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University of Houston-Clear Lake  

UHCL Pearland Campus Library

a branch of the UHCL Neumann Library

FAQ Library Research

 


 1. How do I get started on my research paper?

Have you already formulated a reasonable topic statement or research question and identified keywords and terms that represent your most important concepts? If not, take a few minutes to look at the Topics module in University of Washington Libraries' Research 101 tutorial before you start looking for journal articles and other information resources on your topic.

On the library's Help and Research Tips webpages, find all the ways to contact a reference librarian, as well as pointers for finding overviews and background information on your topic in reference books and suggestions for finding articles, books, Internet, and other types of information resources. For clarification of specific class assignments and requirements, always check with your professor.
 
 2. How do I find books on my topic?

Search the Library Catalog, which identifies books, including electronic books, owned by UHCL, University of Houston, and University of Houston Downtown libraries. Use the Library Catalog's Request feature to obtain desired books from UH or UHD, or see other book delivery options available through interlibrary loan services.

For electronic books, you also can search any of the following databases: Ebrary, Ebook Collection (EBSCOhost),  PsycBOOKS (psychology), or Wiley Online Library. To identify books not found in the Library Catalog, try searching the databases or WorldCat, and then submit an interlibrary loan book request. Find more suggestions and examples on the library's Help and Research Tips webpages.
 
 3. How do I find magazine or journal articles on my topic?

Start with a multidisciplinary research database such as Academic Search Complete, or select an appropriate academic subject from the library's Resources by Subject webpage, and choose a recommended database under the Articles & More tab. For information on how to formulate your search statement and search effectively, see the Finding Scholarly Articles on Your Topic tutorials, the library's Help and Research Tips webpages, individual database how-to guides, or Keys to Finding What You Need in Library Research Databases (guide).
 

 4. My search has too many results; how can I narrow it?

Try one or more of the following:

a)  Using the Boolean operator and, add additional relevant keywords or subject terms to your search statement.
b)  Instead of searching only with keywords, use one or more official subject terms. If the database uses subject terms (or subject headings, descriptors, etc.), find them them in the full description of relevant records, in a list of suggested subjects next to the search results, or the database Thesaurus or Subject browse feature.
c)  Use drop-down menus to restrict some or all of your search terms to specific fields: subject terms, abstract, or title.
d)  Add relevant limiters (date range, publication type, peer-reviewed journal, etc.). Explore the search screen for special limiters that may be relevant to your search.
e)  If available, consider using proximity operators (near, within, etc.), which are narrower in scope than the and operator.
f)  Consider using the Boolean operator not to remove specified keywords or terms from your results.

If you aren't finding what you need, consult a reference librarian (281-283-3910).
 
 5. My search has too few results; how can I broaden it?

Try one or more of the following:

a)  Using the Boolean operator or, add additional relevant synonyms or alternative keywords or subject terms that you did not use in your original search. Check whether the database includes a Thesaurus or Subject feature to help you identify appropriate search terms.
b)  Truncate or stem your search terms by using wildcard operators. In addition to the commonly used asterisk (*), many databases offer additional wildcards.
c)  Remove or expand limiters (date range, publication type, etc.).
d)  If available, search for all or some of your search terms in full text or all text fields, rather than default fields.
e)  Try your search in another relevant database.

If you aren't finding what you need, consult a reference librarian (281-283-3910).
 
 6. My search finds nothing; what am I doing wrong?

a)  Check your search terms for typographical errors.
b)  Use Boolean operators, and exclude unnecessary words from your search. For example, "(smoking or cigarettes) and movies and teenagers" should retrieve some results, but "influence of smoking in movies on teenagers' decision to smoke" probably won't.
c)  Be sure you're using an appropriate database for your topic. Don't accidentally choose a literature database to find articles about chemistry, or Books in Print to find newspaper articles.

If you aren't finding what you need, consult a reference librarian (281-283-3910).
 
 7. How do I cite my sources?

For information about specific style guides, including online help for American Psychological Association (APA) style, Modern Language Association (MLA) style, Duke University Libraries' Citing Sources, and related resources, see the library's Citing & Writing Help. If desired, see information about how to access and use EndNote bibliographic management software. See also UHCL Writing Center, or consult a reference librarian (281-283-3910) or your professor.
 
 8. Are the WebCT Online Library Research Skills modules available after I graduate?

Any password-protected online course modules are restricted to current UHCL students, faculty, and staff. Free, public access tutorials can be found on the Library Research Tutorials page, however, and on many other academic and public library websites.
 
 9. How do I get help from a reference librarian?

Whenever you have questions about information resources or library research strategies, we want to help! There are many ways to contact us: visiting or calling the Reference Desk  (281-283-3910), use of the Ask a Reference Question form, or scheduling a Research Consultation. See also our library how-to guides, research tutorials, and online Help and Research Tips.

 
 10. What is a peer-reviewed or scholarly journal?

A scholarly journal (as opposed to a popular magazine or a trade/industry journal) is one in which subject experts (often faculty members or researchers) determine whether a submitted manuscript meets criteria for publication. Peer-reviewed journals may also be called "refereed" journals. See Help and Research Tips for more information, including how to limit database searches to scholarly journals and how to determine whether a specific journal is peer-reviewed.
 
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