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Writing Resources  

Research tips and tools for academic writing projects.
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Where do I start?

Reference: Encyclopedias

Reference is a good place to begin looking for information.  Almost every subject area has a set of encyclopedias that will give you background information on your topic (such as history or statistics), as well as a bibliography.  Use the bibliography as a "further reading" list!


What next?

Online Catalog 

The next stop may be our online catalog (books & media only!).  Browse until you feel comfortable with the scope of your topic, then as you develop a thesis, become familiar with the words that are used to describe your thesis.  Here are a few hints about using the online catalog:

  • Keyword: most flexible, most results
  • Subject: more restrictive, categories, works like an index, idea farm.
  • Title: more restrictive, have precise titles, works like an index.
  • Modify/Limit: limit by language or location. Ex.: media center


How do I find articles to support my argument?

You will be using the Internet to access these databases – this is different than using a search engine on the Web! The library pays for accessing these databaes because they provide better searching and sometimes provide the article itself. Only use information you have accessed through our web page. The challenge is to choose the right database – some recommendations:


All-Purpose Databases

Academic Search Complete (1887-present) 
Some citations and a lot of full text to both popular and scholarly articles.  Good for contemporary issues.

  • Use AND to separate your concepts.
  • Use "*" to pick up word variations:  postmodern*
  • Limit by date and/or full text (if you’re in a hurry!).
  • Focus by using subject headings - look to the left on your results page.


LexisNexis Academic (1970s-present)  
Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe is a full text information service, and is the best place to look for articles from major newspapers such as the New York Times,  Washington Post, and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  Hints:

  • To search newspapers, select the News tab.
  • Select the “Terms and Connectors” radio button.
  • Build a search containing search terms, document sections, and connectors using the simple fields provided.
  • Limit by date and/or publication title.


Project Muse (1990s-present) 
Muse is a full text interdisciplinary scholarly database – no hunting for articles necessary!

  • Limit to books or journals on the initial search, if desired.
  • Limit to research area, author, or language after you've performed a search. 
  • Use truncation (*) on the end of a term to search for plurals or parts of words.
  • Deselect the "Only content I have full access to" for more citations.


Literature Databases

Literature Resource Center (current)
A reference database of biographies, bibliographies, and critical analyses on authors from every age and literary discipline. 

  • Type titles or authors into the basic search, or use the Advanced Search for more options.
  • Make use of the "tabs," which offer criticism, biographies, overviews, reviews, and primary sources.


Humanities Full Text (1983-present)
Interdisciplinary, some full text, easy to use.

  • Check the Humanities Full Text box.
  • If Smart Search doesn’t pull up relevant results, try Keyword instead.
  • Use the Browse button to find how the database uses your term (esp. authors’ names).
  • Limit your search by article type and/or date.
  • Use * on the end of your term for variant endings, and quotes to search a phrase.

MLA (1963-present)
MLA is the “Mama” of literature databases...lots of citations, not so much full text.

  • Use connectors:  and, or, not
  • Use truncation:  * on the end of your term retrieves variant endings.
  • Use the indexes to find the names of authors and journals.
  • Use subject headings to focus search.


Is citing an article I got online different from citing a print article?

Yes!  Consult our citation guide pages (MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian) which will help you form your citation as you create your bibliography.

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Britt Murphy

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