Not sure where to start on your research paper, project, or assignment?

The first step is to take a close look at your assignment. Read it closely and make sure to ask your instructor about any questions you may have. The assignment instructions and any answers you receive from your instructor will be your guide when starting your research.

Understanding Assignments Checklist by University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Video: Understanding Assignments by University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Your instructor may ask you to evaluate your sources before you use them in class. This may include videos, newspaper articles, websites, or scholarly articles, among others.

Why should you do it and how do you do it?

Why Should You Evaluate Sources?

Not all information or sources should be used for your classwork. Think of the difference between a tabloid article about a celebrity and a research book on the celebrity's life published 20 years later. Both of those are sources of similar information, but they have different authors, audiences, research processes, biases, and purposes.

Evaluating sources helps you decide whether you should use a source for your class and can help you evaluate other things in your everyday life too!

How Do You Evaluate Sources?

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to help you evaluate sources! We recommend the CRAAP Test and SIFT Method.

Video: Source Evaluation by Utah State University


The CRAAP test helps you evaluate resources for use in class by following these steps:

Currency - How timely is the information?
Relevance - Does it fit your needs?
Authority - Who wrote/made this information?
Accuracy - Is the information true and reliable?
Purpose - Why was this information produced?

Video: How to Use the CRAAP Test by Western University

Checklist for the CRAAP Test by California State University - Chico pdf)

SIFT Method

The SIFT method helps you evaluate sources outside of class and helps you think twice before sharing misinformation.

Stop - Pause to think about your goals
Investigate the Source - Check for source expertise, fact check, and research
Find Trusted Coverage - Find multiple sources on the topic, find a trusted resource to check with
Trace to the Original - Trace the information back to where it came from, look at the sources the article references

Video: Using the SIFT Method by Wayne State University

Step by Step SIFT by Louisiana State University

Need More Help?

Don't hesitate to reach out to us at the contact information on this website!

Your instructor should tell you how they would like you to cite your sources and format your paper, also called a citation style or style guide.

Video: Citation: A (Very) Brief Introduction by North Carolina State University

Style Guides

There are three major style guides:

  • Modern Language Association (MLA)
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago)


MLA is usually used for humanities courses and is currently in its 9th edition.

MLA Guides from University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

MLA Guides from Excelsior University

MLA Guides from Purdue OWL

MLA Handbook Available for Checkout from the Learning Commons


APA is usually used for social sciences, including Nursing and is currently in its 7th edition.

APA Guides from University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

APA Guides from Excelsior University

APA Guides from Purdue OWL

APA Guides from the APA Website

APA Handbook Available for Checkout from the Learning Commons


Chicago is usually used in the humanities and is on its 17th edition. Chicago can either be in Notes and Bibliography system or Author-Date system.

Chicago Notes and Bibliography Style from University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Chicago Author-Date Style from University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Chicago Notes and Bibliography Style from Excelsior University

Chicago Guides from Purdue OWL

Information on the Notes and Bibliography versus Author-Date Systems from the Chicago Manual of Style

Chicago Manual of Style Available to Checkout from the Learning Commons

Using LibSearch to Cite Sources

The Learning Commons LibSearch search engine has a built in citation generator. You can watch a video on how to use the generator at this link.

Remember to check your citations for accuracy using the guides above.

Need More Help?

Don't hesitate to reach out to us at the contact information on this website!

Internet Research

When researching for a paper or a project, it may be tempting to skip using the Learning Commons' resources and go straight to Google or another search engine.

It may be hard to believe, but Google and other search engines only contain a small portion of all the information available on the internet, and many of these sources cannot be used for classwork.

Many sources available in the Learning Commons databases can't be found on search engines. If you do find a source through a search engine, the website may charge you for access or be fraudulent. The college pays for you to have access to databases as part of your student experience.

Video: Starting Your Search in the Right Place by UNC-Chapel Hill

Video: Google Versus The Library by University of Louisville

Comparing Learning Commons Database and Search Engines

Compare the Learning Commons databases versus Google and other search engines:

Databases Google/Search Engines
Types of Information you can find:
  • Scholarly Journal Articles
  • Newspaper Articles
  • Reviews
  • Empirical Evidence
  • Primary Sources
  • Popular, commercial, educational websites
  • Current news & events
  • Directories
  • Few free journal articles & books
Credibility & Review:
  • Subject specific books & articles
  • Peer reviewed resources
  • Evaluated for accuracy & credibility
  • Anyone can publish
  • Not always evaluated for accuracy & credibility
Discovering Information:
  • Use limits and other database functions, and subject headings to discover material
  • Less ability to search for more precise & accurate results


Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a search engine provided by Google that looks for scholarly articles on the internet. The full-text of these articles is often not provided for free.

MPCC partners with Google Scholar to provide links in the search results to articles MPCC owns. If you are searching Google Scholar using MPCC internet at any campus, the links will automatically appear to the right of an article's information

For MPCC students using Google Scholar from off-site or not on MPCC's internet, follow these directions to add MPCC links to Google Scholar:

  1. Open the Google Scholar homepage
  2. Make sure you are signed into your Google account. If you do not have a Google account, you will need to create one or follow these steps every time you search
  3. Click the menu icon in the upper left of the page and select Settings
  4. Click on Library Links in the left-hand menu
  5. Search for "Mid-Plains Community College" and check the box next to the correct result
  6. Click Save

Video of Adding Library Resources to Google Scholar Search Results with Example Searches by University of La Verne

Need More Help?

