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ENGL 1101 Online: ResearchStrategy

Research help for English 1101 Online

Step 1: Plan your Research

Allow enough time for your research!  College-level research may require more technique (and patience) than research projects you have done before.planner

You might try one of these research planners to develop a schedule for your assignment and not wait until the last minute:

Which planner do you like better?
DBU: 31 votes (36.47%)
UFV: 54 votes (63.53%)
Total Votes: 85

Step 2: What kind of resources do you need? Where do you find them?

Now think about your topic, or potential topic.  Before you plunge in and start searching, think about the types of resources that fit your needs best and where you should look for them.  Also consider they types of resources specified in your assignment.  The other pages of this guide will help you learn use GALILEO and the GIL-Find catalog to locate the resources you need. 

Click on the icons next to each type for examples.  They will require the appropriate passwords off-campus.


Emily Dickinson (connects to ebook in GIL Find)


  • Good for overview or in-depth analysis of a topic
  • You may be able to use a chapter or part of a book -- Check the table of contents or index
  • Many are in e-book form (locate in library catalog, DISCOVER, or e-book databases), but many are only available in print (locate in GIL-Find catalog).

‚ÄčAmerican Literary Realism (links to JSTOR)Scholarly Journal articles

  • Good for in-depth analysis from a scholarly point of view.
  • Usually the topic is very specific.
  • Use DISCOVER or individual research databases to locate individual articles.  Print journals may be located in library catalog.  (You cannot find individual articles in the catalog, but you can find the whole journal and the dates included in our collection.)
  • Also known as Academic Journals or Peer-reviewed journals.


Toni Morrison article in TIME (connects to GALILEO)
  • Articles may be general or specific
  • Usually written for the general reader by journalists.
  • Credibility varies, but are not considered scholarly.
  • May be good sources for background information on an author or topic, but not literary criticism.
  • Use DISCOVER or individual research databases to locate articles. The Catalog will show if we carry the magazine.


Natasha Tretheway article in Roanoke Times. (Connects to GALILEO.)
  • Articles tend to be short and specific, often local
  • Written for the general reader by journalists
  • Not considered scholarly
  • Use DISCOVER or individual research databases to locate. Some are freely available on the web.


Videos/audio  - Rarely a source of literary analysis, but you may find author interviews that provide insight on the work you are studying. Locate in Films on Demand or other GSU Library research databases or in the library catalog.

Websites - Your instructor may not allow websites, but if you are allowed to use them, be extra careful about the quality of information you find. Government agencies and reports are often good sources of information on the web. You may try Google Scholar to find high-quality scholarly sources, but if it asks you to pay, see if you can find the same source for free in GSU's research databases! 

The type of information source you want will determine:

  • Where you look for the source (research databases, library catalog, web?)
  • Help you narrow your search results. You can usually specify the type of source before and/or after searching.

Scholarly/ Academic Journals

In scholarly research, it is important to use high quality, reputable sources. Many research databases label articles as being published in either a scholarly journal/academic journal or a magazine/newspaper. What's the difference?

Scholarly Journals Popular Magazines & Newspapers
Articles written by experts in their fields of study. Articles written by journalists.
Reports on in-depth research and analysis. Written for entertainment or lighter information.
Articles usually longer in length. Articles usually shorter in length.
Author's credentials and affiliation stated. Usually a university or research institution. Writer may or may not be identified.
Has extensive citations and references. Might mention information sources in text but has no reference list at end of article.
Usually doesn't contain advertisements (may contain a few directly related to journal subject). Includes advertisements for popular products.

Watch the video below to learn more:


Peer-Reviewed Sources

Peer-reviewed sources are sources that have been reviewed by a group of scholarly peers. It usually works in this manner:

  • An author writers their article and submits it to a scholarly journal for publication.
  • The editor of the journal reviewed the article and sends it out to a group of peers. These peers are scholars within their field.
  • These peers read and review the article. They either approve it for publication, suggest not publishing it, or even suggest changes to be made before publication. They then send this information and their recommendation back to the editor.
  • The editor communicates this information to the author. The author makes changes if necessary.
  • The article is publish (or not if the peers suggest not to publish).

