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HC 390 - Introduction to the Thesis

Identify a topic
To help you find or refine a topic, you can:

1) Scan encyclopedias in the discipline of your choice.

They provide overviews of issues and research trends in a discipline.

  • For discipline-specific information, see the library's specialized online encyclopedias.
  • Credo Reference Access limited to OU students, faculty, and staff A collection of encyclopedias in various disciplines. The "concept map" search allows you to explore general topics and refine them, using an interactive map of topics and subtopics. Credo offers a video demonstration of this feature.
  • Opposing Viewpoints in Context Access limited to OU students, faculty, and staff : Easy to browse set of resources on controversial social issues.
  • Virtual reference collection: a list of online sources to find information on everything. For example:

  • x

  • Academic OneFile Access limited to OU students, faculty, and staff : A huge and highly heterogeneous multidisciplinary mix of scholarly, journalistic, practitioner and popular sources, with much direct full-text included. Use the list of related subjects to explore a topic.
  • For a detailed overview of resources in each discipline, see the library's Research Guides.
2) Use search engines and concept mapping tools
Some search engines provide suggestions for more search terms. Concept mapping tools allow you to visually brainstorm the various aspects of a topic (as shown in this 3' video)
  • DeeperWeb: powered by Google, it allows you to refine your search by adding or excluding words in Deeper Cloud (see image), by selecting specific categories of information, and more.
  • Spezify. A search engine that presents results as images.
  • Bubbl.us. Concept mapping made easy...
  • Text2Mindmap. Another concept mapping visualization tool.

Or try a different search engine, and scan the results:
  • searches only high quality content.
Find the best place to look for sources
Once you have chosen your topic you will need to identify where to look for resources in your discipline.

  • KL has a list of specialized databases (specific to disciplines) under Databases by Subject.
  • Research guides offer more specific suggestions for the best databases, websites and other resources on a given discipline or topic.

When using databases that are not full-text, click on to access the text of the articles.
Conduct effective searches
Here are some tips on how to use effective keyword searching strategies: 

Find peer-reviewed articles
Need peer-reviewed articles?
To make sure that you find peer-reviewed articles, you can:

  • in some databases, limit your search to "peer-reviewed" (also called refereed) articles.
  • check whether a journal is peer-reviewed in Ulrich's Periodicals Directory Access limited to OU students, faculty, and staff . Enter the journal title in the search box.  When you find it, check whether it has the icon in front. If so, it is peer-reviewed.
  • check the website of the journal, or a print copy, to see if they mention anything about peer review. 
Conduct a literature review
Here are some tips to find, organize and manage the sources you find.
Organize and cite my sources
Citation management systems allow you to create a personal database of references and automatically generate formatted bibliographies for your projects. You can choose


Zotero is free and can be used by all, while RefWorks is restricted to OU users only.
Find Books

Library Catalog
Use the catalog to find books, videos, recordings, and goverment documents we have at the library.

A statewide catalog of many of Michigan's libraries. It allows you to request books at another library be sent to Kresge Library for you.

Interlibrary Loan

Interlibrary Loan
You may request materials we don't have and we'll borrow them from another library for you.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar Article Search
Websites of interest
Internet Archive: a huge virtual library of books, films, audio files, websites, and more.

Wolfram Alpha
: source of data in all discplines

Research Assistance

Ask a Librarian
Ask a research question by phone, chat, email, or in person at the research help desk.

Research Consultation
Sign up online for an individual session with a librarian to get help with your research.

Writing Help

Writing Resources for Students
Find in-depth information about the mechanics of writing, MLA/APA citations, avoiding plagiarism, and more.

Writing Center
The consultants can help you with every stage of the writing process.

Library Contact
Picture: Emily Spunaugle

Emily Spunaugle
Assistant Professor, Humanities Librarian




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