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Research Strategies for University 100

Librarian: Danielle Skaggs -
Library Research Assignment:

Developing a Search Strategy for Your Topic

What is your assignment prompt? What questions do you need to answer about the topic? Brainstorm for keywords and key phrases that express the major concepts or issues involved, including synonyms and related terms.

Examples: Topic Prompt and Keywords

Topic/Prompt: To what extent, if any, is the fast food industry responsible for American obesity?

Keywords and key phrases: fast food, obesity, Americans.

Keywords and key phrases for related issues: obesity epidemic, diet, nutrition, children, adults, fast food marketing, advertising, schools, television, "junk food," diabetes, heart disease, exercise, lawsuits, McDonald's.

Searching strategy:

Use combinations of keywords that represent the key concepts you are interested in. Remember to join your key words and key phrases together with and. It is often necessary to do several different searches to gather articles relevant to your topic.

Examples of Keyword Searches: fast food and obesity; fast food and lawsuits; obesity and children; schools and fast food; fast food and advertising and television

Finding Articles

The following databases and sources contain many full-text articles from newspapers, magazines and journals. If the full-text is not available for the article you want to see, click the blue and red "Find Text" button or the "Find Text" link to see if the full-text is available in another database.

Start at the library's home page,, and click "Find Articles and Research Data." Then click "General/Multi-subject" or "News & Current Issues" to access the databases above.

Evaluating Search Results

Once you find an article, it is important to critically evaluate it to see if you can use it for your research purposes. Listed below are things to think about when trying to determine the value of a particular article:

Popular and Scholarly Sources

Scholarly Sources:

  • Authors are authorities in their fields.
  • Authors cite their sources in endnotes, footnotes, or bibliographies.
  • Individual issues have little or no advertising.
  • Articles must go through a peer-review or refeered process.
  • Articles are usually reports on scholarly research.
  • Illustrations usually take the form of charts and graphs.
  • Articles use jargon of the discipline.

Popular Magazines and Newspapers:

  • Authors are magazine staff members or free lance writers.
  • Authors often mention sources, but rarely formally cite them in bibliographies.
  • Individual issues contain numerous advertisements.
  • There is no peer-review process.
  • Articles are meant to inform and entertain.
  • Illustrations may be numerous and colorful.
  • Language is geared to the general adult audience (no specialized knowledge of jargon needed).

Finding Books

Library Catalog
Use the Catalog to search for books the library owns. You can search for books by author's name, title of the book, subject heading and keyword. A keyword search is generally recommended when search for books on a particular topic, if you don't have specific titles in mind. Learn how to use the catalog here:

Evaluating Web Sites (should you believe everything you read online?)

What to look for (for a more detailed version go to:

Citing Your Sources

Remember to always cite your sources! Citation style guides for APA and MLA can be found at:

Learn how to create an annotated bibliography:

Finding Visual Elements

Contact Information

Danielle Skaggs - or 818-677-6808.

18111 Nordhoff St. Northridge CA 91330 (818) 677-2285
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