Directions:  Prepare to spend at least an hour on this assignment of 23 questions.  It must be completed in one sitting.

If you cannot complete it in one sitting, please come by the library reference desk and pick up a copy of a similar tutorial in print.   You may also choose the printed tutorial if circumstances prevent you from using this online tutorial.

In order to complete this tutorial, you will need to have Adobe Reader installed on your computer.  If you do not already have it, you can install it by clicking this button.   Get Acrobat Reader Web logo

For questions about the assignment, call the reference desk at 619-644-7361.

Start by completing the following information:

Student Name: 
Student email Address: 
Course Days & Time: 
Due Date for this Assignment:      

For many students, the research process is straight-forward, beginning with choosing a topic and ending with citing sources.  For others, the process is not so simple.  This tutorial is designed with the varying needs of Grossmont College students in mind.  For an overview of the research process, check our guide to Standard Research Steps.

1.  Select an appropriate research topic.

Choose a topic that is of interest to you.  It may be a current social problem, an issue about which you have a strong opinion, or a research paper you have been assigned for a course.

          Click here for instructions on choosing a topic

1.A.  Type your topic here:


2.  Focus your topic according to the requirements of the assignment.

A topic may be too difficult to research if it is too broad.  You may need to focus your topic to accommodate your instructor's guidelines.

Click here for instructions on how to focus your topic

On the other hand, your topic may be difficult to research if it is locally confined, too recent, too obscure, or too popular in nature.  You may need to broaden your search to be able to find enough sources.  For example: How do San Diego teenagers feel about racial tensions?  You can broaden your topic to include all American teenagers and find more sources.

2.A.  Type your revised topic here:


3.  Select additional keywords to describe your topic.

Think of synonyms (different words with similar or identical meanings that are interchangeable) or other terms that an author may use to describe your topic.  For example, assisted suicide may also be called euthanasia or right-to-die.  This will help you search using multiple words and expand your results.  A thesaurus or the Library of Congress Subject Headings can be helpful.

3.A.  Type additional keywords here:


4.  Consider where information about your topic would be found.

It is useful to think about the types of sources you will need to write about your topic.  Do you need just a brief overview, a magazine article, or scholarly research?  Do you need current or historical informationPrimary or secondary sources?  The selection of particular types of information sources depends on the topic you have chosen and your previous knowledge about the topic.

Click here for ideas on where your information may be found.

4.A.  Type three types of sources where you may find information about your topic:



5.  Consult an online Reference Source.

If you know little about a topic or you want an overview you may try an online Reference Source.  If your topic is sociological or cultural in nature, you may try the Gale Virtual Reference Library or Credo Reference for general reference.

Click here to learn about references sources.

5.A.  Type the name of the online reference source you used:

5.B.  How does this source support your topic?


6.  Find a book using Grossmont College Library's online catalog.

Most of the materials in the library are listed in the online catalog.   Using the online catalog, find a book on your topic at Grossmont College.  You may want to read or print this tips sheet first.

Click here for information on using Grossmont's online catalog.

6.A.  What is the title of your book?

6.B.  What is the call number of your  book?

(Hint: It is a letter or letters followed by numbers - at the top or the bottom of the record, depending on whether you are viewing the abbreviated record or the detailed record.)


7.  Find additional books on your topic by browsing the collection.    

Books are shelved in the library by LC call number.  You can browse the collection and find other books on the same topic grouped together by call number.  It is also useful to know where your topic is classified in LC classification.  Look at this chart to determine where your topic would be.  Click on the links to find the first two letters assigned to your topic.

7.A.  What are the first two letters of the LC classification system assigned to your topic? 


8.  Find books at other academic libraries using an online catalog.

Most libraries use online catalogs to help users find books in their library.  Using the SDSU library catalog, find another book about your topic.

            Click here for how to use SDSU's online catalog.

8.A.  What is the title of the book you found at SDSU?

8.B.   What is the call number of this book?


9.  Request a book or article from another library via Interlibrary Loan.

Grossmont College (and most other libraries) offer a service called Interlibrary Loan (ILL) which means we will borrow books and other materials from other libraries on behalf of our users.  To use this service, you would complete an online form available from the library website.  PLEASE do not complete this form for this tutorial, unless you actually need the book for your research.

             Click here for information about interlibrary loan.

9.A.  How long will it take for a requested book to arrive from SDSU?


10.  Find an article using an online database.

You can search all of the over 30 databases that Grossmont subscribes to - at once - using "Database Search." Once you are in Database Search, click the "Select All" box and enter your topic.  You will then get a list of results.  Now, find an article citation on your topic, using "Database Search."

             Click here for information on how to use online databases.

10.A.  Type the full citation (e.g. where is the information found: author, article title, journal title, volume, pages, date, etc.) of an article you found here:

(You may copy and paste using the Windows tools.)

10.B.  Is this article available full text, meaning the entire article is in the database?
Yes   No


11.  Obtain an article that is not available full text in the database.   

If an article is not available full text in the database, the periodical that the article is in may or may not be available in a print copy at the Grossmont College Library.

             Click here for information on how to check Grossmont's periodicals list.

11.A.  For the article you found in number 10 above, is this article available in the Grossmont Library print periodicals?
Yes   No

11.B. If this article is not (or were not) available full text in the database or in Grossmont’s print periodicals, how could you obtain a copy of the article?

(Hint:  this is the same service that helps students borrow books from other libraries.)


12.  Determine if an article is scholarly or popular.

Many instructors require that only scholarly sources be used for their assignments.  Students must be able to tell the difference between popular magazines and scholarly journals.

                   Click here for how to determine if your article comes from a popular or a scholarly journal.

12.A. Is the article you chose from the database, popular or scholarly?
Popular  Scholarly

12.B. Name three factors that helped you to determine whether the article was popular or scholarly?



13.  Find a web article using an Internet search engine.

Internet search engines are huge searchable databases used to locate web sites on any topic.  Google, Yahoo and Bing are a few of the many search engines available.  Using one of these search engines, find a webpage on your topic.

13.A. Type the URL (address) of the webpage you found:

Note:  If the URL is dynamic, you may need to find another webpage or truncate back the URL.)

Click here for information on dynamic URLs.


14.  Evaluate information found on the Internet.

Being able to critically evaluate references to library and Internet materials is an important skill. The Internet is a large and dynamic resource. There are so many different types of information available that identifying and evaluating quality resources can sometimes be difficult. 

                  Click here for how to evaluate information you find on the web.

14.A.  Would you use the website you found as a source for an assignment?
Yes   No

14.B.   Type three factors that helped you determine whether you would use the site or not:

14.C.  What is the “domain” in the address of the site?

14.D.  Why is this important?

(Hint: .gov=government, .com=commercial, .edu=education, .org=nonprofit organization.)


15.  Write a correct citation in MLA format.

To avoid plagiarism and help other researchers know where you obtained your information, it is important to cite your information sources correctly and using a standard format.  Many instructors at Grossmont prefer the MLA format for citing sources, although other formats exist

                  Click here for help on putting a citation in MLA format.

15.A.  Provide a correct MLA citation of the article you found for Question 10 or the book you found for Question 6.

What does 1+1 Equal?

 Please click the "submit" button below to send your answers  to your instructor.  Your instructor will receive the answers within 72 hours.




Congratulations - you are finished!