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"Mother" LibGuide

A master LibGuide containing links for almost all other libguide content.

Videos & Tutorials on Searching Specific Databases

Videos & Tutorials on Source Types

Many of these videos and tutorials are from Credo InfoLit. You may need to log in with your k number and password to view content.

About Types of Information Sources

It might seem that understanding different types of information sources isn't very important, after all it's the information itself that we are interested in. However, having even a very basic map in your mind of the different types of sources will make the process of searching for information and evaluating information much more effective and efficient. 

This guide begins with a basic overview of information sources, then continues with more specialized guidance on academic sources of information that you as students will want to be familiar with as you progress through your college career.

Word Processing & Other Technology Help

Videos & Tutorials on Evaluating Sources

These videos and tutorials are from Credo InfoLit. You may need to log in with your k number and password to view content.

Videos & Tutorials on Effective Search Techniques

These videos and tutorials are from Credo InfoLit. You may need to log in with your k number and password to view content.

Videos & Tutorials on Academic Articles

These videos and tutorials are from Credo InfoLit. You may need to log in with your k number and password to view content.

Videos & Tutorials on Searching for Information

Many of these videos and tutorials are from Credo InfoLit. You may need to log in with your k number and password to view content.

Videos & Tutorials on Choosing and Refining a Research Topic

These videos and tutorials are from Credo InfoLit. You may need to log in with your k number and password to view content.

Videos & Tutorials on Research Basics

These videos and tutorials are from Credo InfoLit. You may need to log in with your k number and password to view content.

Video: Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Learn about the differences between primary and secondary sources, and how they can be used in your research.

Video by Harness Library of Vermont Tech and the Community College of Vermont.

About Searching

When we think of doing research, searching for information is what we usually think of first. But searching for information on its own isn't research, it is the search for information within the context of the larger process that makes it part of research.

There are a few ways to approach your information search that will help make it more efficient and more interesting to you:

  1. There are many different types of information sources: books, journal articles, magazine articles, news articles, government reports, blogs, videos, and more. The best research makes use of many different types of sources to gain a variety of different perspectives. Also, check your assignment: many instructors have requirements for what types of information sources you may use.
  2. Approach each search or browse for information with a purpose in mind. Are you browsing to get ideas for your focus? Do you want to know who are the expert authors on your topic? Are you looking for statistics? Research reports? The latest news? Use your purpose to guide where and how you search for information. There is lots of guidance below on this page, and on these pages:
    1. Find and borrow books
    2. Find videos
    3. Find articles
    4. Find news articles
    5. Find web resources
  3. Keep in mind the other elements of the research process as you search for information: evaluation and citing are especially important to do alongside your search.

Video: How to find ebooks in the Kirkwood Library Catalog

Video: How to search for journal articles at Kirkwood Library website

Annotated Bibliographies

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations followed by a descriptive summary and evaluation. Sometimes the annotation will reflect the applicability of the source to the needs of the researcher. The purpose of this type of bibliography is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

Gurko, Leo. Ernest Hemingway and the Pursuit of Heroism. New York: Crowell, 1968. This book is part of a series called "Twentieth Century American Writers": a Brief Introduction to the Man and his Work. After fifty pages of straight biography, Gurko discussed Hemingway's writing, novel by novel. There's an index and a short bibliography, but no notes. The biographical part is clear and easy to read, but it sounds too much like a summary.

Example borrowed from the Writing Center at UNC- Chapel Hill.

Recommended Websites for Writing Help

Recommended Books on Research & Writing


Steps to Using Your Research

Writing research papers and creating presentations can be very challenging. Knowing how to take notes and paraphrase ideas can help.

Research Process Overview

Research is a complex process that involves wondering, asking questions, formulating ideas, exploring the ideas of other writers and scholars that have come before you, and incorporating those ideas into your own writing. This process is different each time you do it, but it does usually involve some of the same key activities. We hope this guide can provide some guidance to you in those activities. Click on any tab that matches the help you need, or use the "Search this Guide" box in the upper right corner to jump to the research topic you need help with. Remember that your instructor and your librarians are also great sources of help in your own process of doing research.

