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At this point, take out your assignment and review the requirements and the rubric again.   Some teachers are very specific about how many sources and from which location they should be found.   There are THREE LOCATIONS from which you can find information for high school research projects:
Books, Databases, and Websites.  Each one requires a different approach and set of skills to execute a proper search.  However, there ARE some similarities:  

Each location requires the Internet to search.   

Each requires you to type in KEYWORDS.  Think of it this way, the more keywords you search, the more narrow your results become.  If you find that you're not getting quality results, it may be that you need to use less keywords (broaden) or more keywords (narrow).  Think of it like this Venn Diagram:

Types and Examples of Various Sources

A rough guide for determining how many sources you will need for a particular research paper:

Both charts from the Golden Gate University Business Library:


Searching in research databases is not like searching in Google and the results are not equal.  Databases are available through subscription only and provide access to articles from books, magazines, journals, and newspapers that have been written or edited by experts in their field.   Because of this, information found in databases is usually more reliable and scholarly than most of what is found on the “free web.”  Most databases are specific to a certain subject.  You will find these designations on the library database page:   They also provide advanced searching capabilities and have other features that Google doesn’t provide.  If you are at home, you may need a password for access. Logins and Passwords for ALL databases and newspapers.  Sign into your account first.

If you have any inclination to pursue higher education, you must become familiar with searching research databases.   Using scholarly information properly is the cornerstone of any research project.  

  • When using databases, search keywords about your subject that you learn during the beginning cycle.  The more specific and the less keywords you search the betterThe more words you enter, the less or more bizarre results you will receive.  Avoid punctuation.  Use quotation marks around phrases to search as a word.  Use the keyword shortcut: control-f (or command-f in a Mac) to quickly find text within a page.
  • Database search engines index thousands of articles, but the basic search will only search through titles, authors, subjects, and summaries. As a contrast, Google searches through the entire text of millions of pages.  If one keyword doesn’t work, use another word that is similar to it.  Keep trying.  If you find the perfect article, it’s well worth the extra effort.
  • In addition to a basic keyword search, most databases have advanced searching options.  These include searching within results, searching specific authors, or within specific publications.  You can limit by date, document type, and browse articles with subjects related to your results. 
  • The features of a database can be extensive.  Print-friendly, email, download, citation tools, bookmarking, document translation, and read aloud options are available with many databases.  Some have a built-in dictionary.  Every database is a little different.  You should spend at least couple minutes exploring a database before you conduct a formal search. 

Website Evaluation

The Internet is a vast marketplace of ideas and used heavily by students from every level.  However, many students lack the ability to build a quality search. The skill here is searching carefully and choosing your websites wisely.   

How do you evaluate information found online? Use the C.R.A.P. Method:


  • How recent is the information?
  • How recently has the website been updated?
  • Is it current enough for your topic?


  • What kind of information is included in the resource?
  • Does the creator provide references or sources for data or quotations?
  • Are the references to credible sources?  Or made up or unreliable sources?


  • Who is the creator or author?
  • What are the credentials? Can you find any information about the author's background?
  • Who is the published or sponsor?
  • Are they reputable?
  • What is the publisher's interest (if any) in this information?
  • Are there advertisements on the website? If so, are they cleared marked?

Purpose/Point of View

  • Is this fact or opinion? Does the author list sources or cite references?
  • Is it biased? Does the author seem to be trying to push an agenda or particular side?
  • Is the creator/author trying to sell you something? If so, is it clearly stated?


Keyword searching in Google is more relaxed than searching in databases or in library catalogs, which is much of its appeal.  Because Google produces so many hits, it seems to the casual observer that there is a lot of information available.  After some careful analysis of these results however, the user finds that most of the pages found are not authoritative, incomplete, out-of-date, and possibly misleading.

Unlike databases or library catalogs, adding more keywords may provide better results.  Experiment with adding words slowly.  If your results are too vague, add a word.  If your results are irrelevant, take out a word.  Try different combinations.   Avoid any punctuation.  Use quotation marks around phrases.  Use the keyword shortcut: control-f (or command-f) to quickly find text on the page.  Remember, Google has millions of websites that it combs through.  If one keyword doesn’t work, use another word that is similar to it.  Keep trying.  If you find the perfect website, it’s well worth the extra effort. 

Google’s Advanced Searching Features

 In order to get to Advanced Search, you need to conduct a basic search, then look to the right at Settings..  You will see the words Advanced Search listed there.  The two most basic methods of using this type of search are to limit by “last update” and by “site or domain.” 

Last Update:  If you are concerned about the currency of your results, use this method.  You can choose results with a last update from the past 24 hours to the past year.

Site or domain: This is where you can limit your search to government (.gov) education (.edu) or organizational (.org) sites only.  Generally speaking, this will narrow your results to more authoritative and more scholarly websites.  Remember than anyone can be a .org, however, so check to make sure the sites you review are reputable.

You can also limit your search to a specific website or websites.  In this way, you can create your own mini-search engine.   If you find that a site is awkward to search or navigate, this could make it easier for you to find information on that site.

Other settings include clicking on News for current events, and Tools to get the last updated setting.

Google Scholar:

Google has agreements with many publishing companies to index articles from journals not otherwise accessible via the free web.   Google Scholar is fast and easy to use, however, it is limited.  For medical research, you are better off using one of the library’s databases such as MEDLINE or CINAHL.  Most of the results you find in Google Scholar provide you with only an abstract (summary) and not the full article. If you can’t find it in one of our databases, please see your librarian.  Librarians have arrangements with library systems that have college library members.  It is possible that our library could get you the article through interlibrary loan.

