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Library Research Guides

HUM& 116 Research Guide - Professor Martin

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This guide will help you find high-quality information for assignments in Humanities 116.

Video: Library Tour

This short video takes you on a quick tour of the library at SPSCC. 

Search Tips & The Research Process

When we are starting an assignment that requires research, here are the common steps we will take.

1. We will read the assignment carefully and make note of the requirements, the big ideas, and the timeline.

2. We will brainstorm some topic ideas and do some early searches and reading to get background information and make sure that the topic idea will meet the assignment requirement.

3. We will decide on a narrowly focused topic and we'll search for more focused information that addresses our topic, in whole or in part. As we collect sources, we will save citations, documents, and links. 

Once we have a decent collection of focused sources, typically about 5 to 10 sources, we'll start reading closer and deciding which sources to continue working with and using in our assignment.

We will likely need to do additional searches to find more sources that are related to the few that we select. We may use citations from our readings to see more foundational work. We may also try to find more recent research that cites our selected sources.

Search Terms

Choosing the best search terms to find relevant information takes practice. It is totally normal to make multiple attempts and revisions before finding useful search terms for your topic. 

Where to Search

Choosing the best place to search is critical. Not all search tools contain the same information. 

Common Starting Places

There are many options when we are starting our research. We will consider what we already know about a topic and what will help us learn more and take the next step. 

When a topic is completely new to us, we should find some short overview introductions to the topic. Encyclopedias, including Wikipedia, can be very helpful for this.

SPSCC Library has several print encyclopedias and subscribes to even more online encyclopedias and reference sources to get some basic introductory information. Look for narrow aspects of the topic and specialized terminology that is used. You can use those words in future searches to get more specific information. These types of sources will help you get started, but likely will not be formally used in your final product as a cited source.

Commercial Search Engines 

Examples: Bing, Google, DuckDuckGo

Good For: Finding websites, news, weather, fact-checking

Specialized Websites

Examples: Wikipedia, Internet Movie Database, Discogs, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Good For: Finding specialized information related to the focus of the website

Library Reference Sources

Examples: CREDO Reference, Gale Virtual Reference Library, The Oxford Encyclopedia of The Civil War

Good For: Finding topical overviews and suggested sources for further reading.

Quick Tip: Match your class or topic to our database subject list. For example, in history classes, you will likely use the databases, including reference tools, listed under the subject of history.

Library Reference Databases