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Research Overview Guide: Doing Research

General guide for students in English courses at SCC

Search Tips

Research can be very challenging. You might find yourself starting over or off-track, but that is all a part of the process. Here are some tips to help you stay on task and keep moving forward.

  1. Think about why you are researching. Hopefully, it is something important/interesting to you. You are going to be investing your time in this process, make sure it's worth your while.
  2. Think about the type of sources do you need. If you need articles, books, or films, where you look matters.
  3. Change your search strategy
    • Use different search tools
    • If one keyword isn't working so well, try a different keyword. Databases are organized in a very specific way and requires specific vocabulary to locate information. (ex.: instead of internment camps, try concentration camps).
  4. Background research can be very helpful in developing keywords. What you know as one thing could be called something completely different to someone else. Conducting background research comes in handy to build those search terms. Gale eBooks is a great resource for that!
  5. Ask for help!

Google vs. Library Databases

What is Google? Google is a search engine. The information it provides is not organized in a specific way and most of the results from the first page are determined by popular searches or the virtual profile created from your search history.  

What is a database? A database is an electronic filing system. It organizes information in a specific way that requires users to use specific keywords and search terms to find information. Databases can be subject-specific and include search filters to help narrow the results.

Does this mean Google is bad? Absolutely NOT. Google is a fast and more accessible resource which is why it is more widely used. However, it will take more skills and time to find information from a reputable source. As a librarian, I often use Google when helping students formulate a research topic, get background information, and find current events relevant to their research topic. 

The library's databases are more useful for academic research and include search features that will help narrow your results. With databases, you can search by subject, author, publication, and keyword all at once. For Google, even the advanced search feature and Google Scholar are very limited in that regard. Additionally, the kinds of sources that your instructor requires (mainly scholarly sources) are not easily accessible. They cost money and being a student here at Shoreline Community College means you have free access to those sources. Google is not bad, and you do not need to use the databases exclusively. In fact, I encourage you to use both throughout your research process.

Recognizing Scholarly Sources

Scholarly Articles Checklist

  • Sources always documented in a bibliography,references or works cited list, or footnotes at the bottom of each page
  • Lengthy often 10+ pages
  • Authors' affiliations listed - professors, scholars, or researchers
  • Describes the results of original research (e.g. experiments, case studies or analyses)
  • Graphs, charts, tables, equations
  • Written for experts - use of jargon or technical language
  • Multiple authors
  • Long, descriptive title
  • Journal's title often begins with Journal of... or contains the words Review or Quarterly

How do articles get peer reviewed? What role does peer review play in scholarly research and publication? This video will explain.

  • Anne Burke: Project Co-Lead, Script, Storyboards
  • Andreas Orphanides: Project Co-Lead, Script, Technical Infrastructure
  • Hyun-Duck Chung: Original Script and Concept
  • Daria Dorafshar: Graphics and Animation
  • Kyle Langdon: Narration
  • Kim Duckett: Team Lead


license for creative commons

Go-to Resouces

Not where to get started? Below are a few places to that could helpful. You don't have to use these databases exclusively, if prefer use a different research tool, please do so.

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