|
|Cantonese opera||opera troupes||Hong Kong|
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.
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 Academic Search Premier database:
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 partners* will search for partners, partnership, etc..
Remember- AND narrows your search while OR broadens it. Think of it like a Venn Diagram:
|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
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.
Ask A Librarian: Get help by text, e-mail, phone or in-person
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.
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.