How do I choose a topic?

What does it mean when instructors talk about using different types of information sources?

How do I search for information?

How do I find reliable information? 

How can I keep my research organized?

How do I cite sources and avoid plagiarism? 

The Research Assignment - Define the Task

Before selecting a topic or starting your research, make sure you understand your assignment and its requirements. Consider the following:

  • Have you been assigned a topic or can you pick your own?
  • How many pages/words do you need to write? How long is your presentation?
  • Do you need to include specific types of sources? (e.g. scholarly journal, book, etc.)
  • When is the assignment due? How much time do you have to research?
  • Is currency of information important?

When in doubt, consult with your instructor.

Topic Ideas

 Can’t think of a topic to research? 

  • Scan your textbook for broad topic ideas.
  • Look through current magazines and newspapers to see what catches your eye.
  • Browse print and electronic encyclopedias.
  • Look at "hot topic" databases, such as Opposing Viewpoints and CQResearcher, which feature articles on current events and controversial issues.
  • Discuss potential topics with your instructor, a librarian or a classmate.

Identifying Keywords

Before you can begin searching for information in a print or online resource, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. Key terminology can be easily be found by scanning:

If you are still struggling, then try these suggestions:

  • Use a thesaurus (Microsoft Office, print or online) to identify synonyms
  • Find pictures related to your topic, then describe the picture
  • Brainstorm keywords with a librarian, your instructor, or a friend

Purpose of Background Research

Once you have identified some key terminology, the next step is to find background information on your topic. Background research serves many purposes.

  • If you are unfamiliar with the topic, it provides a good overview of the subject matter.
  • It helps you to identify important facts related to your topic -- terminology, dates, events, history, and names or organizations.
  • It can help you to refine your topic.
  • Background research might lead you to bibliographies that you can use to find additional sources of information on your topic.

Is Your Topic Too Broad?

If you are finding too much information, your topic may be too broad. Consider narrowing it by:

  • Time period -- 1960's, bronze age, etc.
  • Geographic location -- Denver, New York, Australia, etc.
  • Population -- age, race, gender, nationality or other group
  • Smaller piece of the topic:

    • Genre -- jazz (music)
    • Event -- Battle of the Bulge (WWII)
    • Aspect -- government regulations (pollution)
    • Discipline or Subject -- music (in early childhood education)


Broad Topic: Global warming

Narrower Topic: How will climate change impact sea levels and the coastal United States?

Is Your Topic Too Narrow?

If you are not finding enough information, your topic may be too narrow. Consider broadening it by:

  • Exploring related issues
  • Comparing or contrasting the topic with another topic
  • Expanding the:
    • time period covered
    • population considered
    • geographic area discussed
  • Choosing an alternative topic that is not so recent -- it may not be covered in books and journal articles yet
  • Choosing an alternative topic that is not so popular -- it may be covered in popular magazines and tabloids only


Narrow Topic: Does cartoon viewing cause violent behaviors in children under the age of five?

Broader Topic:  What are the negative effects of television viewing on children and adolescents?

Steps to Locating Information

Research typically involves using a variety of sources including:

  • encyclopedias and dictionaries,
  • books
  • videos,
  • articles from newspapers, magazines and journals,
  • statistical sources, and
  • websites.

To create the most effective and efficient searches, utilize the search strategies listed under Step 2: Locate Information.


Kirkwood Library Services doesn't have what you're looking for?

No problem.

Step 1: Use these services to find resources elsewhere.




Google Scholar

Step 2: Use interlibrary loan to request the materials you need!

Online Sources for Videos

Videos can be useful resources in your research. Besides giving visual components or explanations to your research topic, they also can give a very different perspective from written sources. 

There are many different online sources for informational videos:

Free images, photos, and videos for presentations

As a student, you need to be aware that copyright laws still apply to you, especially when using images in presentations or other projects you create for a course assignment. The following are great sources for images licensed for copying and reusing.


