For several sections of English 102, the library session introduced several options for using information to teach yourself something new about your research topic. This page gives suggestions for finding the different types of information that work best at each phase of your learning.
These types of sources help you decide which topic you want to investigate. They are intended for a general audience; they do not require much specialized knowledge. You may or may not end up referring to these sources in your paper, but they are very important for (a) choosing an interesting direction for your research and (b) understanding why your question is important.
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Magazines give background information to ask good questions, especially why your topic is important and for whom. The most helpful articles will be at least 3 pages long.
This source gives background information on political hot topics like education, environment, criminal justice, etc.
Once you have decided on a direction, use these sources to learn about expert knowledge in your area of research. Use the evidence that experts present to develop your own stance on your research question. Eventually, you will refer to the same evidence in your paper to communicate the reasoning behind your position to your audience.
Books: Some of our best, most important information is found in traditional books. Not up for reading an 800-page book? Use the table of contents in the front and the index in the back to guide you to the most relevant material.
In QuickSearch: This video tutorial will teach you how to use QuickSearch to find books in our collection.
Scholarly Journal Articles/Peer-reviewed Articles: These articles report original research by specialists in an academic field. They are written by experts for other experts, so they can be quite technical. For reports of scientific research, the introduction, discussion, and conclusion sections are often most helpful for beginners.
In QuickSearch: This video tutorial will teach you how to use QuickSearch to find scholarly articles in our collection.
Academic Search Premier: Like QuickSearch, Academic Search Premier provides information in most academic subjects.
Magazines (in-depth): In-depth magazine articles can be of great help in interpreting events of current interest. Journalists who write on a particular area over a long period of time build up considerable expertise in that area, even if they don't have PhDs. Look for an article that is at least three pages long -- longer articles give the author a chance to explain the issue and why it is important.
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The expert-level research sources mentioned above take a long time to research and almost as long to review and publish. For this reason, they are not the best way to track the latest developments on your question. For example, if you are writing about manatee conservation, a scholarly journal article will not include information about a bill to protect the manatees that was debated in Congress last week. But this information could be crucial for your paper! Luckily, it only takes newspapers a few days to provide coverage and analysis of recent events.
Using date limiters in our databases will be help you keep the list of results manageable. Make sure you can tell what has happened over the last six months to a year.
Newspapers: With their daily or weekly updates, newspapers are among the best sources for finding out about the most recent events. Specialized news databases often work better than general-purpose databases for finding newspapers.
Access World News: Research Collection: With Access World News, you get access to thousands of newspapers and no paywalls.
Or try Google News, but watch out for paywalls. Rather than pay for an article, work with a librarian to find a way to get it for free.
Magazines: Magazines are also a good source of recent information. Look for an articles written in the past year. Longer articles are usually more helpful than short ones, but for really recent news, sometimes a short report is the best you can do.
Academic Search Premier: Like QuickSearch, Academic Search Premier provides information in most academic subjects. It also gives easy access to a variety of magazines.
The QuickSearch database gives you access to almost all of the Libraries' collections in a single search tool. In most cases, it is a very powerful and convenient way to find almost anything in the Libraries' collections. But its power is sometimes a weakness. Because QuickSearch connects you with so many options, sometimes the best options get buried deep within the list of search results, making them difficult to find. If you feel like this is happening to you, or if you feel that you are not getting the results you expect for some other reason, try one of the "QuickSearch alternatives" listed on this guide.