ENG 3020 - Community and Writing

Need help accessing a source, finding an article,  citing a source? Talk to a librarian now

Need help with MLA Style? Click the link below for resources and examples

Keywords and Search Terms for a Successful Search

Coming up with good search terms can be challenging. Here are some ideas for search terms.

When you are searching, use "" (quotes) around words such as "self confidence" will search those 2 words together as a phrase. Use the Power Searching handout for other ways you can power up your search.

The St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center have the top 5 barriers for children's education listed on their website. Those are the inspiration for the search terms listed below. 

fear of failure and self esteerm: Try related words and phrases such as: anxiety underachievement "academic failure"  "fear of failure" "student motivation" "self efficacy" "locus of control" "low achievement"

environment: this is explained as no role models, education not a priority, living below poverty level, parents are not their first teacher. Searching for articles that discuss these topics may be helpful. Try terms like poverty "role models" "socioeconomic influences" "parent participation" "parent attitudes" "disadvantaged youth" "educational attitudes"

labels: this is explained as children are called names such as stupid, intellectually challenged, special ed, dumb. Try terms like "verbal bullying" "verbal abuse" "name calling"

Putting it all together

Structure your search with a term from the list above, then a population or program.

motivation AND boys AND reading AND tutoring

"self efficacy" AND "academic achievement" AND "after school programs"

Where do I look?

Try different disciplinary databases to find different perspectives on your topic. A disciplinary database focuses on providing access to articles from scholarly journals, books, book chapter and other information resources in a specific discipline, like Psychology or Business. Because you are searching in a smaller set of information than Summon or Google Scholar, you may find articles that may otherwise be buried in a million search results.

Here are some disciplinary databases to try. You can also go to the top of the page and select Research Guides to find a disciplinary research guide with more database recommendations.

What makes a source reliable and credible?

Finding reliable and credible sources to support your ideas and observations lends authority to your report.

What do these words mean when you are selecting a source?

reliable source can demonstrate that it is consistently good in quality or performance. The peer-review process is intended to provide consistency in quality, which is why you are asked to find peer-reviewed research articles from scholarly journals. Publications or websites that have a long history of publication, a full description of who they are on their "About Us" page, can help support the reliability of a source. Authors who have credentials or training in a field or discipline, and regularly publish in recognized sources, may also be considered "reliable". If you use information from the web or popular sources like magazines, you should "google" the author's name to see if you can find this kind of information about them. Sometimes the author's name has a link that leads to more information about them.

Credible is defined by Merriam Webster as "offering reasonable grounds for being believed". Credible sources should provide reliable evidence for their assertations, and all sources should be noted or linked. Statistics, graphs, and charts should lead to the original source. Any bias or point-of-view would be explicitly stated. The source providing the information (website organization, publisher, etc.) should provide a full description of themselves. Credible articles should at the very least provide an author and date of the information, and you should always get more information about the author's reliability to help establish their credibility. Peer-reviewed publication requirements, such as providing citations for any sources used, and valid statistical analysis of any data, help establish their credibility.

This short video will help you consider the components of credibility when judging a source.

Types of Sources

Listen to this section read to you.

Scholarly Peer-Reviewed Articles

Generally, peer-reviewed scholarly articles are written for other scholars and researchers and communicate research findings or new interpretations of primary sources. You can find these articles using the library databases or Google Scholar. For library databases, limit your search results to scholarly or peer-reviewed. Articles have gone through a review process prior to publication. The Peer Review process is in place to assure the statistical analysis of data or conclusions are sound, the authors are reliable and credible, and the research reported is of value to the disciplinary community.


scholarly article example

Example of an article from the scholarly, peer-reviewed journal Rural Special Education Quarterly titled Delivery and Evaluation of Synchronous Online Reading Tutoring to Students At-Risk of Reading Failure


Practitioner/Trade Articles

These are articles in publications that are intended to inform the day-to-day work of the people in a profession. This might be a publication like Reading Teacher. These publications may or may not be peer-reviewed, the author's credentials are usually included at the end of the article, and they may include citations or footnotes. Because they are written for the profession, these publications may have bias (for example, Chemical Week is written for the chemical industry).


trade article

Example of an article from the practitioner journal AfterSchool Matters, titled "Math is Like a Scary Movie"


Scholarly Books

Scholarly books provide overviews of a topic, and are edited or written by experts in the field. Books are best used for background information--because of the time it takes to gather research and get a book published, the information may not be very current. Using the library's QuickSearch or Catalog to look for book will help limit your results to scholarly books.


Example of a scholarly book titled Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind : Practical Strategies for Raising Achievement.



The US government gathers a lot of data, and you can search it on their portal www.data.gov. You should also consider NGO (non-governmental organizations), non-profits, and associations as sources for data and statistics. Just be aware these types of organizations are usually working for a particular program or outcome and may have bias (just be aware and use your strategy for reliability and credibility, bias does not necessarily make it a bad source). For example, you could try the National AfterSchool Association. Or try a good search for "after school" tutor statistics and see what comes up--watch out for the ads!


Supplemental Resources

Newspapers, blogs, popular magazines, and other types of mainstream sources of information may also be of value. These types of sources can provide extremely current information, or highlight a perspective you may have missed. Make sure you track down statistics or studies that are mentioned--a librarian can help you do that. Your evaluation of the credibility and reliability of the authors and the source are extremely important when using these sources.

You can find several newspapers to search on the library's Article Databases page (do not search a topic here, select a newspaper from the list to search).

This is an example of a story about online tutoring during COVID from the independent non-profit online news organization The Heschinger Report. Note that research sources are dated and linked in the article. If you look at their mission, you will see they describe themselves as an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based at Teachers College, Columbia University. If you click on the author's name Jill Barshay at the top of the article you might conclude her experience supports her as a credible and reliable author.