English 150: Online Composition

Guides for Specific Assignments

Topic ideas
How to locate your 10 sources
Choose appropriate search words
"Advanced Search" in Google
Evaluation criteria
Q&A for APA Citations & More Library Resources

Topic ideas

Browse this list of possible topics about work and family. You may want to choose one of these, or use them for inspiration for your own topic ideas. Remember, you need to write a five-page paper, so don't choose a topic that is too broad, or you'll have too much to say! Also, avoid choosing a topic that is too specific, or you won't be able to find enough sources.


How to locate sources: articles and online reference sources

Use the multidisciplinary article databases below to find popular and scholarly articles from magazines, newspapers, and journals.




Full-text (as far back as 1985) for nearly 4,700 publications, including nearly 3,700 peer-reviewed journals. Citations and abstracts for8,200 journals.
Citations for articles and letters from 12,000+ journals (1990 to present). Some full-text.
Combines authoritative factual analysis, so students and others can quickly grasp the essentials of even the most complex topics.
Reference source
This database is entirely full-text. 1600+ science, humanities, education, and business journals (1994 to present).

More article databases: Choose A-Z list or a subject guide for librarian recommendations

When you are off-campus and try to access library resources, you will be asked to login. Use your webmail username & password.

Most databases contain citations and abstracts. Some also link to full-text. Here are some definitions that may help and a chart to explain the different types of full-text files:

Citation: author, article title, journal title, date, pages
Abstract: brief description of article content
Full-text: you may find two full-text options (pdf of html)

File Type
How to view the article You must have Adobe Acrobat installed These files open like all other web pages in your usual web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox)
How to print article Click on the print icon within Adobe Acrobat instructions Click the print icon in your web browser, or choose File then Print
Comments These files look like exact copies of the original article. Pictures and headlines appear in the "original" locations (easier to cite because page numbers remain intact). The text may be retyped. Original page breaks are lost. Images may be removed or made smaller (turned into thumbnails).
Downloading file These files are large. They work best if you have a high-speed Internet connection. These files download quickly. If you have a modem, choose this format.

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Government resources

The US government is a powerhouse of information collection, creation, and dissemination. Because we're citizens, we can use all of the information for free! Try these gateways to access reliable information on a variety of topics:

[Note: a "gateway" is a website or page that links to many other sites]

  • USA.gov : The official U.S. gateway to all government information...an ever-growing collection of topical and customer-focused links connects you to millions of web pages–from the federal government, local and tribal governments and to foreign nations around the world.

  • FedStats: The gateway to statistics from over 100 U.S. Federal agencies

  • Kids.gov:
  • Site is divided into educational subjects that students might have in school.

  • Consumer.gov: A"one-stop" link to a broad range of federal information resources available online. It is designed so that you can locate information by category -- such as Food, Health, Product Safety, Your Money, and Transportation.

  • Students.gov: Contains information about planning and paying for higher education plus military service and volunteer opprtunities.

  • Business.gov: Guides you through the maze of government rules and regulations and provides access to services and resources to help you start, grow, and succeed in business.
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Choose appropriate search words

There are three things to keep in mind when you are searching: three things
1 The database isn't as smart as you! It takes you literally and will not correct misspelled words or typos. Check a free online dictionary if you need help.
2 Do not type a whole sentence or question. The database can not figure out what you mean. Use Boolean operators to combine words instead.

Combine search terms with Boolean Operators/Expressions: AND, OR, NOT (see demo)


  When to use it Example
" "
To search for an exact phrase (especially good for slang and new terms) "election reform"
To combine two different concepts to get a small set of relevant results "election reform" and 2000
To expand your search to include synonyms/related terms "election reform" and (2000 or 2004)
To exclude certain results "election reform" not fundraising
3 Most databases have both keyword and subject searches. If you use the official subject words, your searches will be more efficient. Learn how using these strategies:

In the following example, we'll use Wilson Select Plus to start with a keyword search, then find the exact descriptors. Descriptors help us find more articles on our exact topic. Click here to see a 4 page demonstration.


Advanced searching in Google

We're sure you've heard of it. You've probably even thought about using it to begin research for your paper. We're talking about Google, which "is now the largest [primary search engine], and includes PDF, DOC, PS, and many other file types" from Search Engine Showdown's review (June 2004).

Google isn't perfect, but it indexes a lot of the Web and the advanced search has many options.

Click here to learn more about using the advanced search.

    Evaluation criteria

    Consider the source. Content from a .gov site or a library article database, it is more likely to be trustworthy.

    This page lists other evaluation criteria and provides "bad" examples of untrustworthy websites:

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Q&A for Citations & More Library Resources

APA Style | Find Books | More Article Databases

APA citation style links

Q. How can I learn about APA style?

A. Visit the APA Style web site and consult the style guide you purchased. Remember, online articles are cited differently than print articles!

Find books in library catalogs. Request and renew them.

Q. How do I find books at Olivet's library?

A. Use our library catalog, BLISweb.

  1. Connect to BLISweb
  2. Do a Guided Keyword Search (if you want to use AND, OR, NOT) or a Simple Search (use " " and +)
  3. Find a relevant title, then click on it
  4. Scroll down to the (LCSH) Subjects
  5. Click on an official Library of Congress Subject Heading to get more books on this exact topic

Q. How do I use some of the features in BLISweb and I-Share?

A. Read the instructions below or ask a Reference Librarian for help.

Q. What if Olivet doesn't have any books on my topic?

A. If we don't have it in BLISweb, connect to I-Share (shared catalog of 76+ libraries in Illinois).

If we don't have it in I-Share, search for it in WorldCat. To request it, click on the Inter Library Loan (ILL) icon

Q. I have an citation but there's no full-text. Now what?

A.See if we have the article in a different format at Olivet. If not, request the article through our free InterLibrary Loan service.

1. Double-check to see if we have it in full-text. If not,

2.Request the article through InterLibrary Loan Our staff will e-mail, fax, or use postal delivery to get articles to you.

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