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COMP 100: Composition (Griswold)

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. 

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

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 searching reference materials. Reference materials such as Encyclopedias and Dictionaries are arranged alphabetically and contain a general overview of a term or subject matter. The library has access to encyclopedias and dictionaries in print and online through particular databases. 

Below you will find a list of Reference databases that may be helpful in your research. This list is not exhaustive.

Search Tips and Strategies

When you are creating a search query to use when locating resources in databases, it is helpful to brainstorm multiple keywords. 

For example, let's say my research question is What effect does reading at a young age have on adolescent literacy development?

Typing the whole research question into a search box will not be effective. While Google tends to use more natural language searching, databases are much more specific. If you are doing a keyword search with the whole question written in, the database will look for every single word in that phrase and pull up anything that has the word "effect" in it. Thus, you see many results that are not helpful. 

To have a more successful search, you will want to keep in mind three things. 

The first thing to keep in mind is to brainstorm as many synonyms as possible. If I were looking at my topic and trying to think of ways to describe adolescents, I might come up with the following words: adolescent, teen, young adult, youth 

A keyword search in a database will only pull up the words that you are searching. By generating multiple words to describe the same thing, you can try different search phrases to get the best results. If adolescent is not bringing up many results, switch it out with young adult and run the search again. 

The second thing to keep in mind is to use more concise language. A better search query for the topic listed above might be "effect and reading and toddlers and literacy". When I search that in a database, my results will only pull up sources that have the words effect, reading, toddlers, and literacy in them. 

The third thing to keep in mind is to use boolean operators. The three main operators are and, or, not. Each serves a purpose in a search query. Read more about the different types of Boolean Operators in the box labeled "Boolean Operators" on the right hand side. 

In-Class Group Exercise

Utilizing the knowledge that we have learned so far in class today, take a few minutes as a group to complete the following in-class exercise. 


Watch the video embedded below. When you have finished watching the video, work together as a group to come up with a research question, a list of keywords, and at least one potential search query. Share your results on the class padlet. 

Made with Padlet

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. 

***You can also check out items at Hartwick College with your SUNY Oneonta ID card.***

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 will be helpful for your current assignment. It is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good place to start. 


Whenever you use information from an article in your paper (either through direct quoting or paraphrasing), you need to create a citation.

There are three main citation styles – MLA, APA, and Chicago. MLA tends to be the citation style preferred by the arts and humanities discipline. APA is the citation style that is typically used by the science disciplines. Chicago style is primarily used by the history discipline.

The library has created handy guides for you, which can be found by visiting the library homepage and clicking on the “Citing Sources” link located under the Reference and Instruction heading. This link also contains additional resources that may be helpful for you.

The library’s citation guides are also available in print near the Research Help Desk.