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Research Paper Help: Home

How to Use this Guide

This guide covers the basics of using library resources for research papers. Below you will find assistance in choosing a topic, finding background information, understanding Boolean operators, searching databases, and more. Video tutorials are also provided. See the tab next to Home above.

Pick A Topic

If you are stuck trying to decide on a topic for your paper, there are a few ways to generate ideas. 

  1. Scan newspaper headlines 
  2. Browse chapter titles in your textbook
  3. Check out what's trending 
  4. Use a Topic Idea Generator
  5. Use the "Browse Issues" section in the Opposing Viewpoints Database

Understanding the Lingo

Conducting research can be difficult when you are unfamiliar with the terms being used to describe certain types of items. If your instructor asks you to use a periodical, would you know what they meant? If you had to locate the call number in an item’s record, could you? It is important to familiarize yourself with what particular library words mean. 

Refer to the files below. The Definitions handout and Types of Periodicals chart will be particularly useful to keep and use in future classes. 

Background Knowledge

When you begin a research project, it is a good idea to take a moment to reflect on your prior knowledge of the topic area. How much do you already know about this topic? How confident are you in moving forward with this topic? In most cases, you will need to do a bit of research to get some general information on your topic. 

A great way to gather background information is through using reference materials such as Encyclopedias and Dictionaries, especially important if you are unfamiliar with a subject area or unsure from what angle to approach a topic. Background research serves many purposes: 

  • It can provide an authoritative overview 
  • It makes key issues apparent 
  • It provides relevant names, dates, and events to the subject area 
  • It alerts us to keywords and other subject-specific vocabulary 
  • It gives us references and bibliographies for further investigation

‚ÄčThe library has access to encyclopedias and dictionaries in print and online through particular databases. Some great general subject matter reference databases can be found by clicking on the Databases tab, then the "Browse by Discipline" link. You should then see a link for Reference. You can also click on a heading that relates specifically to your topic. You will most likely see a small blue icon with the letters "REF" next to a few of the database titles in the list. These are subject specific reference databases and will also be helpful in your searching. 

Below you will find a list of online Reference databases that may be helpful in your research. This list is not exhaustive, but it is an example of the types of materials available. 

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are words or symbols that are used in conjunction with words to refine searches. 

Here are six helpful ones to use: 

  1. AND - narrows 
    1. Ex: ADHD and boys (this narrows down our results to only include ADHD and boys) 
  2. NOT - excludes
    1. Ex: ADHD not boys (this narrows down our results to include things about ADHD excluding those that mention boys) 
  3. OR - expands
    1. Ex: boys or males or guy (this expands our our search to search for multiple possible terms) 
  4. * - expands 
    1. Ex: rac*  (using the asterisk in replace of an ending on a word will expand your search to include results that have any ending on the base word.)
  5. " " - exact phrase
    1. Ex: "executive functioning" (this pulls up results that are stated in the item exactly as written) 
  6. ( ) - confine
    1. Ex: (ADHD or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) AND (boys or guys or males)     - (this will instruct the database or search engine on what parts go together in your search phrase


It is important to include appropriate citation in your paper. The library has a guide that can help you accurately cite your resources. You can locate it on the library homepage by clicking the "Citing Sources" link, or you can click on the link below. 


Librarians are available to help in several ways: 

  • Call the Reference Desk at 607-436-2722
  • E-mail a question to a librarian and receive a response 
  • Request a Research Consultation to meet individually (and virtually) with a librarian
  • Chat with a Librarian using the Chat Box below

Locating Print Sources at Milne Library

Search & Discover provides sweeping access to books, ebooks, articles, movies, music, and more through a user-driven platform supporting your research interests. You can use Search & Discover without signing in. However, to access e-books, you will need to sign in when prompted.

There are two main ways to use Search & Discover.

Everything allows you to search simultaneously for books, ebooks, articles, movies, music, and more. You may use keywords, titles, authors, or phrases. Refine your results using the choices on the left. For example, if you want to discover the newest results then select Sort by. Explore Resource Type, also on the left, to get a sense of the various materials available to you.

Library Catalog is commonly used to search the physical collections of the James M. Milne Library, including ebooks, by an author’s name or a book’s title. You may also use keywords to search the library catalog, which contains the table of contents for many records. Subject headings are included in keyword searching and are assigned to all library catalog holdings.

While Everything and Library Catalog are two of the main searching functions in Search & Discover, there are others available for use. Child Collection, Course Reserves, EMC Media, NY State Collection, Reference, Special Collections (SCC), SUNY Catalog, and Young Adult (YA) are all options to choose from. These collections can be searched exclusively by selecting them in the top menu. For example, selecting Child Collection will include results only from that collection. 

Locating Online Resources

Electronic articles can be searched through our databases. There are some general databases and some subject specific databases. To access the databases, click on the database tab on the library homepage. You can then browse through them alphabetically, or browse by discipline (i.e., gender studies, history, etc.). 

Below you will find a list of databases that contain a broad range of information. It is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good place to start if you don't know where to begin. 

Locating Journals and Articles

Locating Journals:

To locate articles from particular journals, you need to first identify if the library has access to them or not. To do this, you first need to go to the library homepage. You will then click on the “Journals” tab. Enter the name of the publication you are seeking in the search box. You should see the title in your results list. Underneath the item’s name, there should be a list of results. These will either be links to databases, the organization’s website, an interlibrary loan request, or link to the catalog information.

The library has access to articles in different ways. Some journals are only available in print, while others have access online. After each link name, you will see a date range. This indicates what years the library has access to. Many publishers place a full text delay (or embargo) for online access.

There are some journals that the library does not have access to. You can request particular articles through interlibrary loan. Your log-in information for ILLiad is your Oneonta username and password. The first time you log in, you will be asked to fill out a form. Make sure you change the delivery location to Circulation Desk. It will default to NYSHA Library in Cooperstown. Requesting articles through ILLiad is free for you as a student. However, it is not instantaneous. The typical time frame is about 24 hours, but if you request over the weekend, it will take longer. Also, some articles are easier to acquire than others and can be processed faster.

Before you try ILLiad, you may also want to try Google Scholar. Click on the “Databases” tab on the library homepage, and then click on the letter G. Click on the Google Scholar link. If you access Google Scholar through the library’s website, you have access to more articles. Searching Google Scholar is most effective when you already have a specific article that you are looking for. You can find articles by browsing the table of contents in journals.

Find an Article:

Now that you have located the journal, you need to find an article. There are two ways to find articles, by browsing the table of contents or by searching within.

The searching within function only works if you are accessing the journal through a library database. Then you can enter keywords and limit your results by particular years.

Browsing by the table of contents is a way to find articles regardless of how you are accessing the publication.