Subject-specific Research

Before starting your academic research, it is recommended by Cal State L.A. reference librarians that you find the answers to these research preparation steps:

  • Research topic: be specific! Think of a few keywords or main concepts, including their alternatives, to be used in the search.

  • Determine the sources of information: which types of publication--books,  journals articles, newspapers, or video/audio media; and from which sources: government bureaus, private sectors--that would best provide the information that is 'appropriate' for your paper.

  • The target audience: Who will be reading your paper? Is it your professor, or general public?  

The activities in this section are designed to assist, promote, and assess your comprehension about effective procedures in conducting a subject-specific research via online academic databases.

Sequence: Click on each box to explore the activities in the order as shown.

1   2   3   4

 

5

 

6

FINAL CHECKLIST

Starting Online Academic Research

Restricting the Search

Boolean Operators

Search Results

Saving Search Results


To do an online research is to use a computer with an Internet connection to search through available online databases, a collection of information and records, in related fields of study. Usually, every university's library in the U.S. offers an access to a large quantities of online academic databases that would be very helpful for your academic research.

Read this article that outlines some points you need to keep in mind before starting your library academic research, starting with Step 1: Select a Research Topic.

View the following video clip. Pay close attention to all the little details mentioned during the search, including the whole picture of how to do an online academic research.

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Starting Online Research for Academic Papers

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Incorporate the information learned from Step 1 and Step 2 to complete this multiple-choice activity.

  • For anyone who does not know where to start your research, check out these sites provided by Cal State L.A. library: Recommended Sites and Web Search Engines.

  • To screen out 'untrustworthy' sites or determine if the information you see online is reliable, read what Cal State L.A. library suggests in Web site Evaluation.

  • For real beginners to the online world, check out All about the WWW.

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Knowing how to narrow down or 'define' your research topic is very important for a successful academic research. Once you have decided on the topic, identify the main concepts or keywords, then write down several alternative words that you may use to approach the same concepts. The activities below will help you learn how to define your search.

Review the information provided in Step 2: Define the Research Question.

Take a clear look at the Advanced Search Page of ERIC, the online academic database, that will be used in the search shown in the video clip.

  View the following video clip. While viewing, pay close attention to the method and terms used in restricting the search.

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Restricting the Search

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Incorporate the information learned from from Steps 1 - 3 to complete this multiple-choice activity.

  • To learn more about how to narrow down your research topic, read How to limit your search provided by the Library of Congress.

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Boolean Operators are terms that are commonly used in many electronic databases, catalogs, or search engines. Knowing how to effectively use these search terms can help you get more precise search results for your research project.

To learn more about Boolean operators, read the brief descriptions and make notes of what it means by each term. 

  View the following video clip. While viewing, pay attention to the difference between the two Boolean operators mentioned in the clip.

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Boolean Operators

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Incorporate the information learned from Step 1 and Step 2 to complete this multiple-choice activity.

  • To learn more about Boolean operators, read the detailed descriptions of these useful search terms.

  • If interested, check out another useful search operators that are commonly used in electronic databases, Proximity Operators.

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The search results normally provide you with a list of multiple articles related to your input. Knowing how to understand the information displayed on the search results page is very important. The activities below will help you learn what information you should look for on the results page.

Take a look at this sample search results page similar to what you will get from your databases search.

View the following video clip. While viewing, pay attention to these issues:

    1) The terms related to databases search.

    2) Which specific information that you need to look for when reading the search results page.

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Search Results

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Incorporate the information learned from Step 1 and Step 2 to complete this multiple-choice activity. You may also use this full citation page as your reference.

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Now that you have received the search results, how can you save it for future use? Find out from the activities provided below.

Take a close look again at the search results page and find out WHERE you can save your search results.

View the following video clip. Find out whether your guess from Step 1 was right!

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Saving Search Results

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Incorporate the information learned from Step 1 and Step 2 to complete this jumbled sentence activity.


Remember!

If you have any problems in any steps of your research preparation, you are encouraged to get help from either your professor, or reference librarians at your university.

Let's move on to the Final Checklist


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Don't forget! If needed, you may replay the video clip
again and again and again and again...
before checking out the answer clues
!

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This page was last updated on January 30, 2005