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ENGL 1110/1111 -- English Composition 1: Home

Search Tools, Resources, & Strategies

Similar to writing, successful research involves preparation. Research is an iterative process that requires planning and critical thinking. On this research guide, you will find information on search building techniques, links to search tools, and resources to support you throughout the research process.

Use the Lakeland Library Catalog to find books in your library's collection. Enter your search terms (keywords, etc.) in the search box on this page and click search.

Use the OhioLINK Catalog to find and request books in college and university libraries throughout Ohio.  Enter your search terms (keywords, etc.) in the search box on this page and click search. On the results list page for the OhioLINK Catalog, you will need to click the Search button located next to the search box at the top of the page in order to access the records in the OhioLINK results list.


 Enter a Search Term:

Databases for Literary Research

Websites for Literary Research

How to Build a Strong Search:

Quotation Marks/Phrase Searching

            Use quotation marks to search for an exact phrase

          Example: “charlotte perkins gilman”           

Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT.

And—narrows a search by inclusion.  Finds results that have both search terms.

Example: The search “yellow wallpaper” AND gothic* retrieves only sources that include both search terms/phrases, which limits the number of results.       

Or—expands a search.  Finds results that contain either search term.

Example: The search criticism OR analysis will retrieve sources containing either term/phrase. This will expand your pool of resources.         

Not—narrows a search by exclusion. Eliminates results that contain the keyword or phrase

          following Not. 

Example: The search “charlotte perkins gilman” NOT “yellow wallpaper” retrieves only sources that contain the first keyword/phrase and will eliminate sources containing the keywords that follow NOT.


Truncation, usually using an asterisk*, increases the number of results you’ll retrieve by searching for variant endings of a root word.

         Example: critic* retrieves critic, critics, critical, critically, criticism, criticize, etc.

Support Resources

Purdue OWL: Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism is using someone else’s ideas or words without giving them proper credit. Plagiarism can range from unintentional (forgetting to include a source in a bibliography) to intentional (buying a paper online, using another writer’s ideas as your own to make your work sound smarter). Beginning writers and expert writers alike can all plagiarize. Understand that plagiarism is a serious charge in academia, but also in professional settings. 

If you are...

  • student — consequences can include failing grades on assignments or classes, academic probation, and even expulsion.
  • researcher — plagiarism can cause a loss of credibility, legal consequences, and other professional consequences.
  • an employee in a corporate or similar setting — you can receive a reprimand or lose your job.

Use the resources below to find and begin developing a topic for further research. 

The CQ Researcher & The CQ Weekly

Congressional Quarterly, Inc. publishes summary reports and in-depth coverage of many current issues. The CQ Researcher and CQ Weekly can be found in the current periodical area. The CQ Researcher is also available online as a database.

Subject Encyclopedias

Subject encyclopedias provide an overview of a topic and background information. They can also help you to identify key concepts in your subject area. To browse a list of encyclopedias, do a keyword search in the Lakeland catalog on "encyclopedia." To find encyclopedias on a specific subject, add a word or phrase related to your topic to that search. EX: health AND encyclopedia.

There are also many electronic encyclopedias in the Lakeland catalog.

Book Series

The following book series provide multiple viewpoints on current issues.

Types of Periodicals

Periodicals are print sources that are published weekly, monthly or quarterly, such as magazines, newspapers and journals. Instructors may require a variety of sources or limit sources to scholarly journals.

Academic journals

Academic publications contain articles written by professionals in the field. The articles may be original research or an extension of previous research, illustrated with graphs, tables and they have a list of references at the end. Articles submitted to a academic journal are peer reviewed or juried, meaning other experts read and suggest revisions to the author before the final version is accepted for publication.

Popular magazines

Popular magazines are not in-depth enough to be scholarly. The magazine may have an area of interest - Parenting is devoted to raising children and Time is a news magazine, but the articles are intended as overviews. Authors may or may not be named, there may be illustrations or charts, but there won't be a bibliography at the end.


Newspapers can be published daily, weekly or monthly. Editorials focus on commentary or opinion while the news articles are supposed to be factual information. Newspapers may have a viewpoint that echoes their publisher or the audience they serve which you may discover by "reading between the lines."

