ENGL 015 (Dr. Moore)

To be successful with this assignment, you need to pick a topic you are genuinely interested in and make sure you use acceptable sources.

You may find it helpful to review some background information about your field of study in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

If you need help finding a topic try the Need Ideas? page. Think about your interest in your topic. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most interested), how interested are you in your topic?

If you aren’t sure what types of sources are considered scholarly, we’re going to review types of sources during this instruction session.

Image of optical illusion duck or rabbit?

What do you see?

Image of the Daily Show logo

Image courtesy of http://www.thedailyshow.com/


You may already have an idea for a multi-sided topic related to your major and have decided which side you are on when it comes to the topic. If you don’t have an idea, try the Research Guide(s) for your major.

Research Guides are written by Penn State librarians in order to help students navigate the library resources in particular subject areas

For example, here’s how I came up with the idea of using library instruction as a topic. It’s something I think about all the time, but, as is often the case when required to think of a topic, your mind goes blank. So, I looked at the Library and Information Studies Research Guide. This guide has a “Professional Journals” tab, linking to journals in the field on librarianship. I clicked on College & Research Libraries and the Journal of Academic Librarianship and read the abstracts (summaries) of several articles in recent issues. The topic of library instruction came up a few times in each publication and I realized it was a multi-sided issue. My thesis is “library instruction should be required for all college freshmen.”

Not all Research Guides have links to journals, so you may need to choose one of the recommended databases and either look through a journal or search the database using a keyword.


You’ll want to include books as some of the scholarly sources for your paper. Please see the page Penn State’s online library catalog “The CAT” for information about the loan period for books and tips for searching.

While books may not be the best source for current topics, they do provide in-depth background information for many topics.

I searched The CAT using the phrase ‘library instruction’ (using single-quote marks) and found the following books:

As you can see, I already will have half the required number of sources for my paper using these books.


Many instructors require students to use scholarly (academic), peer-reviewed journal articles for college research papers. However, students often don’t know where to find these articles and aren’t even sure what a scholarly article looks like.

The chart from the Periodicals and Journals Research Guide outlines the differences between scholarly journals, trade publications, and popular magazines.

The more you use these types of sources, the easier it becomes to recognize the common structure they share. Take a look “Components of a Research Article” for an overview of this structure.

Use one of the library subscription databases, available from Databases by Title (A-Z) on the library home page, to find articles from magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals. Remember, you need to choose the best database for the type of article and information you are looking for.

Below are a few of the most commonly used databases, but make sure to check the Research Guide for your intended major so you will know the recommended databases for your field.

  • Academic Search Complete is a user-friendly database containing articles from most disciplines.
  • Business Source Premier – an essential database for business research.
  • Communication & Mass Media Complete – an easy-to-use database specializing in journals in the communications field.
  • ProQuest (Multiple Databases) – By choosing the Multiple Databases option for ProQuest, you are able to access several useful databases, such as ABI/Inform, ProQuest Education Journals, and ProQuest Research Library, at the same time.

You may need to use the Get It! link to access the full text of some articles.

Citing Your Sources

Refer to Penn State York’s MLA 7th Edition Quick Reference (April 2010) for guidelines and examples for citing sources.

Make sure there is a citation in the reference list for every in-text citation you use!


LionSearch is a new interface to the combined resources provided by the Penn State University Libraries.


Spring 2013 ENGL 015 handout