Resources Research Writing

A Guide To Research at Chemeketa

This page is a general guide to doing research for writing classes at Chemeketa Community College.

Getting Started On Research: Finding Topics And Keywords

In order to do research, you will need to come up with a sufficiently refined topic, and the right search terms. The resources below may be of help to you.

Field-specific Encyclopedias And Dictionaries

Many fields and areas of study have subject encyclopedias that cover topics specific to that field. Subject encyclopedias cover topics that may not be included in general encyclopedias. They also go into more depth on topics and may use more technical language. They may also be called special or subject encyclopedias. They are an excellent place to:

  • find or refine a topic,
  • to find background information,
  • to find key words for use as search terms.

Use the encyclopedia's index (usually at the end) to help you find topics. In reading an article, make a note of any special terms you might use later to find more information. Keywords may consist of:

  • technical terms (for example, "actor-network theory"),
  • special acronyms, abbreviations, or initialisms,
  • names of prominent persons in the field,
  • names of organizations,
  • titles of legislation,

or any other word or phrase that relates especially to your subject.

Just as there are field-specific encyclopedias, there are field-specific dictionaries. These may help you understand and use the terminology that is specific to your subject matter.


Keyword "Supersources"

Here are several other reference sources you can use to help you find keywords for searching. They are books which are basically lists of possible search terms.

Contemporary Thesaurus of Search Terms and Synonyms
(REF 025.49 K72)
This book is specially designed to provide terms for computer searches. Look up a concept or term in the alphabetical list to find a number of synonyms.
Successful Keyword Searching
(REF 025.04 M14)
Has fewer terms than the Contemporary Thesaurus. Arranges lists of key terms for popular student research topics.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
(REF: set of five large red volumes found on dictionary stand near the reference stacks)
Most catalogs, including Chemeketa's, use Library of Congress subject headings to describe the topics of books under "subject" searches. Headings used in library catalogs are shown in bold-faced type. The abbreviations used are:
"Use for": lists synonyms of the bold-faced term.
"Broader term": lists more general terms than the bold-faced term
"Narrower term": gives more specific terms than the bold-faced term.

The Library of Congress has a Web site where you can search for subject headings. When you go to the site, click "Search Authorities." When you put in a search term, the results will list terms in a table. Those with a red button marked, "Authorized and references" are terms that the Library of Congress uses in subject catalogs. Clicking the button may show more specific ("narrower") terms.


Another technique to find search terms is to try some keyword searches in periodical databases, described below. If you find at least one article that seems to be focused on the subject you want, click on the article title to see more information.

For example, let's say you want to find journal articles about children who sexually abuse other children. You're not sure what keywords to use. Looking in the online subject headings for the Academic OneFile database, you see that the database uses "Child sexual abuse" to describe sexual abuse of children. When you search on "Child sexual abuse" you find thousands of articles, most about abuse of children by adults. So you try the following search:

       child sexual abuse AND other children

The hope is that at least some articles will talk about children sexually abusing other children. You find an article on "Child Peer Sexual Abuse."

The keywords assigned by the author to this article include "sexually agressive children".

Looking at the article itself, you note more terms in the text and in the titles of the author's references:

  • child perpetrators
  • juvenile sexual offenders
  • juvenile sexual offenders
  • sexually abusive juveniles

Searching on these phrases will help you to find more articles.

Finding Books

As in the search for subject encyclopedias, above, you can use the library catalog to find books. The catalog page has links for information on how to use the catalog, and how to request a book from another library in our system.

By clicking the "Summit" button on the catalog's search results screen, you can pass your search through to the Summit catalog. Summit contains the records not only of Chemeketa, but of most of the four-year colleges and universities in Oregon and Washington, and is a great resource for finding scholarly books on a subject. You may request and borrow books through Summit. Instructions are available at .

