Skip to Main Content

ENG 101 - English Composition 1

Library Sources

There are also series of books that focus on social, political, and economic issues:

  • Opposing Viewpoints series - The Opposing Viewpoints series examines both sides of a wide array of topics, such as the environment, censorship and obesity, among many more.
  • Taking Sides series -  In this series, reputable writers look at both sides of a wide-ranging variety of issues. For example, Taking Sides, Clashing Views on Controversial Moral Issues, addresses both sides of issues such as: whether drugs should be legalized; whether physician-assisted suicide be legalized by the states; and whether affirmative action is fair.

If you would like to find a book that goes into depth into a topic, try searching the library catalog (under the "Library Catalog" tab above).

The following current events databases can be searched for articles on your topic:

The following newspaper and magazine databases can be searched for articles on your topic.

Before using a search engine, you may want to see if you can find anything on your topic in an Internet directory:

The following are websites covering issues in the news, and can be searched for your topic:

For more trustworthy topical Web sites picked by STCC Librarians, please visit The Research Process research guide.

If you are still looking for other resources (books, eBooks, DVD, etc.) you can try doing a keyword search in the catalog (below). The library catalog will give you the location & availability information of all items owned by the library.

Search the new HELM Catalog to find books and other materials available from the STCC Library and other community college libraries.

*For more information on searching the catalog click here.

Search Strategy

1. What are the main concepts of your topic and what keywords might you use when searching?

Example topic: Does playing violent video games lead to violent behavior in adolescents? Key concepts are in bold.

Other possible keywords: Media violence, aggression, popular culture, teenagers or youth, psychological aspects, social aspects.

Modify your search strategy after you begin searching. Use the power of the databases (limiters, suggested subjects, and more) to further develop your search. Use broader concepts when searching the online catalog for books.

2. Determine what information you need. Follow your instructor's syllabus carefully. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many sources do I need? (Did your instructor give you a number?)
  • What types of sources do I need? (Books? Articles? Websites?)

3. Get background information on your topic. Use our online reference databases, listed on the left, to gather information on the broader context of your topic. This preliminary research will also help identify more keywords for searching.

TIP: Start early! You can try using the Search Planning Worksheet below from Middlesex Community College, and this Assignment Calendar from the University of Minnesota.

Keyword Searching

Keyword Search

When searching in databases, you generally cannot search effectively by typing in a question or sentence, but rather it is most effective to search using essential concepts, or "keywords".

Keywords are the words that describe your topic of research. These can be individual words or a phrase. These keywords can be chosen from the sentence you create to define your research topic. Once you choose the significant words, you can then come up with synonyms, or words with similar meanings. All of these can be keywords to use in forming your search.

Keyword searching is available in almost all databases. Many databases require you to explicitly describe the relationship between keywords using special connectors ( words like "and" "or" and "not") to associate your keywords in various relationships.


You've chosen the topic "alternative fuels" for a research paper. To help you focus this rather broad topic, you put it into the form of a question or sentence:

What are the types of alternative fuels being used or developed for automobiles?

Usually, the nouns and adjectives in your sentence or question will give you a good idea of what your keywords will be. In this case, the phrase "alternative fuels" and "automobiles" are the significant keywords.

From these keywords make a list of synonyms to use as alternatives. Since different writers will describe the same thing using different words, it's good to arm yourself with a variety of keywords so you don't miss important information.

alternative fuels automobiles
natural gas
hydrogen fuel cells
motor vehicle


You may need to do some background reading in reference sources before coming up with some of the terms you see above.

Here is a link to a video from Kent State University Library about searching databases using keywords.

The following Web sites can help you identify keywords for your research topic:

Reference Starting Points

Try one or more of these reference tools for: 

  • Expert-written articles
  • Topic organization
  • Bibliographies

Some reference databases you might use include: 

Citing Your Sources