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Information Commons - Library: RESEARCH 101

Research 101

Welcome to Research 101 -- your online crash course in conducting scholarly research and finding sources or information for papers, projects, and life! Here you'll find advice about developing a search strategy as well as tips and tricks for how to best search for information on databases.

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Reference Sources

Conduct background reading to better understand your topic and important facts surrounding the topic such as dates, people, important terms and concepts, etc. Try using reference sources like our "Reference eBooks" (link) or some of the free resources listed below:

Need Help?

Have questions? Need help with research? The St. Augustine College Library is here to help!





How To Search For Information

Getting Started:

Evaluating Sources

Not every article you find is going to be right for this specific paper. Use the following criteria to determine whether this article is appropriate for your research needs:

1. Currency:

How timely is your article?


Think about: When was the information published or posted? Has the information been revised or updated? Is the information current or out-of-date for your topic?

2. Authority:

What is the source of the information?


Think about: Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor? What are the author’s qualifications to write on the topic? Are they affiliated with any organizations or groups?

3. Accuracy:

How reliable or truthful is the content?


Think about: Where does the information come from? Is the information supported by evidence? Has the information been reviewed? Can you verify any of the information in another source? Is there a bibliography?

4. Purpose:

Why does the information exist?


Think about: What is the purpose of this information? (To inform or persuade?) Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear? Is the information fact or interpretation of facts? Opinion? Propaganda? Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

5. Relevance:

How well does the information fit your needs?


Think about: Does the information closely relate to your topic or answer a question you have? Who is the intended audience? (Experts? General public?) Is the information at an appropriate level? (Not too narrow, not too general?) What will this source add to your research project?

6. Scholarly:

Is this article scholarly or not? 


Think about: What is the source of publication?  Is the author affiliated with a university or research institute?  Does the article report original research? Is it peer-reviewed?

Research Process Worksheet

Search Tips and Tricks!

Use Boolean Operators for a more precise search!

OR = increase your results. Combine synonyms or similar terms to increase the number of results.  

Example:  groups OR organizations OR associations RETRIEVES articles that contain any of those 3 words 

AND = narrow your results. Combine different concepts to narrow your search.  

Example:  students AND kindergarten RETRIEVES articles that contain both of those words. 

NOT = narrow your results. Combine different concepts to reduce your search by excluding some words.  

Example:  students NOT kindergarten RETRIEVES articles about all students except kindergarten students.

Watch this video prepared by McMaster University about using Boolean operators and search techniques 


Enclose phrases in " " to find all words together: "culinary arts" or "gun control"

Shorten search terms

Shorten search terms and add a * to retrieve singular, plural, and variant spellings.

advertis* : retrieves advertise, advertisers, advertising, advertisement, advertisements

Use limits

Most databases will allow you to apply limits to your searches and results, such as publication date, source type, scholarly, etc.

Search multiple databases

Try your search in more than one database. EBSCO will let you search multiple databases simultaneously. Look for "choose databases" above the search box. In ProQuest, use the "change databases" link in the banner to select multiple databases to search.

Use subject headings for a more precise search

Most journal article databases use controlled vocabulary to make searching for journal articles more specific. Knowing the best subject heading will improve your specific search.  Use a database's THESAURUS (controlled vocabulary) to choose the best words for your SUBJECT search.

Watch this video prepared by Western University about using subject headings or descriptors.