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Getting Organized for Research

1. Figure out what you want to write about

Get Organized!

  • Develop a clear topic for your research
  • Write down terms that relate to your subject
  • Determine vocabulary that may be used in COAST or Research Databases

2. Create search statements using Boolean operators

"AND" narrows a search.

Both variables must appear in the same resource.

Terms may have different meanings.

example: "Dogs AND Cats"   (retrieves only those records in which both "dogs" and "cats" appear)

example: "Enron AND Worldcom"  (retrieves only those records in which both "Enron" and "Worldcom" appear)

"OR" broadens a search.

Either term may appear in resource.

Terms may have similar meanings or you may just want both concepts.

example: "Dogs OR Cats"  (retrieves all records in which either one of these words appears)

example: "Enron OR Worldcom"  (retrieves all records in which either one of these company names appears)

3. Pick the best information source for your topic and GO FIND IT!

Click here for an alternative text version of the following table.

Books Articles Miscellaneous





Indexes & Research Databases


In COAST you can find: books,  encyclopedias, dictionaries, and government documents. Articles, books, and book chapter titles can be identified by using printed or electronic indexes or the research databases.  Some, but not all, of the research databases will deliver the full text! The Internet can include: government statistics, today's news, company web sites, and information about organizations.
Historical. Timely. Usually very timely.
Scholarly. Can be research oriented, news, or general information. Excellent source of federal and state government information.
Good overall background. Short and sweet. Just a mouse click away.
Use COAST to find books when you need to find lengthy overviews, analysis of a topic, or definitions. Use indexes and research databases to find articles from periodicals when you need scholarly research or a short explanation of an issue. Use the Internet when you need today's news, government statistics, or company information.





Research Databases

Choose your search engine or use sites the librarians recommend


Definitions of Terms You Often Hear in the Library (or from your Professor)

Abstract: A condensed summary of the essential points or important parts of a document.

Addenda / Addendum: Brief supplemental data added at the conclusion of a book.

Autobiography: A biography of a person narrated or written by him/herself.

Bibliography: A list, often with descriptive or critical notes, of writings relating to a particular subject, author, or time period.

Biography: The history of someone's life.

Chronology: A list or account of events arranged in the order of their occurrence.

Copyright: The exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, and sell a literary, musical, or artistic work.

Dictionary: A book that lists and explains the words in a language.

Editorial Article: An article where the author strongly expresses an opinion based solely on his/her thoughts and experiences, with little or no research. Editorial pieces are not usually considered scholarly.

Encyclopedia: A book or set of books that provide brief summaries on all branches of knowledge. The summaries are usually arranged alphabetically.

Government Documents: Papers, proceedings, and other publications that are published by either the federal, state, or local government.

Literary Criticism or Literature Review Article: An article expressing a specific opinion on a literary work (such as Hamlet, or A Tale of Two Cities).

Monograph: Your regular, average book, usually providing historical information or a broad overview on a single subject or on some aspect of a subject. A monograph is only published once.

Peer Reviewed Articles: Articles in a scholarly journals that have been subjected to a rigorous approval and editing process by other scholars in that discipline.  Also called "refereed."

Refereed Articles: Articles in scholarly journals that have been subjected to a rigorous approval and editing process by other scholars in that discipline.  Also called "peer reviewed."

Research Article: An article on a specific topic that is published in a journal. As journals are published periodically, research articles are more timely than books and usually much shorter in length.

Scholarly Journal: The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report on original research or experimentation in order to make that information available to other scholars.  Scholarly journals often contain many graphs and charts, but few exciting pictures.  Articles in scholarly journals are written by researchers in the field.  Scholarly journal articles ALWAYS cite sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies.  Many scholarly journals are published by professional organizations.  Popular and/or news magazines are NOT considered scholarly journals.  See also the definition for "Peer Reviewed Articles."

Style Manuals: Books, pamphlets, or other documentation that detail the appropriate style for citing information in your research.  Many professional associations and/or disciplines have specific style manuals.  The Library provides links to style manual information.

You are now done with Reading 1!

Go to

"Research Strategy: Reading 2: Using the Web for Research"