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Library D.I.Y.

A How-To Guide with advice, videos, tutorials, and quizzes

Introduction - types of sources

  • Dictionaries help you communicate correctly and clearly by providing:

    • Definitions, and information about pronunciation, usage, abbreviations, and etymology (history of a word).

    • Parts of speech.

    • Details about how people use words or terms in specific fields, in specialized dictionaries.

  • For alternative ways to say something, look for synonyms (words with similar meanings) in a thesaurus.

  • Encyclopedias provide you with:

    • Articles about a word, person, place, event, or concept.

    • Objective (fact-based) articles written by experts in their field of study.

    • General or subject-specific information.

  • Access statistical data on sports, astronomical bodies, geography, and more using an almanac.

  • Information about places—such as roads, climate, and topography—is found in an atlas. Other topics include demographic, political, and historical background, as well as health care, religion, the environment, agriculture, and language.

  • Consult nonfiction books. (Remember, objective means based on fact, not opinion. Not all of these nonfiction books are objective.)

    • Research people using biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs.

    • Learn a new skill with tips from guides and handbooks.

    • Get exposed to different perspectives on a topic through a collection of essays.

    • Learn about a specific subject by consulting a monograph.

  • Magazines are sources for current events, pop culture, business trends, and entertainment.

    • Up-to-date information, though it may not be the most authoritative.

    • Articles typically are brief, with little historical context.

    • Consider the author’s tone as well as the article’s sources.

Choosing the right database 


Use your library to access databases for more scholarly results and better searches than those available on the open web. When using the Library's databases, it is important to select the correct ones for your research needs.  

Here are some tips to help you find the right database from the library website:

  • On the Databases A-Z page, you can view a list of the databases in a given subject by using the drop down menu at the top. Check out the Popular Databases on the right. Most of those are general interest databases that cover all subjects and topics. 

  • Use general reference databases such as Credo Reference for background information on your topic.

  • Check out the library’s research guides for resources relevant to your subject, class, or research topic. 

  • Ask a librarian for help choosing an appropriate database for your area of study.


Learning Modules

Developing keywords / search terms


Once you have your thesis, but before you can start researching, you need to think about the keywords and concepts of your thesis question.

  • What are the 2 or 3 main concepts of your research question?

  • Once you have your concepts, try to think of other terms that are similar to your concepts.

    • Sometimes these words will have similar meanings or they will be more broad or narrow ways to think of the subject.

Refining search results - make the library databases work for you


Built-in database tools will help you manage your search results. In most library databases, you can:

  • Use filters to narrow your results by date, subject, availability, and so on.
  • Use filters to find peer-reviewed sources for assignments.
  • Save relevant sources.
  • Export citations for your bibliography.
  • Email articles, abstracts, and documents to your personal email.


Learning Modules

  • Video: Making the Library Databases Work for You
  • Video: How to Use Primo OneSearch

Help searching the "open web"


Most people use Google for their open or free web searches.  There is a lot of information out there but remember to put all your resources through the CRAAP Test to see if they are usable.

Here are some hints to help you with searching the open web:

  • You may need to use different combinations of keywords to get the best results.
  • Don't be afraid to look at the search results on page 2 or even page 3. 
  • Use Google search operators or Google advanced search for the best search results. 
  • You should never have to pay for an article from Google.  Please contact a librarian if you are being charged for something.  We can usually get it to you for free!
  • Use Google Scholar if you want to try another method to finding scholarly/academic literature. Consult the Google Scholar research guide for help linking Google Scholar to the UHMC library collection.