Periodical Comparison Chart

Types of Journals
Examples Plain Dealer, Wall Street Journal  Newsweek, Psychology Today, Billboard  The New Republic, The Animal's Agenda  Crystal Engineering, New England Journal of Medicine Journal of the American Library Association, Publisher's Weekly
General readership - news, opinions, text of speeches, local interest  Overviews, non-technical language, advertisments  Journal has specific agenda written to appeal to like-minded readers  Professional readership - research, analysis, technical vocabulary  Journal of association or trade organization meant for people in that field
Authorship By-line for important staff writers, often no author named, no credentials given  By-line for important staff writers, often no author named, no credentials given  Featured writers have by-line, staff writers often not named, no credentials given  All contributing authors named with their degrees and sponsoring institution  Varies - some name authors and their credentials, others not
Articles often do not refer to sources  No bibliography, articles may refer to other sources  No bibliography, articles may refer to other sources  Extensive bibliography, footnotes in text, article often begins with literature review  Varies from journal to journal
Peer Review
Standards set by newspaper editors and owners  Staff editors, no peer or expert review  Staff editors, no peer or expert review  Articles "peer reviewed" for accuracy by other experts  Staff editors, no peer or expert review
Length Brief overview articles or follow-up columns  Short overview articles meant as starting point for readers  Short articles supporting journal's agenda  Comprehensive papers outlining original research or new synthesis of previous research  Shorter overview articles applying to specific topics in trade
Special Features  Photographs, some charts, maps etc.  Advertisements, photographs, illustrations, maps etc.  Advertisements, photographs, illustrations, maps etc.  Tables, graphs, charts, maps, illustrations to support text  Advertisements, photographs, illustrations
Structure No consistent format for articles  No specific structure unless written by featured writer  No specific structure unless written by featured writer  Structured, beginning with abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography  No specific structure unless written by featured writer 


Step-by-Step Instructions for Reading a Primary Research Article

This article was originally published here.

by Jennifer Raff, Assistant Professor of Physical Anthropology,

     University of Kansas, joint Ph.D. in genetics and anthropology

1. Begin by reading the introduction, not the abstract.

The abstract is that dense first paragraph at the very beginning of a paper. In fact, that’s often the only part of a paper that many non-scientists read when they’re trying to build a scientific argument. (This is a terrible practice. Don’t do it.) I always read the abstract last, because it contains a succinct summary of the entire paper, and I’m concerned about inadvertently becoming biased by the authors’ interpretation of the results.

2. Identify the big question.

Not “What is this paper about?” but “What problem is this entire field trying to solve?” This helps you focus on why this research is being done. Look closely for evidence of agenda-motivated research.

3. Summarize the background in five sentences or less.

What work has been done before in this field to answer the big question? What are the limitations of that work? What, according to the authors, needs to be done next? You need to be able to succinctly explain why this research has been done in order to understand it.

4. Identify the specific question(s).

What exactly are the authors trying to answer with their research? There may be multiple questions, or just one. Write them down. If it’s the kind of research that tests one or more null hypotheses, identify it/them.

5. Identify the approach.

What are the authors going to do to answer the specific question(s)?

6. Read the methods section.

Draw a diagram for each experiment, showing exactly what the authors did. Include as much detail as you need to fully understand the work.

7. Read the results section.

Write one or more paragraphs to summarize the results for each experiment, each figure, and each table. Don’t yet try to decide what the results mean; just write down what they are. You’ll often find that results are summarized in the figures and tables. Pay careful attention to them! You may also need to go to supplementary online information files to find some of the results. Also pay attention to:

  • The words “significant” and “non-significant.” These have precise statistical meanings.
  • Graphs. Do they have error bars on them? For certain types of studies, a lack of confidence intervals is a major red flag.
  • The sample size. Has the study been conducted on 10 people, or 10,000 people? For some research purposes a sample size of 10 is sufficient, but for most studies larger is better.

8. Determine whether the results answer the specific question(s).

What do you think they mean? Don’t move on until you have thought about this. It’s OK to change your mind in light of the authors’ interpretation — in fact, you probably will if you’re still a beginner at this kind of analysis — but it’s a really good habit to start forming your own interpretations before you read those of others.

9. Read the conclusion/discussion/interpretation section.

What do the authors think the results mean? Do you agree with them? Can you come up with any alternative way of interpreting them? Do the authors identify any weaknesses in their own study? Do you see any that the authors missed? (Don’t assume they’re infallible!) What do they propose to do as a next step? Do you agree with that?

10. Go back to the beginning and read the abstract.

Does it match what the authors said in the paper? Does it fit with your interpretation of the paper?

11. Find out what other researchers say about the paper.

Who are the (acknowledged or self-proclaimed) experts in this particular field? Do they have criticisms of the study that you haven’t thought of, or do they generally support it? Don’t neglect to do this! But do it last, so you are better prepared to think critically about what other people say.


Chat with a Librarian

Chat with a librarian and get help with research. This service is available all hours the library is open, click the icon below to get started! 

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One-on-One Research Help

One-on-One Personal Research Assistance

Lakeland librarians offer personal help with research for assignments, projects and papers. Schedule an appointment for a 20, 30 or 40 minute session. We ask that you provide 24 hours notice for the librarian to prepare for your session.

Click here to complete a Request Form. You will be prompted to log into myLakeland.


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