Use the following databases and resources to get topic ideas for a paper or speech.
Before you do any searching, brainstorm a list of all the words and phrases that might relate to your topic. You should ask yourself, "What words might other people use to talk about this?"
When you make your list, think of synonyms (words that mean the same thing) and broader and narrower terms for your topic.
For example, if your topic is:
What are the advantages and disadvantages of electric cars?
Search terms for electric cars could be: electric cars, automobiles, vehicles, hybrids, Chevy Volt, etc.
Search terms for advantages/disadvantages could be: fuel efficiency, cost, performance, technology, gasoline prices, etc.
You should also consider the many different forms of a word: auto, autos, automobile, automobiles, auto makers, automobile industry, etc.
Tools for Finding Information
In the library, there are two main tools we use to find information.
Library Catalogs are what we use to find books, videos, CDs, and any other physical item that sits on our shelves. They don't provide the actual information itself, but just point to something that the library physically owns. Lake Land College Library uses a catalog called SHARE. This catalog is used by the entire Illinois Heartland Library System, and includes more than 400 libraries in Illinois.
Library Databases make up the library's online resources. On a web page, they give you the full-text of articles from published magazines, journals, newspapers, and reference books.
Keywords and Subjects
A keyword search is simply looking for instances of your search terms anywhere in the article or book record. It's like casting the widest net when you're fishing.
You will get a lot of stuff with a keyword search, but you'll also get a lot of things that aren't very relevant.
For example, a keyword search on "adoption" in our catalog will bring up a long list of items, including a book about the history of the federal reserve. Why? Because in the book's summary, a sentence mentions "the adoption of a more active monetary policy."
For a more focused search, think of searching the Subject field.
Consider the following book titles:
Our Simmering Planet
Climate of Fear
The Coming Global Superstorm
The Greenhouse Effect
You might not be able to tell from just reading the titles, but all five of these books are about global warming in some way. A librarian has gone through each of these books and assigned to it the official subject heading global warming. So when you do a Subject search for books on that topic, each of these titles will come up, even though the phrase global warming only appears in one of the titles.
Information Services Librarian
Reference Desk: 217.234.5440
John Green, Elizabeth Wein, David Finkle, David Sedaris