Finding and using different types of information sources is a key part of doing college research. Use the resources below to learn about different types of information sources.
- The Information Cycle - "How Do I? " Guide (Undergraduate Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
- The Information Cycle - Video (CSUSB)
- Scholarly vs Popular Sources - Short video (McMaster University)
- Primary and Secondary Sources - Short video
- Plagiarism—What is plagiarism and how to avoid it - Short video (Brock University)
Choosing a strong research topic is a process. Not sure where to start? Use our library resources to help you find an interesting topic.
The video Picking Your Topic IS Research! on mymedia illustrates the process of choosing a successful topic.
Library Databases for Choosing a Topic
CQ Researcher Online
In-depth research reports on current and controversial issues. Use "Browse Topics" or "Browse Reports by Date" to see lists of possible topics.
In Context: Opposing Viewpoints
A source for information on today's hottest social issues featuring viewpoint articles; topic overviews; full-text magazine, academic journal, and newspaper articles; primary source documents; statistics; images and podcasts, and links to Websites. Click "Browse Issues" to see a list of topics.
In the Library
Contemporary Issues Books
At the Sugar Grove, Aurora Downtown and Aurora Fox Valley campus libraries, look at the Contemporary Issues section. Browsing the titles on the shelf may give you some ideas.
Use these library resources to gather background information and to learn more about a topic.
While reading, pay attention to the terms used in relation to your topic, and collect these terms to use later in your searching.
Search your broad topic in these databases to find specialized encyclopedia articles. Identify sub-topics and particular aspects of the topic that interest you.
Gale Virtual Reference Library
Online versions of reference sources in many subject areas: arts, biography, business, education, environment, history, law, literature, medicine, multicultural studies, nation and world, religion, science and social science.
Oxford Reference Online Premium
Online reference sources in many subject areas: General Reference, Language and Quotations to Science and Medicine, and from Humanities and Social Sciences to Business and Professional. Useful to help define terms.
ABC-CLIO Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society
Reference sources for contemporary and controversial issues. Use for background information on current topics.
Use to find background information on any science-related topic, including environmental topics.
Articles come from popular magazines, industry-specific publications, newspapers and academic journals. Use library databases to find articles on specific aspects of your topic.
Articles are good sources to use for a variety of topics.
- Very current events (newspapers)
- Contemporary issues (magazines)
- In-depth research (academic journals)
Searching for Articles
To find articles, use the library databases, either from the library website or from the Todd Library tab on mywcc. Academic Search Complete and Academic OneFile Select are two multi-subject databases that can be a good place to start. Follow these steps for finding articles.
- Keep your search simple. Enter basic terms for each aspect of your topic, such as “energy drinks and health.”
- Use the limiting options available on most databases. Common limiters are full-text, date and source type. Articles from academic journals may be required for some assignments.
- Evaluate your results. Use the title of the article, the abstract (summary) and the subject terms to determine if the articles are relevant to you. If your results aren't relevant, consider modifying your search terms. Contact a librarian if you need assistance with your search.
- To display the full article, click on the PDF icon or the "HTML Full Text" link. Clicking the "Full Text Finder" icon will take you to the full article in a different database.
- Please contact a librarian if you need any assistance.
Need more help? Check out this step-by-step guide about finding articles.
Books provide thorough and detailed information about academic topics. Search the library catalog to identify books on a specific topic.
Books may contain:
1. Comprehensive treatment of a subject, including background information and analysis. Example:
2. The history of an issue or event. Example:
3. Analysis of statistics and previous research on a topic. Example:
Finding Books at Waubonsee Community College Libraries
- Keep your search simple. Enter basic terms for your topic, such as “energy drinks."
- Evaluate your results list. Examine the titles of the books listed on the first page of your results. If the results do not seem relevant, consider changing your search terms. Please contact a librarian if you would like some assistance with your search.
- Click on the title of an item in the list to display more detailed information, sometimes including a summary and chapter titles.
- If it is a print book, note at which campus it is located and copy the entire call number or use the "Text This to Me" tool. You can use the "Place Hold" tool to request that the book be delivered to a specific campus.
- The books are arranged by Library of Congress call numbers. Use the call number to find the book on the shelf. Please contact us for assistance if you need help with this.
- If it is an e-book, click on the link in order to access the book in one of our e-book databases.
A citation is a listing of all the information necessary to identify and locate a specific published source—whether it's a book, an article, a video, a website or a tweet.
Why do I need to cite my sources?
Citing your sources is important for three reasons.
- It gives credit to the person whose idea it is you are referencing.
- It leads readers to your sources.
- It helps you avoid plagiarism.
When you find information in another source, whether it is a newspaper, magazine, academic journal or even online, someone else has published it, which means that essentially that person "owns" the information and the ideas (also called intellectual property). Not giving that person credit when you borrow their ideas or words is called plagiarism, and that is a very serious academic infraction. (Undergraduate Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
When to Cite?
Citation Tools in Databases
Most of the library databases have a citation tool that will create a citation for an item. When using the tool, make sure you choose the style that your instructor requires (MLA, APA, Chicago). Be aware that while these database-generated citations are a fine place to start, you will need to check the details of the citation using a style guide.
Consider these tips when using citations from a database.
- Pay attention to capitalization in article titles—it’s different for MLA and APA.
- Correct any titles or names that appear in all capital letters.
- Your instructor may want you to include optional elements such as a URL or "date accessed."