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English Subject Guide: English 12: The Southwest



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What are databases?

Library Info

Fall 2023

LIBRARY HOURS: Mon., Tues. & Thurs:  7:30am-4:30pm;
Wed: 7:30am-3:20pm (afternoon faculty meeting);

Fri: 7:30am-4pm.
CLOSED on non-class days.


Getting Started



Brett has designed a flexible, interdisciplinary project that is a bit different in the research demands it makes on you.  For that reason, we'll focus on transferrable skills that can be used with different databases and search engines when searching online for information.

At the end of this session, you should be able to:

  • find and use your LibGuide course page, database and other useful links
  • use your new list of keywords and phrases as ingredients in your search
  • identify which databases/search engines are a good fit for your research topic
  • broaden or narrow a search
  • find and read an abstract (if there is one)
  • print or email relevant academic articles 

Search Skills Refresher             

Brainstorm a list of keywords and phrases relevant to your topic, and include synonyms.  Don't skip this step!  Think about synonyms for your keywords and phrases.

Use quotation marks for exact phrases:

  • ex:  "native american"
  • ex:  "argentinian refugees"
  • ex:  "boarding schools"
  • ex:   "visual arts"

Wild cards find all versions of a word when added after the word's root:

  • ex:  border* finds border, borders, borderlands, bordering, etc.
  • ex:  populat* finds populate, populates, populated, population, etc.
  • ex:  cultur* finds culture, cultures, cultural, etc.

Start with a general search, and narrow it down as you look through your results.

Read abstracts when they are available.  They're brief summaries of the contents of a long, complex article.  Abstracts are hugely helpful. Here's an example of an abstract from an article in the Academic Search Premier database.

Anatomy of an EbscoHost Search

Many of you will be using EbscoHost databases, which function a little bit differently than JSTOR.  Here's a look at the search screen:

Books on Reserve 

We have a large number of books on reserve for your class on a rolling shelf in the US Library.  
Please follow the rules so everyone has access.

• Check out books using the reserve slip
• Leave reserve slips on top of the rolling bookshelf

• You may check out books for several weeks at a time

• Please return books promptly if we request them for other students' use


Databases for Interdisciplinary Research

Two important steps: 

‚Äč1). Figure out what kind of research question you are posing.

2). Choose the right databases for the job! (ask Sue, Derek or Brett if you need advice)

Databases for Historical & Legal Research

Databases for News & Current Events

Databases for Research on Film & Literature

Databases for Pop Culture / Cultural Studies Research

Streaming Films

Evaluating Sources:  How Can You Tell Whether Your Source is Credible?


  • What are the author's credentials--institutional affiliation (where he or she works), educational background, past writings, or experience? Is the book or article written on a topic in the author's area of expertise? You can use the various Who's Who publications for the U.S. and other countries and for specific subjects and the biographical information located in the publication itself to help determine the author's affiliation and credentials.
  • Has your instructor mentioned this author? Have you seen the author's name cited in other sources or bibliographies? Respected authors are cited frequently by other scholars. For this reason, always note those names that appear in many different sources.
  • Is the author associated with a reputable institution or organization?  What are the basic values or goals of these organizations or institutions?

Publication Date

  • When was the source published? This date is often located on the face of the title page below the name of the publisher. If it is not there, look for the copyright date on the reverse of the title page. On Web pages, the date of the last revision is usually at the bottom of the home page, sometimes every page.
  • Is the source current or out-of-date for your topic? Topic areas of continuing and rapid development, such as the sciences, demand more current information. On the other hand, topics in the humanities often require material that was written many years ago. At the other extreme, some news sources on the Web now note the hour and minute that articles are posted on their site.

Edition or Revision

  • Is this a first edition of this publication or not? Further editions indicate a source has been revised and updated to reflect changes in knowledge, include omissions, and harmonize with its intended reader's needs. Also, many printings or editions may indicate that the work has become a standard source in the area and is reliable. If you are using a Web source, do the pages indicate revision dates?


  • Note the publisher's name. If the source is published by a university press, it is likely to be scholarly. Although the fact that the publisher is reputable does not necessarily guarantee quality, it does show that the publisher may have high regard for the author and the material.

Journal Title

  • Is this a scholarly or a popular journal? This distinction is important because it indicates different levels of complexity in conveying ideas. Ex:  Time magazine is a popular magazine of current events, and Foreign Affairs is a scholarly journal of current events and politics.  They look very different in terms of advertising, density of the text, vocabulary, and authorship.

Intended Audience

  • What type of audience is the author addressing? Is the publication aimed at a specialized academic audience, or a group of general readers without much background or expertise in a subject? Is this source too elementary, too technical, too advanced, or just right for your needs?

Adapted and used with the permission of: Research & Learning Services, Olin Library, Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY, USA

Your US Librarian

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Sue Phillips
Upper School Library
503.297.1894 x4550 (circulation desk); (503)297-1894 x4100 (voicemail)