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ENC 1101-1102

Freshman Composition and Rhetoric and Freshman Writing, Reading, and Research

Refining Searches

Use Keywords, Not Sentences

Keywords or search words are words used to represent the main ideas in your research/topic.

Example: "How will climate change affect sea level rise and flooding in Florida?"

Main concepts:

  • climate change
  • sea level rise
  • flooding
  • Florida

Think of additional keywords in case your search fails. Keep in mind that different writers will use the same concept in different ways.


  • climate change OR global warming

Finding Articles

Below you will find databases to locate articles to help you find sources for your research.

What are databases? Please check out the "What Are Databases" video to your right.
For your research you will need to gather sources that inform you on your idea, then read and analyze those sources.

Combining search terms with Boolean operators

Keyword Search Rules for the Library Catalog and Databases

Using AND/OR/NOT (Boolean Search Operators): Use AND to focus search and combine different aspects of your topic; use OR to expand your search and find synonyms/related terms; use NOT to exclude a word or phrase from your search

Image courtesy of Tisch Library, Tufts University

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

What are Primary Sources?

Pepper Library Reading Room at the Claude Pepper Library.Primary sources are the documents or artifacts closest to the topic of investigation that you will use as evidence to support your interpretation of the past. Often they are created during the time period which is being studied. Examples include: 

  • Correspondence, diaries, newspapers, government documents, art
  • They can also be produced later by eyewitnesses or participants such as memoirs or oral histories
  • You may find primary sources in their original format--often in an archive--or reproduced in a variety of ways: published in books, on microfilm, or digitized in a searchable database

What are Secondary Sources?

For comparison , secondary sources are narratives, interpretations, and critical analysis of the past based on primary sources. They are created by writers who have the necessary distance in time to put the past in its broader context. 

Secondary sources build upon and interpret primary sources, and typically respond to and debate with the secondary sources created by others. Secondary sources also come in a variety of formats, including peer-reviewed books and journal articles, presentations at conferences, professional blog posts, or magazine articles.

Helpful videos about databases, choosing key search terms, and evaluating sources.

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