Watch the video below to more information:


Step 3: Choose your search terms and how to use them.

Once you have a topic in mind, brainstorm about possible words you might use as search terms.  Remember not all search tools will search within the full text of the information source. Think about your ideal article, book, etc.  What terms might the used to describe the subject of the item you're looking for?

  • Some databases will do okay if you input an entire sentence like you do with Google. But most will not, and will require that you only input key words that describe your topic. These are usually nouns. Example: To find out the effect of global warming on animals in the Antarctic, I first select the terms global warming, animals, and Antarctic.
  • Include synonyms for your original term. (Example: global warming, climate change; Antarctic, Antarctica)
  • Include words that will help narrow your search to be more specific to the topic.  These could be adjectives, specific examples, or additional terms that will help focus the kinds of information in the results. (Example: marine animals, penguins, polar.)
  • As you search, you will probably discover additional search terms that are related to your topic. It's good practice to include these new terms in your list of potential search terms.
  • You won't want to use all these words at once. Instead, you should try different combinations or try using Boolean operators to make your search more effective and more efficient.

Boolean Operators

 Does the search require Boolean operators?

Once you've thought of some basic keywords for your search, you may use Boolean operators to tell the search engine the relationship between the keywords. Boolean operators are the words AND, OR, and NOT.

  • Some searches work like Google -- that is, you can enter some search terms and the search engine will look for all of those search terms in the results.  The  more search terms you add, the more specific your search will be. In these searches, you can often choose to use Boolean operators to make your search more effective. (Example: Discover Search, Lexis Nexis)
  • Other databases require that you use Boolean operators when connecting search terms.  (Example: Academic Search Complete.)

Global warming search in Academic Search Complete

This example will look for the words "global warming" as a phrase in Academic Search Complete. No Boolean operators are being used. 

Click the AND tab at the top of this box to read about AND.

For more information about Boolean operators, selecting search terms and how to use them, see the "More help" box to the right.

Global warming and penguins search

Use AND to connect two different concepts.  

In this example, I am interested in the impact of global warming on penguins, so I am interested in articles that contain both the terms global warming and penguins.

By connecting my search terms with AND, I get fewer articles because I only get articles that contain information about both of these topics.

Note: It is good practice to always put Boolean operators in all capital letters.

For more information about Boolean operators, selecting search terms and how to use them, see the "More help" box to the right.

global warming or climate change search

Use OR to connect similar terms.

In this example, I am doing research about global warming. I realize that many articles use the term "climate change" instead of global warming, but they mean roughly the same thing, so I connect the two terms with OR.

By connecting my search terms with OR, I get more articles because I get articles that use the term climate change as well as articles about global warming.

For more information about Boolean operators, selecting search terms and how to use them, see the "More help" box to the right.

penguins not pittsburgh search

Use NOT to exclude terms.  (You will rarely need to use NOT, but it can come in handy.

In this example, I am doing research about penguins, but I kept getting articles about the sports team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.  To make sure I don't get information about the Pittsburgh Penguins, I search for articles about penguins that do not mention Pittsburgh.  (

By connecting my search terms with NOT, I get fewer articles because I leave out the penguin articles that are about the Pittsburgh Penguins.


For more information about Boolean operators, selecting search terms and how to use them, see the "More help" box to the right.

global wamring and penguins or polar bears

Once you get the hang of combining two search terms, you can use combinations of search terms to create more complex searches.

In this example, I want to know about the impact of global warming on two different animals, penguins and polar bears.  I put parentheses around penguins and polar bears  to group them.  

This search will get me articles about global warming and penguins, articles about global warming and polar bears, and articles about all three.

You can also use the advanced search to combine terms, like this:

 Advanced search: global warming or climate change and polar bears or penguins

For more information about Boolean operators, selecting search terms and how to use them, see the "More help" box to the right.

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