Research Guides: English Composition I

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Introduction to Information Literacy
This guide will walk you through the skills and tools you need to find outside sources for your research paper. There are three parts:
  1. Selecting Appropriate Keywords
  2. Pre-search Your Topic
  3. Find a Scholarly Article
Click this link to open a worksheet you can use as you complete this tutorial. 
English Composition I Research Worksheet
You can download or print the worksheet using the icons on the top left of the document 

If you have any questions as you do your research, contact the Subject Specialist listed on the right side of the screen or stop in the library anytime to get help from a librarian.

It's important to understand the different types of sources you'll encounter in your research. There are significant differences between newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, books and websites. This video explains how information gets created by the publishing cycle. 

Part I: Selecting Appropriate Keywords
Keywords: Synonyms, Broad Terms, Narrow Terms
Search tools try to match the terms you search for - your keywords - with the words that appear in a book or article's title, summary, or even the full-text. You need to select the most important keywords to use as search terms. You should never search for your entire research question or thesis statement. 

DON'T search for:
  • "What study skills are the most helpful for students to succeed in college"

DO search for:
  • study skills AND students AND college
You shouldn't use the title of an essay from your textbooks as keywords. Although you might be writing about that essay, your research should be on the topic the essay is about. Your keywords should be related to the main concepts of your topic. Think of additional synonyms, broader terms, narrower terms, or similar ideas to search most effectively for the best sources. The chart below and the video in the next section explain this in more detail.

Sample Topic: Is a college degree worth the money, or are street smarts as valuable in the real world?

Quotation marks tell the search to find the entire phrase, not just each individual word.

Multiple concepts can be connected in a search using AND:
"college degree" and worth

Multiple terms that mean close to the same thing can be connected in a search using OR:
"college degree" or "formal education"

Part II: Pre-search Your Topic
Finding Background and Overview Information
Think about the questions you want to answer with your research. You will probably need to learn more about your topic in order to write an informed paper about it and to understand the scholarly article sources that you will be finding later.

Background information can be found in:
  • Books - search the library catalog at
  • Websites - not all websites will be worth quoting or citing in your paper, but they may be helpful to find out more about unfamiliar topics
There are also library databases that will provide you with overview or background information:
  • CQ Researcher Restricted Resource Some full text available - lengthy overview articles about social issues and current events
  • Points of View Reference Center Restricted Resource Some full text available - newspaper and magazine articles about social issues, especially controversial ones that have different viewpoints
  • Credo Reference Restricted Resource Some full text available - reference database for encyclopedic information, like basic definitions, explanations and facts
CQ Researcher
CQ Researcher can be used to find overview articles of social issues and current events. These are great sources to start with, but they are not scholarly articles.

View this video to learn how to search CQ Researcher.


Access CQ Researcher from the library's Databases page:
Part III: Find a Scholarly Article
Scholarly vs. Popular Sources
You will be asked to find scholarly article sources for your research paper. You need to clearly understand what a scholarly journal article is and how it is different from other types of sources, like newspapers and magazines. The video below explains these differences.

Identifying Scholarly Articles

The link below will take you to an example of a scholarly article in a library database. Skim this article for the features you just learned about to get an idea of the kinds of articles you will be expected to find for your scholarly article source.
Learning Skills & Motivation: Correlates to Superior Academic Performance
Searching RVOneSearch for Books & Articles
RVOneSearch is a tool that allows you to search for books, ebooks, articles, and videos the library has access to. It can be used to find background information and scholarly article sources. This video will show you how to search RVOneSearch.

Take the Quiz
The link below will take you to a 5-question multiple choice quiz to assess your comprehension of the information in this guide.

If your professor instructed you to take the quiz, be sure to correctly enter YOUR G# and your PROFESSOR's email address in the boxes. Your professor will receive an email notification that you've completed the quiz and will be able to see your results.

Go to the quiz:

Subject Specialist
Picture: Megan Dempsey

Megan Dempsey
Instructional Services Librarian
Tel: ext. 8412

MLA Citation
Sample MLA citations
MLA Citation Guide
Printable guide pdf

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