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English Research Guide

Where Do I Start?

Bart SimpsonWhile you may be tempted to start your research with Google, but be wary: anybody can post anything on the Internet so the quality of the information may be questionable.

If asked to find scholarly articles on the health effects of smoking:

  • Google search -- 7,520,000 results. -- Number of scholarly or even credible sources of information? unknown.
  • Google Scholar search -- 1,570,000 results. -- Number or results that can be viewed by Mesa students for free? unknown.
  • Mesa Library "One Search" Box that searches a large number of our paid databases - 475,255 results (once filtered for online only)--Number that can be viewed by Mesa students and are free & credible: all
  • EBSCOhost search (Library subscription database) -- By limiting your search to full text and scholarly articles, you will retrieve 351 articles. -- Number that can be viewed by Mesa students and are scholarly: all

The Library's books and online databases are carefully selected for the quality of their content and online resources are available to Mesa students 24/7 however you access the Internet. We subscribe so you don't have to. Access to the Library's collections through the Mesa Library website

How Do I Search?

Person sitting reading with a book on their lap  with a highlighter on the book

Step One:

Take a look at the assignment . What information are you going to need?  Think about the elements that you have to discuss.

Step Two:

Conduct background research. First, to help you select the topic you want to discuss if you have not decided. Second, to help you focus your topic, which will make writing easier.  You want to know what information is out there, and how the topic has been already discussed.

In this background research, make note of any other terms that you see that related to your topic, this includes synonyms, technical terms, relevant theories, and historical names.  

Step Three:

Think about what you found in the first steps two steps and develop keywords for each aspect of your topic.  This will include keywords for each aspect of research question or the aspects of the topic that you need to address. Think of broader and narrower terms, synonyms, historical terms, and possible cultural terminology.  Use the notes you made in the second step. 

Step Four:

Conduct some searches using keywords.  When searching, don't just look for results that work, but also make note of what you are seeing and what you are not seeing. This will help you modify your search. Try different combinations of your keywords. If you need help along the way make sure you contact your friendly librarian.  They are experts at locating information and love to help. 

Step Five:

Select your sources and make sure you know how to cite them correctly.

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

Research Assistance

Research Can Be Hard, We Got You!

In this area we will help you get started with your research. Each tab above represents a different aspect of the research process. Each area has tips, websites and videos that will help you understand how to identify, find, evaluate and use information, particularly in the scholarly arena. 

Do you see the "Help Is On The Way" tab at the top of this box? There are additional tabs to the right and each tab has a different aspect of the research process with information that we feel you might find helpful.  

Please check back regularly, we are adding more content to this area all the time!

Sometimes Choosing the Right Topic For Your Research

Can Be One of the Hardest Parts of the Entire Process

  • At first you may want to brainstorm some topics until you find one that really means a lot ot you.  We have some resources, in the form of library databases, that have topics you may want to consider (you will be prompted to log in with your CSID and last name when accessing these resources).
    • ‚ÄčCQ Researcher which is a database that comes out with weekly reports on controversial issues
    • Opposing Viewpoints in Context is a database that provides many different kinds of resources (i.e. academic journal and popular magazine articles, as well as statistics, infographics and more) on a wide variety of controversial issues.. 
    • Access World News is a database of Newspaper Articles. The link in blue will take you to a "topics" page. Simply scroll down and you will see them listed by subject. 

Below are some videos to help you choose the best topic for your paper:


This Video is about the very first steps of choosing your topic, It is called Picking Your Topic IS Research and it comes to us from North Carolina State University Libraries

The video below is called How to Develop a Good Research Topic and it comes to us from Kansas State University Libraries

Once you have chosen a topic you need to create a "search string". This is a group of words that will bring the best results when you search for them in our databases or on the web. You might think you got this however really good scholarly searches can take quite a bit of thought to create. 

Using good keywords in your search box will give you the most effective search for retrieving your scholarly sources. The video below is called From Question to Keyword. (brought to us by the Lloyd Sealy Library at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice)  and gives a short overview of how to find the best words to put in to your search box. 

It can take time to find the best keywords and then it will take even longer to search for just the right articles on your topic. In the next video from Winona State University called Selecting and Using Keywords you will learn some additional techniques for finding keywords and how to use those words in a search box most effectively. 

If you really want to step up your search game it is best to get used to using "boolean operators" these are words in combination that will give you a more productive search by adding and taking away certain articles from your results. Interested? Take a look at the video below called How To: Use Boolean Search Operators brought to us by the newspaper database NewsBank

It's finally time to find those articles but where to start? 

We know that you are already familiar with search engines like Google that bring you free websites, some good for a research paper and others...not so much. Let's take a look at your options for scholarly work that will be accepted by your professors. 

Below you will find a video from our friends at the Monroe Community College with some valuable thoughts on Google vs. the Library for your college level research. 

Next, you will find a video called What Is A Library Database and Why Should I Use One brought to us by the University of Minnesota. It will help you understand why Mesa College spends so much time and money making sure you have articles that don't come for free off of the internet. 

Want to give searching a multiple Subject Database a Try? Click on the blue link below called Academic OneFile, you will need to log in with your CSID and last name. Then, put your keyword search string into the search box and see what the database comes up with (if this one doesn't give you what you want we have 99 others to choose from!

Perhaps you just want to use Google? Okay, here is a quick video to help you get a little more out of your Google searching for scholarly sources. Click here to see a short video.

On our Mesa College Library website we have a page called Cite Sources that has citation software as well as websites that will help you get those citations in perfect order! It Includes:

  • NoodleBib Citation Creation Software click here
  • MLA Citation Websites (below the video is APA Citation information)

- Below is a video about MLA Citation Basics

APA Citation Websites

- Below is a video on APA Citation Basics

Quick Start Your Research

Below is our "One Search" tool. Use the search box to find articles, books and more from the Mesa College library. Just put in your search term and give it a try!

One Search Tutorials

These tutorials were created to help you understand how to find books and articles using the Mesa College One Search tool. The last video will show you how to refine the results that One Search gives you so you can better narrow down what One Search gives you.