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ATH 2150

This guide will lead you step-by-step through the research process for your term paper.

1. How do I find a topic for my term paper?
2. Once I have a topic, where do I go to find the scholarly articles and books?
3. I'm not getting good results when I search. How can I improve?
4. How do I pick the articles to use for my paper?
5. OK, I found my articles, now how do I cite them?

1. How do I find a topic for my term paper?

As you think about a possible topic, many students start with either a setting or a question. A setting is an area of the world in which you might learn about a different culture. It's helpful to think about your own experiences with other cultures when you're searching for a topic. For example, maybe you've traveled to Mexico or Italy, perhaps you love Thai food, or you're interested in west African music. A question might involve a specific aspect of culture that interests you, like, "What would it be like to experience a culture where they believe in many gods instead of just one?" If your personal experiences don't spark an idea, browse through one of the following books or article databases to find a people or culture.

On the 2nd floor of the library, there is a whole bookcase (Bookcase 5, located near the Cell Phone Zone and restrooms) devoted to world cultures. You can find a topic by flipping through the encyclopedias or by searching the encyclopedias available online.  Some of the books on Bookcase 5 include:

Keep in mind that all of the books and online sources above are to help you find a topic, not for you to use as a reference in your term paper.

Once you find a people or a culture on which you want to focus, you will have to narrow your topic to something manageable. For example, if you began with your interest in non-Western religion and the setting of Africa, you would focus on a particular area or people, as well as a more refined question. Then you might ask questions such as: what role does music play in the religious life of the Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria?


2. Once I have a topic, where do I go to find the scholarly articles and books?

Find articles in the article database:

Academic Search Complete
This article database covers practically every subject. Be sure to put a check next to the Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals option (circled in red below) from your results page to limit your search to just academic/scholarly journals (otherwise you'll get newspapers and magazines as well):

  image of search results which shows how to limit to scholarly articles

When you get your results list, be sure to consult the handout Is It a Scholarly Article? that Dr. Owens gave you to be sure that you choose appropriate articles. See step #4 for information on how to separate articles from other formats.

Notice that if you get too many results, you can limit by date to just the last few years (over on the right side of the screen). See below for more ways to improve your results.

Many of the articles are full text, in which case they will be labeled as .PDF Full-Text. If all you see is "Find It" be sure to click on it, because there is a good chance the article is available full text online from another one of the library's article databases. Clicking Find It! will also show if the library has the article in print.

Find books in the catalog:

You can search for books right from the library's home page. Simply put in your search terms in the search box in the tabbed search area and click Go. The results list will show you where the books are located and whether they are available. If you want more information about the book, click on the title.

If Wright State does not have many options for you, or there is a book here that is checked out, you should search the OhioLINK catalog. This catalog has all the books in over 80 college and university libraries in the state of Ohio. You can request books from other libraries and the book will be delivered here in 3-4 business days. The check-out period is 28 days with up to four renewals.


3. I'm not getting good results when I search. How can I improve?

The catalog and the article databases do not recognize phrase searching. For example, if your topic is the Navajo ghost dance, you won't get any results (or very few) if you type in "the significance of the Navajo ghost dance." You need to break your topic into keywords or concepts and connect them with the word AND. So a good search for that topic would be "Navajo AND ghost dance."

Keep in mind that there may be alternate spellings of words, such as "Navajo" and "Navaho." Try searching both or all versions.

Lastly, try to think of as many different words or ways to describe your topic as possible. As you skim article abstracts or book tables of contents, look for the other terms people use to talk about your topic. Use these in your searches.

Doing research can be challenging and time-consuming--don't give up easily! It's worth spending more time at the beginning to get good articles rather than scrambling at the end and risking a poor grade. If you are really having trouble, please contact me.


4. How do I pick the articles to use for my paper?

Again, as you look at your results list, consult the "Is It a Scholarly Article?" handout. Although you have limited to only scholarly journals, items from a scholarly journal are not necessarily all articles. Response letters, book reviews, news blurbs, or research proposals could potentially be in your results list. They are usually short (from 1/3 of a page to 3 pages) and have brief, non-descriptive titles. For example, although this is from a results list that is limited to scholarly journals, it's not an article:

Navajo Courts and Navajo Common Law: A Tradition of Tribal Self-Governance.


By: Benally, Moroni. American Indian Quarterly. Summer2011, Vol. 35 Issue 3, p470-473. 4p.

Subjects: BOOKS -- Reviews; NAVAJO courts; NONFICTION; American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Governments; NAVAJO Courts & Navajo Common Law: A Tradition of Tribal Self-Governance (Book); AUSTIN, Raymond D.

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This IS a scholarly article from the same results list:

Be sure to click on the title of the article because there will be an abstract, or summary, of the article. This abstract can really help you determine whether or not the article will be relevant to your topic.


5. OK, I found my articles, now how do I cite them?

Here is an APA mini-manual produced by Wright State's Writing Center. This manual covers the new 6th edition of the APA Handbook.  The library also has a guide called Citing Your Sources that covers APA style.

The University of Wisconsin's Writing Center created this great APA guide that will take you step-by-step through the citation process.

Please don't hesitate to ask me for help! That is what I'm here for. Email me or contact me via the IM box on the right to set up a meeting time and I'll be happy to assist you.

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