Off-Campus Access

Off-campus access to the article databases requires your k number and Eaglenet password.

Choosing a Database

Article databases provide you with 24-7 access to magazine, journal and newspaper articles via the Internet. To help you identify the most appropriate database for your topic/subject:

  • consult the database descriptions on the Library's Database by Subject page
  • check to see if there is a LibGuide that covers your subject area or topic.
  • Still not sure?  Try doing an "all database" advanced search in EBSCO.

If you come across an article or book you need for your research, and the Library does not provide full-text access to it in print or electronic format, request it through our Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service. ILL requests can take anywhere from a day to over a week to receive. This is a free service for Kirkwood students and employees.

Please note: Database access may require entering your k number and password.


Are you finding too much information?  Not finding enough? Use alternative, narrower, or broader keywords to vary your results.

I'm stuck!

Sometimes it's hard to know where to start your research.  Here are some tips to get you started.

Tip 1: "Where does this kind of information come from?"

Before starting your research, it's good to ask yourself "Who would I expect to know this information? Who do I expect to be an authority on this subject?"  Even if you don't know much about your topic yet, you probably DO know who you would trust for reliable information.  Those trustworthy sources will be gathered in logical places-- for example, the latest mental health research might be found in the  PsycARTICLES® database.  You also probably know who ISN'T a trustworthy source.  You wouldn't look on for expert mental health research, would you?

Tip 2: Ask someone.

Talk to your classmates, your instructor, your friends, heck, even those nerdy librarians (that's what we're here for!)  Even if the person can't give you the answers you need, sometimes just the act of verbalizing your ideas will inspire you.

Tip 3: Let the computer do your work.

Try this: start typing your keyword into EBSCO or Google.  See the suggestions that pop up as you type?  Use those to explore your topic.

Tip 4: Don't be afraid to rethink your topic.

If, despite your best efforts, you aren't able to find the kind of information you want, try going back to your concept diagram and choosing a diiferent a slightly different path. Or, explore your "keywords" a little more- maybe something with spark!

Boolean Operators

Boolean searching is the traditional way to search for information in most online databases and on the Internet. You've probably used it already without even realizing it--connector words, such as AND, OR, and NOT,  are used to create search phrases. 

Operator Examples Results

business AND ethics
cooking AND Spain

Retrieves records that contain ALL of the search terms.

hotels OR motels
www OR world wide web
theater OR theatre

Retrieves records that contain ANY of the search terms, but does not necessarily include all of them.

java NOT coffee
Clinton NOT (William OR Bill)    

Excludes records containing the second search term.

Why Evaluate?

The world of information is changing and expanding every moment. Some changes, like having more and more books and academic research available for searching online, are very helpful to student researchers. Other changes, like having more and more false or misleading information pouring into popular media channels, can make your work more difficult and time-consuming. Because of this over-abundance of poor or false information, we need to equip ourselves with some basic, solid tools for evaluating information, that we can apply in any situation. Because  evaluating information sources isn't a single step of the research process, it's actually something you do all the time, from the moment you begin your project until you do your final check. The resources on this guide will provide you with some tools to more effectively evaluate different types of information you may encounter. 

Related Guides & Tools

Does something you read seem a liitle "off"?  Try these websites to check the information:

Criteria for Evaluating & Analyzing Sources

When doing research, you should use a variety of sources such as books, articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals, and websites. To ensure you are including only valid information in your research, evaluate your sources using the C.R.A.A.P. test.

CRAAP Test Definitions

Currency: The timeliness of the information.
  • When was the information published or posted?  
  • Has the information been revised or updated?  
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?  
  • „Are the links functional?
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.  
  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?  
  • Who is the intended audience?  
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)? 
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?  
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?  
Authority: The source of the information.
  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?  
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?  
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?  
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?  
  • „Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?   examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net  
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content. 
  • Where does the information come from?  
  • Is the information supported by evidence?  
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed? 
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?  
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion? 
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?  
Purpose: The reason the information exists.
  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?  
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?  
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?  
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?  
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

Courtesy of the Meriam Library, California State University, Chico

EBSCOhost eBooks Basics

Searching for eBooks at the Library

Kirkwood students, faculty, and staff have access to over 150,000 eBook titles through EBSCOhost's eBooks and Project MUSE.