Wikipedia,, SlideShare, and So On:

Note that most teachers do not consider general encyclopedias and Wikipedia-type sites “scholarly.” Citing them implies that more research should be have been done.  This page from Wikipedia explains their thoughts on using their site for academic research: Citing_WikipediaA well-written Wikipedia entry, however, can provide you with background information and links to other, better sites at the bottom.

"For many purposes, but particularly in academia, Wikipedia may not be an acceptable source; indeed, some professors and teachers may reject Wikipedia-sourced material completely. This is especially true when it is used without corroboration. However, much of the content on Wikipedia is itself referenced, so an alternative is to cite the reliable source rather than the article itself.  We advise special caution when using Wikipedia as a source for research projects. Normal academic usage of Wikipedia and other encyclopedias is for getting the general facts of a problem and to gather keywords, references and bibliographical pointers, but not as a source in itself. Remember that Wikipedia is a wiki, which means that anyone in the world can edit an article, deleting accurate information or adding false information, which the reader may not recognize."

Never use blogs, social media, or sites like as sources in your Works Cited.  These sites are mostly anonymous forums and the information varies widely in accuracy.  Use the information as a lead to better sources.

Never use sites such as  These are presentations that mostly anonymous people have posted on the Internet.  You also want to avoid student work.  Unless the student has a degree in the subject, they should not be considered experts.

Book Sources

Print books that contain information not available in a digital method.  And even with the Internet, there are still many people that prefer using print books to research.   Print books are portable, organized, don’t need a power source to use. They contain easy access points like an index or table of contents.  When using library catalogs, search your keywords. Library catalogs do not work like Google! The more specific and the less keywords you search, the better.  Avoid  punctuation. Our catalog only has around 7,000 items and the search engine only searches through titles, authors, subjects, and summaries. If one keyword doesn’t work, use another word that is similar to it.  Keep trying.  If you find the perfect book, it’s well worth the extra effort.

Using Follett’s Destiny Quest:

Print books are found through the library catalog: Destiny Quest, and are cataloged according to the Dewey Decimal System.  The “call number” found on the search result is the same as what you’ll find on the spine label of the book.  Some items in the library are arranged according to shop.  We also have a separate biography and fiction section. The web address for Destiny is  You can also reach this page by going through the library website off the main page for the high school: then clicking on Curriculum, then Library/Media Center.  E-books are accessible also through Destiny Quest.  After your keyword search, Destiny Quest will lead you to one of our two e-book websites: Gale Virtual Reference Library or Follett Shelf. 

E-Books and Audiobooks:

Gale Virtual Reference Library

The Gale Virtual Reference Library consists of subject encyclopedias.  In Destiny Quest, you know it’s a Gale e-book if there’s a blue E in the corner of the picture.   Click on the link on the second page.   These books are provided to our school for no charge.  You can also search the entire Virtual Library from the library database page: databases.  The text in these books is also set up for text-to-speech in English and different languages.  The link for Gale Online Resources will also provide results for the Virtual Library.

Follett Shelf

Follett Shelf provides students and staff with access to fiction and nonfiction e-books.  In order to access Follett Shelf books on a computer, you may go through Destiny Quest or go directly to the Follett Shelf page at  In Destiny Quest, you know it’s a Follett e-book if there’s a green E in the corner of the picture.  Enter your login and password for school when prompted.   Once you click on a title, your browser will open and the book will appear.   Click on Open. You can browse the book on your computer, but once you log out or move away from the website, the book will be available for someone else to read.  In order to check it out, click on the backpack icon.  You can choose to close the title, or check it out.  You can have the book for 14 days of circulation.  It will automatically be returned at the end of the 14 days.   If the book is marked with an infinity symbol ∞ in the corner, then an unlimited number of students can read the book.


There are apps available for Follett Destiny, Catalist, and Gale Group.

Downloading and using the Destiny Quest App:

1.   Search for and download the Follett Destiny app on your device. Once open, it will ask you for a website. Enter
2.   Enter your username and password.  This is the same one that you use to log in to your account on the computers at school. 

Just like reading on a computer, you can open the book on your device, but once your phone turns off or moves away from the website, the book will be available for someone else to read.   If you wish to check it out, click on the Checkout icon.  You can have it for 14 days or return it early.  If the book is marked with an infinity symbol ∞ in the corner, then an unlimited number of students can read the book.

Note that Follett books cannot be downloaded to a traditional Kindle or Nook, or any other e-reader that does not have app capabilities.

Downloading and using the Gale App, Access My Library:

1.      On your device, search for the app: access my library.  Install the blue app and open it.  The app will read: AML.
2.     A library map will open.  Touch the Library List , pick one and click Access Resources.  (You may have to click on Update My Library first.)
3.     Click on Access Resources. You will have a choice between Gale Databases or Gale eBooks.

Public Libraries

If you wish to go outside our library, use your public library!  Go to your local library to sign up for a card.   Search the central and western Massachusetts library catalog at  The first page default is for all libraries.  You can search your local library from the drop down menu on the right.  

At the bottom of the page, you also see links to the “Digital Catalog.”  This will lead you to the e-book or Overdrive page for central and western Massachusetts.   In order to borrow, you need your public library card number.  Follow the instructions from the Overdrive website.  If you need any assistance, please ask your librarian. If you would like to borrow print books from other libraries, you can request them to be sent to your local library, or you can ask the librarian and we will obtain the book for you.

Another interesting source of books is  Although pared down due to copyright restrictions, this site still provides a free method for browsing through millions of books.  All books in the public domain (with copyright 90 years or more) are free and full-text.  Many books provide a table of contents and selected chapters.

In order to print this information, you will need to take a screen shot of the text and then print that.  You will not be able to edit the text, although you can resize it and crop it in any editing program.