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ENGL 1020: English Composition 1020

This guide will help you devise a search strategy from a research question, find resources, and get through that big paper.

Search Strategies

Keywords and Logic

Brainstorming keywords gives you opportunities to search multiple ways, to discover different results. You'll be amazed what outcomes a little tweak in your thinking does!

Keywords represent main ideas and concepts in your research topic.

  • Start with your research topic or question. To search online and in databases, you need keywords.
  • Read background information on your topic and write down words related to your topic. These words will help you brainstorm keywords.
  • Try some of these words in the Libraries' QuickSearch box. Does useful information come up? Do your words match words that researchers are using in their journal articles?

Four types of keywords (and examples) to consider:

  • Narrow - Corn is a narrower word for food.
  • Broad - Dog is a broader word than chihuahua.
  • Related - Education is related to testing and common-core standards. (They have a relationship, but aren't the same thing.)
  • Similar - Teenager is similar to young adult.

Types of Sources and Where to Find Them

Source Types infographic. Text equivalent in table below.

Source Type Can Be Useful For Can Be Found In


Factual overviews and background information for all topics. Written by experts.

  • Broad introduction to a topic
  • National or regional information
  • UofM Libraries’ Research Assistance Desk (RAD) 
  • Databases that offer background info


E-books and print books from scholarly publishers (like the University of Tennessee Press)

  • Broad introduction to a topic.
  • In-depth info and analysis.
  • Global, National, or regional info.
  • UofM Libraries’ Homepage Search
  •  UofM Libraries’ Classic Catalog
  • Google Scholar

Scholarly, Peer-Reviewed Articles

AKA journal articles, peer-reviewed journals.

Written by scholars for the creation of new knowledge & published in academic journals

  • Political or Philosophical Overview​
  • Social Science Research​
  • Historical Context
  • National or regional trends (think: the American South)​
  • UofM Libraries’ Homepage Search
  • Multidisciplinary and subject-specific databases
  • Google Scholar


Short or long-form journalism from writers reporting on events at a local, national, or global level, in print, online, or via radio or television.

  • Broad introduction to a topic
  • Current events
  • Tennessee or Memphis information
  • UofM Libraries’ Homepage Search
  • Memphis News Sources links in 1020 guide
  • The Internet

Reports & Statistics

Information & data published by non-profits, governments, and institutions. Not peer-reviewed, but often important or more recent than scholarly articles.

  • Broad introduction to a topic
  • Data and numbers
  • National, regional, Tennessee, or Memphis information
  • UofM Libraries’ Homepage Search
  • .gov or .org websites
  • The Internet


Librarians are amazing at talking to you about your information needs and helping you learn to find information.

  • Brainstorming Keywords.
  • Meeting new databases.
  • Interpreting jargon.
  • Evaluating sources.
  • UofM Libraries’ Research Assistance Desk (RAD)
  • Chat
  • Research Consultations