You can:

  • Access these in-depth and high quality resources from a computer or mobile device
  • Load them onto eReaders
  • Print sections.
  • Copy and paste a citation in MLA or APA style
  • Search the Library's eBook collection through the main Library search (WorldCat).

Library Search (WorldCat) directions:


  1. Go to the WorldCat search or the Library homepage. You may search by keyword, subject, author, or title. After entering your search, hit enter, then select the "eBook" format limit (along the left side of the screen) to view only eBook results.
  2. Click the "View Online" button just below the book title to view a description of the book.
  3. Continue with step 3 of the EBSCOhost eBooks directions below.

EBSCOhost eBooks directions:

  1. Go to the EBSCOhost eBooks search. You may search for eBooks by keyword, author or title.
  2. Click on the title you want to view to get to the detailed record view.
  3. Click on the "eBook Full Text" link on the left side of the screen [see screenshot below] to view the complete book.
  4. From this screen you have many options. You can [A] browse the Table of Contents; [B] scroll through the book page by page or skip to a specific page number; [C] search the full text of the book for a specific word;  [D] save or print a section of the book by selecting "Save Pages"; or [E] view an APA or MLA style citation for the book. See the next section of this guide for more details on printing or downloading eBooks.

Searching EBSCO eBooks Tutorial


Downloading EBSCOhost eBooks

Downloading Options

EBSCOhost eBooks gives you several different options for viewing an eBook. Select the method below that works the best for your needs.

Reading on-screen

  • Use the "eBook Full Text" button for online viewing.
  • EBSCOhost eBooks may be read online at any time. This will work on almost any computer with internet access, and will also work on most tablets or smartphones that have a browser application. Although most titles on EBSCOhost eBooks allow an unlimited number of users at once, you may occasionally get a message that you need to wait for another user to close the title before you can access it.

Printing or Saving a chapter or section

  • EBSCOhost eBooks may be saved or printed, but only a section at a time. Each book is limited by the publisher to an upper limit of 30 or 60 pages that may be printed.
  • Click the "PDF Full Text" button (see image below) to view the book and decide which portion you want to save. For both printing and saving, click the "Save Pages" link along the top of the page. You will then enter the span of pages you want to save. Those selected pages will then be downloaded as a PDF file to your computer.
  • To print, open that downloaded PDF file and print from there.
  • You may also use this method to download a portion of the book as a PDF file, then load that PDF file onto your ebook reader or tablet for offline reading.







  • Using the "Download This eBook" button (see image above) ebooks may be downloaded for offline reading on a laptop, desktop, ebook reader or other mobile device. See links below for detailed instructions as they differ depending on the type of device you use.
  • EBSCO will ask you to log in to your My EBSCOhost account - this is an account you create yourself, using your own email. It will also require downloading and using the Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) program, and logging into that with your own account using your own email. Click here for complete directions for downloading entire books using ADE.
  • Detailed directions for downloading to different types of mobile devices and operating systems:


Downloading EBSCO eBooks Tutorial

Sources for eBooks

Topic Intro

The best research is driven by curiosity, because curiosity makes you ask questions. So a good approach to finding a research topic is to locate your own curiosity among the possible topic ideas, whether assigned by your instructor, or imagined by you.

No ideas?

What if I can't think of any good research ideas?

If you are stumped and can think of nothing to research, try one of these strategies:

  • Get a clean sheet of paper and draw 3 columns. (Or download a formatted Word file here.) Choose 3 of these categories and write one at the top of each column: places, people, things, technologies, controversies, history, jobs, habits, hobbies. Once you have the categories chosen, start listing whatever comes to mind about things you either know about or want to know more about. Focus on one category until you get stuck. Then go to another one. Keep going for at least 10-15 minutes. This is brainstorming, so write anything at all!
  • Some other ways to get topic ideas: as you browse websites think about what draws your attention; browse Wikipedia or a news or magazine website; think about articles or books you've read recently; a topic you've read or heard about in another class; chat with a friend or classmate to generate ideas; browse a Library database such as Opposing Viewpoints or browse through today's New York Times.


