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English Research Basics

Learn to research with ease using credible, college-appropriate resources to frame, guide, and inform your projects

Find Search Terms

Using the correct words to search will help you find information that is relevant to your topic.

Different authors and search tools use different words to describe the same concepts, so it is useful to have a list of similar and related terms in your arsenal when you set out to search for relevant information. You can use the key terms in your research questions as a start for creating your list of search terms. You should create synonyms for those key words and keep track of useful search terms as you begin your search for information.

In addition, when you search for information you can search using Keywords or using Subject Headings. What is the difference? This video from the University of Otago, Wellington explains the difference well.

 

Use the CRAAP Test for Credibility

Finding information today is easy; it's all around you. Making sure the information you find is reliable is your challenge.

When you use Google or any social media to get your information how do you know it can be trusted? How do you know it's not biased?

You can feel pretty confident that books you get from the library and articles you find in the library's databases are reliable because someone or some group has checked all the facts and arguments the author made before publishing them. You still have to think about whether or not the book or article is current and suitable for your project but you can feel confident that it is a trustworthy source.

Make sure that each and every source you plan on using in your paper or research assignment passes the CRAAP test.

 

Evaluate your sources: The CRAAP Test

 

For more information on evaluating your sources, check out our CRAAP Test: Evaluate Your Sources guide.


Watch the brief video below to see how this works.

Finding Background Information

Doing some background reading at the beginning of your research helps you to understand your topic right from the start. You'll be able to put your topic in context and create research questions that drive your search for information.  In addition, when you begin hunting and gathering information, you’ll know if what you’re finding is relevant and useful.

You need to begin understanding your topic early in order to know:

  1. What information you need to find

  2. Whether or not what you are finding is relevant

  3. What search terms will lead to successful searches

  4. What information is reliable

You don't even have to read a lot of books to get this valuable background information. Reference books, like encyclopedias and dictionaries, are a wonderful place to start your reseach.

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The MJC Library subscribes to several online databases that are great for finding background information. Try searching in...

Using & Finding Books

Why Use Books:

Use books to read broad overviews and detailed discussions of your topic. You can also use books to find primary sources, which are often published together in collections.
 

Where Do I Find Books?

You'll use the library catalog to search for books, ebooks, articles, and more.
 

What if MJC Doesn't Have What I Need?

If you need materials (books, articles, recordings, videos, etc.) that you cannot find in the library catalog, use our interlibrary loan service.

Using Databases

Why Use Databases:

The MJC Library subscribes to many databases filled with authoritative articles, book chapters, research reports, statistics, videos, and more from thousands of respected publications. You can search these databases either by topic or for a specific article.

Using the Library's article databases ensures that you're using sources your instructors expect you to use, and you won't have to cull through millions of unrelated Web pages that will waste your time and energy.

All of these resources are free for you because you are a student at MJC. If you're working from anywhere off campus, you'll need to sign in just like you do for your MJC email or Canvas courses.
Find Articles:

You can start with one of our Databases for Background Reading or our Databases Covering Many Subjects. Scroll down below the big Start Your Research Here box to select a Database by SubjectDatabase by Type, or Find a Database by Name. 

You'll find our databases by clicking the button below:
 

Articles and databases button


What if MJC Doesn't Have What I Need?

If you need materials (books, articles, recordings, videos, etc.) that you cannot find in the MJC Library catalog, use our interlibrary loan service.

Finding Web Resources

Use Google Scholar to search for scholarly materials on the Web.

Google Scholar Search