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ENGL 1010 & 1020: 3. Search

Research process and resources for ENGL 1010 & 1020 essays

Video: One Perfect Source?

When researching, it's rare to find one perfect source that has all the information you need. Flexibility is key! Your search results should guide you to potential answers to your research questions. Learn how to be a flexible researcher by watching the video below.

Effective searching

Select your words carefully. The database search engine is matching your words.
  • Do you need this word?
    • eliminate unnecessary words
  • Is this how professionals write about the topic?
    • review your other sources for ideas
  • Am I using a phrase? Do I need these words to be together?
    • use quotes around the "search phrases"
    • Examples: "health care", "gun control", "head injuries"
  • Think about possible synonyms for your search terms
  • Look at the list of keywords or subjects used by the database. This list could be called a Thesaurus, Index Terms or Controlled Vocabulary.
Perhaps you need to limit your search by:
  • publication date: limit search to a date range (2010-2016) or published after date
  • source type: journals, newspapers, magazines, etc.
  • document type: article, book review, blog, etc.

Databases: recommendations

Find articles from magazines, newspapers, and journals in the library's databases.

Use full-text articles NOT:

  • Abstracts: summaries of articles; not acceptable sources
  • Book reviews: review of a published book not written by the book's author; they are not acceptable sources of original and/or credible information or research.

Why these databases?

  • ProQuest Research Library is the best multipurpose database in the library's collection and searches 70,000+ journals at one time.
  • Current full-text articles from The Tennessean,The New York Timesand Wall Street Journal are available from the Newspapers section of the library website.
  • If you did not search CQ Researcher during step 2 be sure to look for a report on your topic. In addition to being a good information source a CQ Researcher report is good for keywords, statistics, and suggested sources.
  • Use Access World News for national and global newspaper articles.


The Information Life Cycle

Before searching for resources, think about what type of information you need and where your topic is in the information life cycle. Then, search resources that have that type of information.

Web resources: use credible ones

Sources discovered in databases may lead you to credible websites.

  • CQ Researcher reports frequently list websites or organizations affiliated with an issue. This is a credible recommendation. A report's bibliography may list a report or study available online. 
  • Opposing Viewpoints in Context recommends websites.
  • Magazine articles found in ProQuest may mention an organization. Search for that organization's website.

Look at the website's About Us section to find who is responsible for the site if it is not apparent from the home page or you are not familiar with the organization.

For more help on evaluating websites, check out the Evaluating Web Resources guide.

Need statistics? The Data LibGuide has some recommendations.

Instead of using a generic search engine like Google or Bing search with one of these specialized search engines.


Books provide an in-depth look at a topic. There you will find background and historical information on a subject, but a book will not have the most up-to-date information. Books are typically not a good information source for ENGL 1010 and 1020 assignments.

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