Downloadable worksheet

Generating and refining questions

Is it a good research question?

How can you know if a question you come up with is a good research question? Here are some questions to ask yourself about your question! :)

  • Can the question potentially be answered through research?
  • Is the question INTERESTING to you? Are you fascinated by it?
  • Is the question something you've wondered about before?
  • Is the questions RELEVANT to your life?
  • Is the question too big or too small? It's too big if you find a number of books have already been written trying to answer your question. It's too small if you find only small bits of information that address your question. If it's too small or too big, don't ditch it, just adjust it!
  • Does your question raise more questions? For example, the question "When was the Spanish Civil War?" is not a good research question because it has a single specific answer that doesn't have an obvious follow-up. The question "Why does Afghaistan seem to have many female social activists?" does not have a single discrete answer, and you can already imagine follow-ups such as "Have there always been lots of social activists in Afghanistan? Are there also many male social activists? Is there something going on culturally or politically that is making these women come forward, especially when it puts their lives in danger to do so?"

How can I narrow down a question that's too big?

What if you have a good question but it's too big for the size of your research paper assignment? These are some quick ways you can narrow down your question to something more appropriate:

  • People: is there a certain group of people you could focus your question on? For example: women, children, boys, teenagers...
  • Trends or Controversies: what new developments have there been recently that your question could focus in on? Opposing Viewpoints or a Newsstand search could help you with this.
  • Places: how would your question be different if you focused on a specific place, such as a country, a city (perhaps a local issue) or a building or business.
  • Relationship: What if you included a second subject in your question. Instead of "what are recent developments in school reform?" you could ask "what are recent developments in school reform that address the failings of No Child Left Behind?"

How can I make a topic idea into a research question?

Sometimes it's difficult getting to a question when all you have is a topic idea. Here are some great tips on question-making:

  • Ask why: Why might [BLANK] be true or not be true?
  • Test a hypothesis: Is [BLANK] evidence enough to prove my hypothesis? Is the assumption I'm making/others are making about [BLANK] true? Is it true that [BLANK]?
  • Relationship: What is the relationship between [BLANK] and [BLANK]? Does [BLANK] cause [BLANK]? Is [BLANK] similar to [BLANK]?


Most content was adapted from or inspired by Bruce Ballenger's "The Curious Researcher"

Research Help from Librarians

Librarians are available for research help, in person or through the Ask a Librarian chat during the library's open hours. We help students and faculty:

  • Search and locate information sources

  • Define your research topic

  • Create citations

  • Evaluate sources

  • Any other part of your research process


Instant messaging (chat):

Wherever you see "Ask a Librarian" on the library website, you can chat with a Kirkwood librarian. Just click on "Ask a Librarian" and a window will open where you can type in your question and get help in real time.


You can also chat with a librarian by sending a text message to: 319-774-6491


You can email questions to: library @ 


In Cedar Rapids (or any location): 319-398-5697

In Iowa City: 319-887-3613

Online research help (Zoom):

The library can share screens or video chat using Zoom software. It's a great way to get research help! Use the "Ask a Librarian" chat function to get started.

Scheduled research consultation:
  • For students who prefer to plan their research help ahead of time, OR
  • For students who know they have a big research assignment they need to work on, and know they want to make a good start by getting expert librarian help, OR
  • For faculty or staff who could use some research assistance on a project, OR
  • For any reason at all!

Just follow the link below, select a day and time, and fill out the form. There's also a spot to enter your phone number so you can get a reminder text before your appointment.

If the time you want isn't available, but it's during our regular hours of operation, know that you can always come to the reference desk in person or through the Ask a Librarian chat.
What if we're closed?
We have many online guides where you might find answers to your questions:



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