Electronic books: You will find Chemeketa e-books in the catalog; they are accessible from the catalog record. You can also search directly by going to our database pages. To access these books from off campus you will need your My Chemeketa user name and six-digit password.

You can also use the catalogs of other libraries. You can also search in the individual catalog of a library that you know has information on your topic. For example, you might look in the National Library of Medicine catalog for material on a medical subject.

If you need a book not in our library system, you can request an interlibrary loan by filling out a form. Please allow time for an interlibrary loan, which may take a week or two.

Checking Out Materials

To check out Chemeketa books in the library you need a student I.D. card or a CCRLS public library card. In Salem, please contact the MAPS desk in the Bookstore (Building 1) for a student I.D. card; at the Yamhill Valley campus I.D. cards are issued at the information desk in Building 1. You can return our books to Chemeketa's library or to any public library in Marion, Polk, or Yamhill counties. If the book you want is at another library, it can be sent here for you.

  • Reference books -- these do not check out.
  • Circulating books -- these check out for three weeks.
  • Magazines and Pamphlets -- these check out for one week.

For borrowing at libraries in the Summit system, please check the policies of the lending and pickup libraries for information on the form of identification required. Most books check out for three weeks; audiovisual material checkes out for three days.

Periodical Articles

Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Magazines

The word "periodical" refers to magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals. Newspapers and popular magazines like People, or Road and Track, are familiar to everyone. Scholarly journals (also called academic, professional, or peer-reviewed journals), are written by experts for other experts. They are considered more authoritative than most other sources, because each article is written by experts and reviewed by a panel of experts from the same field before publication. In-depth research will require you to find scholarly journal articles on your subject.

Popular magazinesScholarly journals
Use everyday languageUse technical language
Written for the general readerWritten for experts by other experts
Do not include references to sources of information used to write the articleInclude a list of references at the end of the article
Are often colorful and designed to attract attentionOften have dull covers and titles like "Journal of ...," "Proceedings of ..."

Most of the Gale databases listed below have a check-off option for scholarly journals, making it easy to limit your search to peer-reviewed publications.

Finding Articles

Periodical indexes are found on the library's catalog and index computers, on the index table, and on the reference bookshelves. Paper copies of journals are shelved in the periodicals area.

If using databases from off campus, you will need your My Chemeketa user name and password.

picture of bullet to emphasize importance Databases arranged by subject

picture of bullet to emphasize importance Guides to using the databases

Supplementary Databases

Additional databases are found on Chemeketa's databases page under Supplementary Online Databases -

Finding Organizations In a Particular Field

Encyclopedia of Associations (REFERENCE 060 En1)
Use the keyword index in the last volume to find an association on your topic; each association has its own number. Gives directory information, number of members, publications, and other information.
Gateway to Associations Online --
Scroll down on the page to search by a word or phrase in the association's name. Has directory information and often a link to a Web site for the organization.
Associations on the Net -
Links to Web sites for associations, arranged by subjects.

Internet Resources

The library has 30 general-use computers with connections to the Internet. These computers are available on a checkout basis for a maximum of 2 hours a day. Ask at the Circulation Desk. You may also use the computers in the Library Instruction Room when it is not scheduled for a class. A schedule is posted at the door. Please put your student ID in the holder on top of the monitor.

To find sites on the Internet, try some of the resources below:

Guide to Internet Search Tools -
Notice in particular some of the specialized search tools.
Virtual Library -
The pages have lots of links to sites that the library staff have found helpful for student assignments. Try the Statistics page under Electronic Reference for a sample.
Evaluating Internet Sites 101 -
An excellent tutorial by Carol Anne Germain and Laura Horn of SUNY. It gives guidance on evaluating Web information.
Goverment Sites and Technical Reports -
Links to some places where you can search for technical reports and documents of various types.

Research Tips

Check the Research Tips document for advice on thinking about topic and evaluating materials.

To comment or request help, please e-mail Reference or call 503.399.5231.

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Updated: 20 August 2013