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WRTG 1320: Academic Writing and Research


Welcome to the library research guide for WRTG 1320: Academic Writing and Research.  This guide is designed to help you learn how to use the library's databases to find research.

<----- Use the tabs to the left to navigate through this guide

Starting Your Research

Research can often be a messy and cyclical process. Sometimes you do the perfect search on the first try, and other times you have to repeat your searches multiple times with different combinations of keywords. Below are the basic steps of the research process

  • Decide what information you need
    • How are you going to support your thesis? What topics do you need to cover? An outline may be helpful.
  • Determine what resources you can use
    • Does your assignment call for peer-review research? Or are magazine and internet articles acceptable? Do you need a book? What about newspaper columns or blogs?
  • Identify the best database(s) for your research
    • Our databases can be found by going to and clicking on the purple "databases" button
    • Need help choosing one? See Finding Sources to get you started, or ask a librarian using the "Get Library Help" box to the left
  • Search for the information
    • Use the search tips in this guide to make your searching more efficient
  • Evaluate the information
    • Make sure your sources are relevant and appropriate to your topic and your assignment
  • Build a case based on the information
    • Put all of your resources together and use them to support your thesis

Searching in the databases isn't like searching in Google. Rather than whole sentences, you need to refine your topic into a few key terms and short phrases, known as keywords. You may want to start by writing out your topic and underlining the main concepts:

Topic: What should be the role of police in schools?

Next you may want to brainstorm synonyms and related terms in case your first search doesn't produce the correct results:


Police Schools
Related Terms


School resource officer
Law enforcement


Educational institutions

Once you have all of your keywords, you'll need to combine them in the database to perform a search. If your search doesn't work well with one combination, try another!


When you're ready to begin reading your articles, use these questions to help you determine the value of a source:

Does this help me answer my research question?
How does this source address all or part of your research topic?

Do you understand the source?
Does this source use unfamiliar terminology or jargon? Do you need any other background information in order to understand it?

Does this source follow your assignment instructions?
Make sure you know what type of source you are looking at. Newspapers and magazines are not scholarly sources; journal articles and book chapters are.

How are you going to use this source?
Does this source support your thesis, or does it provide counter-evidence that you need to address? Does it provide background information on your topic, or is it important, foundational research that your topic is based on? Will this source lead to additional information?