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Hot Topics: Find Sources


Immigration: Find Sources

This page walks you through finding sources on the sample topic of Immigration in a variety of formats:

Find Sources
  1. Brainstorm Keywords
  2. Use Keywords to Search
  3. Review Results
  4. Select Relevant Sources
  5. Refine Keywords and Search Again

1. Brainstorm Keywords

Now that you've picked your topic and done a little background research, it's time to brainstorm relevant keywords. Think of synonyms and words related to the main nouns in your topic. For example, if my topic is

economic impact of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

I might come up with some additional keywords I came across in my background reading:

economic impact undocumented immigrants U.S.
economy illegal immigration United States
jobs migrants [specific states, like Vermont]
employment / unemployment undocumented workers  

2. Use Keywords to Search

Once you have your keywords, try combining them in different ways to search in different library resources.

  1. Combine synonyms using OR and parentheses: (economy OR jobs OR employment OR unemployment)
  2. Combine the different ideas of your topic using AND: (economy OR jobs OR employment OR unemployment) AND (undocumented immigrants OR undocumented workers OR illegal immigration) AND (United States OR U.S.)
  3. Use your combined terms in different library resources.

The Discovery search is a good place to start. The following box is the same as the one on the library homepage:

Limit to: audio

You might also try any of the following databases:  

3. Review Results

Once you've gotten your search results from your combination of keywords, scroll through them to see how relevant they are to your topic. 

Tip! The most relevant results aren't always right at the top. Don't be afraid to scroll to the bottom or go to the next page of results.


My first search result looks like a book from 2011 that may not be relevant to you research questions, but that doesn't mean there's not plenty of relevant and more recent sources further down!


Even down at result #27, there's a very recent book in our own collection that addresses one aspect of the issue. And allll the way down at #97 is a journal article that could be very relevant to your research!

Didn't get many good search results? Jump down to step 5, Refine Keywords and Search Again.

4. Select Relevant Sources

As you scroll through your results, click into any that look like they might be relevant.

Tip! The title might not have all your keywords in it.exclamation point


Tip! When using the main library search box, try limiting your results using the Limit To box. Books can give an overview of a topic. Articles will provide news, magazine and academic journal items. You can use the refinement options on the left of the results page to focus in on the types of materials you want. News and magazine articles might be a good place to start since they are less technical than academic journal articles.



The following is the database record for my result #97, "Does Immigration Reduce Wages?" 

  1. When you click on the Details link, more information about the item is displayed.
  2. The subjects are the main concepts the article is about. These can help you think of new keywords too, like "medical ethics."
  3. The abstract is a summary of the article to help you decide if you want to read the whole thing.
  4. Use the tools to help you save the source for later: email it to yourself, use cite to format the citation in MLA and other styles, or copy the permalink to come back to the record later.
  5. If there is a highlighted Full Text PDF next to the Details, you can click on that to go directly to the article. There is not one on this record, so skip ahead to step 6!
  6. If there is not a highlighted Full Text link, you can click on Find Full Text  to find the full text of the article online or through Interlibrary Loan.

5. Refine Keywords and Search Again

Whether or not you found some good results in your first search, it can always be worth it to search again--by changing around your keywords or searching in a different database.

  • If you didn't get many results the first time, try broadening your search by using fewer or less specific keywords.
  • If you got too many results the first time, try narrowing your search by using more or more specific keywords.
  • Try using new keywords from relevant results you did find, like deportation policy or agriculture from the example article above.
  • Try limiting the date range (often available to the left of search results) if you're just interested in the most recent developments on your topic.
  • Try searching in a different database. Our different databases have different sources in them, so you might find different or more relevant sources in a different database.
  • Ask a librarian if you're not happy with what you're finding. We're here to help!

Found some promising sources?

Move on to the next step of evaluating bias.

Ask a Librarian!

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Selected Books

Here are a selection of recent book in our collection on genetic engineering: