Research Tutorial - UC Library
Frank E. Gannett Memorial Library

Research Tutorial : Combined Version


Picking a Topic

Finding and developing a research topic is the first step in the research process. 

Key Steps in Picking a Topic:

Step 1
Identifying a Topic

  • Discuss your topic ideas with your class instructor
  • Discuss your topic ideas with a UC Reference Librarian
    • Drop by for an informal discussion, or, Request a Research Appointment for individual assistance.
  • Browse journals that specialize in the subject area or discipline related to your topic area
    • Browse the E-Journal Portal by subject
    • A UC Librarian can also help you find journals in your topic area
  • Browse encyclopedias or indexes in the subject area or discipline related to your topic area
    • Use UC Library's Online Resources tool to help you find databases and other online resources
    • A UC Reference Librarian can help you find appropriate resources
  • State your topic idea as a question
    • For example, to find out about the use of alcoholic beverages by college students, you might pose the question, "What effect does use of alcoholic beverages have on the health of college students?"
  • Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question
    • In the example above, some keywords are alcoholic beverages, health, and college students
Step 2
Testing Your Topic 

Testing your topic will help you see what kind and how much information is available.

  • Search your keywords in a database, the Library Catalog, and the E-Journal Portal
    • Use UC Library's Online Resources tool to find databases and other online resources
    • A UC Librarian also can help you select the right resources for your topic

Too Much Information

  • Try narrowing your topic by using the "and" operator:
    • Example: beer and health and college students

Too Little Information

  • Try broadening your topic
    • For example, search for the keyword "students" rather than "college students"
  • Consider synonyms to use in place of keywords
    • Example: search for "beer" and "wine" in place of "alcoholic beverages"

Finding Background Information

Background information helps you:

  • Understand the context of your topic
  • Define what is already know about your topic

Key Steps in Finding Background Information

  • Keyword searching in databases, the Library Catalog and subject encyclopedias
  • Read articles found for context

 Key Strategies in Finding Background Information

  • Note relevant articles in bibliographies
  • Use lecture notes, text books, and reserve materials for additional sources

What are Background Sources?

  • Databases - find articles with keyword searching in a database
    • Use UC Library's Online Resources tool to help you select a database or other resources to search
  • Library Catalog - find books, journals, newspapers, indexes, and bibliographies by keyword searching
  • E-Journal Portal - find e-journals and e-newspapers by subject browsing or keyword journal title searching
  • Lecture notes, text books and reserve readings are great resources for background information 

Using Bibliographies and Citations

  • Bibliographies are collections of citations on a specific subject
  • Citations at the end of encyclopedia entries and journal articles can lead you to more detailed or relevant information

Finding Articles

Finding articles and other sources that specifically relate to your chosen topic is the heart of the research process.

Key Steps in Finding Articles

  • Selecting a database
  • Searching a database
  • Searching the Library Catalog
  • Finding print and online articles 

Key Strategies in Finding Articles

Picking a Database

UC Library offers more than 100 databases and other online resources. How do you know which one is right for your research?

  • Use UC Library's Online Resources tool:
    • Browse online resources by subject
    • Search by title keyword
      • Keyword Title Search Tip: use a term associated with the broad subject area, such as, Psychology, History or Nursing 

Searching a Database

Once you've selected a database or other online resource, keyword searches are a good place to start, but don't forget use the specialized tools available to help you refine and limit your searches:

Limiting Searches

Scholarly Publications

  • Displays articles published in scholarly or academic sources
  • Removes articles published in popular or non-academic sources
  • Useful if your assignment indicates that citation or sources must be from scholarly or academic publications

Dates Ranges

  • Finds articles published before or after a specified period
  • Useful if your assignment is to find articles older or newer than 5 years 

Getting the Article

Full text in a Database

  • Many of the Library's Online Resources include full text articles
  • If full text is available, a link to the article will appear under or next to the citation

Full text Online

Just because an article isn't available full text in one Online Resource doesn't mean the Library doesn't have access to full text in another resource

  • Use UC Library's E-Journal Portal to find e-journals with online full text
    • Tip: you're searching the e-journal portal for journal title, not performing a keyword search for full text articles!
    • If UC Library subscribes to the e-journal, you'll find links to the full text
  • If the Library does not subscribe to the e-journal or the e-journal coverage is wrong, see if the Library subscribes to the journal in print

Print Journals

  • UC Library subscribes to over 1200 journals in print
  • Search the Library Catalog by Periodical Title 

InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

  • If UC Library doesn't own the journal you need, ILL allows you to request a copy of the article from another library.
  • Go to InterLibrary Loan (ILL) 


Locating books on your topic adds context and overview to your research project. 

