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PR 501: More Research!

Search tips

* Wildcard. Great for searching multiple words at once

" " Quotation marks mean that you will only get results where this exact phrase appears

Subject headings can be your friend, especially MLA's authors-as-subjects

Find something good? Track citations to really see the 'scholarly conversation'

Use AND. Databases love AND

Put OR between two words if either will do.

Want to eliminate confusing and unessecary results- use NOT and then a word that you do NOT want to appear in your search.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

Interlibrary Loan (or ILL) is a free service available to students.  It allows you to borrow materials that Westminster College does not own, including articles, books, DVDs, and more.   

Reflect: Your evolving topic

Half of research is the research- the other half is keeping track of your process and what you think.

Keep asking yourself:

  • How is my topic changing?
  • Which search terms am I having the most success with? 
  • Which research questions *seem* to be the most 'answerable'?
  • How am I going to add to this knowledge?

Suggested Databases

The following list of online indexes and databases are a great place to start your research.  But, since you may have need of other resources outside of the ones listed here, you can also Click Here to see the full listing of all indexes and databases available through McGill Library.

Finding Nothing? Finding EVERYTHING? How to adjust.

By Alison Broosh, Hyperbole and a Half.

Oh no! This is sad.

Good thing is, you won't have to start over completely, but you might need to adjust!


If you're finding a lot. Like, really, a lot: You may need to reconsider or refocus your topic. Some topics are "overdone" and it's hard to say anything original about them. A broad topic will make it harder to cover the material in your paper and have the time to make specific connections. If your searches are returning 100s or 1000s of results in MLA, it may be time to focus in.

If you're not finding anything: A topic that's too narrow can be just as frustrating if not more so. Try searching synonyms or being a little bit less specific in your search. You might find similar works, or authors that have dealt with the same theme in a different way. You can use these sources and build connections upon them.

In either case, talk to your professor or a librarian!

You might also want to visit the guidelines for a good topic or research question and search around for good examples.