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Home: Sources Overview

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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:


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. The more specific and the less keywords you search the better.  Avoid punctuation.  Use quotation marks around phrases to search as a word.  Use the keyword shortcut: ctrl-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. 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.  Try advanced searching!
  • 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. 

Using Google Properly

For help in analyzing the quality of a website, click here for the Website Evaluation ToolKeyword 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 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, add more keywords for 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: ctrl-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.  

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 most basic advanced searches are below: 

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.

Terms appearing: Search for terms in the whole page, page title, or web address, or links to the page you're looking for.

File type: Search for files such as PDF or DOC.

Other quick settings include clicking on News for current events, and Tools to search by the date of something published.

Google Scholar:

Google has agreements with 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 may better off using one of the library’s databases such as MEDLINE or CINAHL. Librarians have arrangements with library systems that have college library members.  If an article found on Google Scholar is not available in full-text for free, it is possible that our library could get you the article through interlibrary loan. Please ask!

Although pared down due to copyright restrictions, 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. Note: 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 into an editing program. 

Wikipedia,, SlideShare, etc.:

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. A well-written Wikipedia entry, however, will provide you with background information and links to other, better sites at the bottom. This page from Wikipedia explains their thoughts on using their site for academic research:

"Caution is advised when using Wikipedia as a source. In many academic institutions, references to Wikipedia, along with most encyclopedias, are unacceptable for research papers...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. Anyone in the world can edit an article, deleting accurate information or adding false information, which the reader may not recognize. Thus, you probably shouldn't be citing Wikipedia."

Never use sites like, Quora, or Reddit 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 (or is a very thorough dissertation), they should not be considered experts.

Book Sources

Print books 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 keywords. Library catalogs do not work like Google! The more general 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. Scroll through your results and narrow by the links on the left.  If one keyword doesn’t work, use another word that is similar to it.  

Using Follett’s Destiny Discover:

Nonfiction print books are found through the library catalog: Destiny Discover, and are cataloged according to the Dewey Decimal System. Log on to put a HOLD on a book or to access an ebook through Follett Shelf.  We also have a separate biography and fiction section. 

E-Books and Audiobooks through Follett Destiny Discover:

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. You can also search the entire Gale Virtual Reference Library from the library database page: databases.

Follett Shelf

Follett Shelf provides students and staff with access to fiction and nonfiction e-books. You know it’s a Follett e-book if there’s a green E in the corner of the picture. You can choose to read 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.


Go to the Library's Home Page to learn how to access ebooks from downloading apps from Follett Destiny Discover, the Commonwealth ebook Collection, and the Public Library apps.

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.  If you have a public library card, you can use the Libby app and/or go to the Overdrive page of CWMARS and download books.

IF YOU DON'T HAVE A PUBLIC LIBRARY CARD, you can get one from the Boston Public Library for FREE (below).  Get an ecard through them, and then add the BPL to your SORA app for even more books.  Detailed instructions are here!  This BPL eCard gives you online access to apps where you can borrow audiobooks and ebooks, among other things like research databases and movies. Here is the link to register for an e-card.