Key Steps in Finding Books

Key Strategies in Finding Books

UC Library Catalog

  • Lists all the books, journals and newspapers available in the UC Library
  • Allows you to search by keyword, subject, title and author
  • Tells you the location and status of the item
    • Location: the general location of the item in the Library building
    • Call Number: the exact location of the item in the Library Collection using Library of Congress Classification
    • Status: whether the item is available, for in-library use only (Reference or Reserves) or checked out 

Searching the Library Catalog

Keyword searching is a great place to begin, but subject searches can help you narrow results to those in your specific topic area

Subject Searches

  • Help tailor results to your topic area
  • Provide a range of topic options and similar subject areas
  • Search the Library Catalog by subject
    1. Type a subject term in the box
    2. Select "Subject" from the drop down menu
    3. Hit the Search button
  • Tip: your keywords or broad topic area terms are a great place to start a subject search

Keyword Searches

  • Provide general results in a topic area
  • Provide the broadest range of results
  • Search the Library Catalog by keyword
    1. Type your keyword into the box
    2. Hit the Search button 
WorldCat Catalog
  • WorldCat is a national and international version of the UC Library Catalog
  • The WorldCat database lists all the books, journals, newspapers and other library materials owned by hundreds of library's worldwide
  • UC Library's library materials are listed in WorldCat

Searching WorldCat

  1. Enter your keyword or keywords into the search boxes
  2. Select any limits you'd like
  3. Hit the Search button 

Getting the Book

UC Library Owns the Book

UC Library Does Not Own the Book

  • InterLibrary Loan (ILL) is a free service where UC Library borrows a book from another library on your behalf
  • Go to InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

About the Library's Colllections

UC Library collects materials in several formats, or material types: 

  • Print
  • Online
  • Microform
Key Strategies in Using the Library Collection

UC Library Collection


The UC Library Collection is broken down into types of materials:

  • Print
    • Books, journals (current and older), newspapers (current), indexes 
    • Available in the Library
  • Microform
    • Indexes, older journal and newspaper content
    • Available in the Library
  • Online
    • Databases, e-journals, e-newspapers, websites
    • Available using the Internet 

Searching the UC Library Collection

Find Print Books, Journals, Newspapers

Find Microform Journal and Newspaper Content

Find E-Journals and E-Newspapers

Finding Materials in the UC Library

Materials are organized by Library of Congress Classification and alphabetical by title

InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

This section is scheduled for updating.  Please see:

InterLibrary Loan (ILL) allows you to request journal articles, newspaper articles and books from other libraries when what you need is not in the UC Library Collection.

 Key Steps in Using InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

  • Is the article or book you want in the UC Library Collection?
  • Completing the ILL Article or Book Request forms 

Key Strategies in Using InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

  • Search the Library Catalog for journal articles and books in print and microform
  • Using the E-Journal Portal to find e-journals with online full text
  • Go to InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

What's in the UC Library Collection?

To learn if a journal article, newspaper or book you need is in the UC Library Collection, you need to:

  • Search the Library Catalog for:
    • Journals with articles in print
    • Newspapers with articles in print
    • Journals and newspapers in microform
    • Books
  • Use UC Library's E-Journal Portal to find:
    • E-journals that offer online full text articles
    • E-newspapers that offer online full text articles

Using InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

InterLibrary Loan (ILL) is used when the article or book you want is not in the UC Library Collection. ILL is:

  • Free to all current UC students, faculty and staff
  • Easy - complete the ILL Article or Book Request form
  • Go to InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

You've found books, articles and websites. The next step is evaluating their authority and appropriateness to your research.

Key Steps in Evaluating Books & Articles

  • Examining author, date and audience
  • Distinguishing scholarly content from other content
  • Looking for quality indicators 

Key Strategies in Evaluating Books &Articles

  • Decoding the bibliographic citation
  • Learning to decipher relevance and authority

In the research process you will encounter many types of resources including books, articles and websites. Learn to critically evaluate books & articles.

The Internet offers both valuable and unfortunately questionable content. As a researcher, you need to establish a web document's: 

  • Validity
  • Authorship
  • Timeliness
  • Integrity  

Key Steps in Evaluating Web Pages 

  • Evaluating search results
  • Evaluating site and page characteristics
  • Determining authorship, validity and integrity 

Key Strategies in Evaluating Web Pages 

Critically examining:

  • Search results
  • Site and page characteristics
  • Content
  • Authenticity

The World Wide Web can be a good place to supplement your research. The trick is knowing how to use web sites and pages 

Citing Your Sources

Now that you've completed your research, you need to prepare your references and create a bibliography or works cited.

Key Steps in Citing Sources

  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Selecting the right citation style
  • Formatting your bibliography or works cited 

Key Strategies in Citing Sources

  • Understanding plagiarism
  • Using citation style guides


Frank E. Gannett Library
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