Don't hesitate to reach out to us at the contact information on this website!

You may have heard of plagiarism in high school, during college orientation, or from an instructor. Committing plagiarism can have serious consequences as a student.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is stealing and passing of someone else's ideas or words as your own. This includes not crediting the source you got the ideas or words from. It also includes presenting ideas that you found elsewhere as your own.

Examples would include:

  • Not using a citation style to let the reader know where you found information and who wrote it
  • Copying parts or all of someone else's work and submitting it as your own
  • Repeating ideas that you found elsewhere without crediting the source
  • Reusing a paper you wrote for one class in a different class

What is Academic Integrity?

Academic integrity is using honest and moral behavior in an academic setting. This involves being honest, citing appropriately and following guidelines when completing your school work.

Plagiarism would violate academic integrity and MPCC's Academic Honesty Policy, and can result in penalties for the student

MPCC Academic Integrity Policy

Mid-Plains Community College is committed to academic integrity and honesty as an essential component of MPCC as an academic institution. All members of MPCC’s academic community: administrators, staff, faculty and students, share the responsibility of maintaining that integrity.  Violations of academic integrity include acts, such as plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, obtaining unauthorized materials from the internet, allowing others to write or compose your work; or using the work of other students, not citing the original sources, facilitating misconduct, and/or assisting others in actions that are related to these violations of academic integrity. Students who partake in violations of academic integrity at MPCC are subject to sanctions as described below. Students are granted due process and the right to appeal any decision regarding an academic integrity violation.

Penalties could include:

  • May result in a lower or failing grade or score on the assignment or examination (instructor level).
  • Additional work to provide evidence of the student’s academic performance and/or evidence that the student knows and understands the course material (instructor level).
  • A lower or failing grade in the course (instructor level).
  • Suspension or expulsion from the college (institutional level).

For more information on MPCC's Academic Honesty Policy, visit the College Course Catalog.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

To avoid plagiarism and its consequences, it's important to cite your sources and follow your instructor's directions. If you are still unsure, follow the guides below, ask for assistance from your instructor, or contact the Learning Commons using the information on this website.

For more information on how to cite sources, please see the section "Citations and Style Guides" on this webpage.

How to Avoid Plagiarism by UNC-Chapel Hill

How to Avoid Plagiarism by Purdue OWL

One Page Handout on How to Avoid Plagiarism by Purdue OWL (pdf)

Need More Help?

Don't hesitate to reach out to us at the contact information on this website!

What is Peer Review?

Peer review is a process used to check the quality of academic articles submitted to scholarly journals. This includes sending an article to other experts (or peers) in the subject area the article is about - this is where the name Peer Review comes from.

Peer reviewers evaluate the quality of the article, check for accuracy, and assess the methods and procedures the article author(s) used. Peer reviewers may reject the article, suggest changes to the article before publication, or accept it without changes.

Video: Peer Review in 3 Minutes by North Carolina State University

Why Does Peer Review Matter?

A peer-reviewed article has been checked by other experts on the same subject and accepted as true at the time of publication. Your instructor may ask you to use peer-reviewed sources to help you narrow down your sources or to make sure you look at sources that are more credible.

How Do I Find Peer-Reviewed Articles?

The easiest and fastest way to find peer-reviewed articles is to search the Learning Commons databases in LibSearch, many of which include peer-reviewed journals.

To make sure your results in LibSearch come from peer-reviewed (also called "scholarly" or "academic") journals, select the "Peer Reviewed Journals" checkbox from the filters on the left-hand column and click Apply.

Video: Searching for Peer-Reviewed Sources by Mid-Plains Community College

If you are searching one of our individual databases, look for a filter or button labeled "Peer Review" to narrow your search.

Need More Help?

Don't hesitate to reach out to us at the contact information on this website!

Search Terms

When beginning a search, it can be hard to know what to search for. If you are unfamiliar with the topic you are researching, start by reading overviews in databases like Opposing Viewpoints, Points of View, or an encyclopedia article about the subject, and write down words you read that may be useful. These can be the first words you can use to search with, also known as search terms.

Think of other words that may mean something similar but are closer to what you want. For instance, you may start out with the search "social media", and then start to use narrower terms like "Facebook" and "mental health" as you develop your topic and decide what to focus on.

Most articles will have a list of Subject Terms. These are key words that you can click on to search articles with the same subject. You can use them to help narrow or filter your search. These are created by the authors or publishers and can be a good source of search terms to use.

Video: Choosing Keywords by Utah State University

Video: Subject Terms vs Keywords by Utah State University

Filtering Results

When searching LibSearch or individual databases, it is helpful to use Filters, also called Facets or Limiters to narrow down your search. Using filters will help you find articles relevant to your search.

Filters are usually located on one side of the database and have multiple options. You may also find some filters in the Advanced Search section of databases or LibSearch.

Alternatively, if you have too few results in your search, click on Expand My Results. LibSearch will show you other resources that do not have full-text access, but will still provide basic information such as title, author, an abstract. If you decide you want the resource, sign in and use the Resource Sharing form and Learning Commons staff will request a copy for you from another library.

Your instructor's directions on which sources they want you to use may provide some key words to help you filter your results. A few examples are:

  • Your instructor asks you to use "Peer Reviewed" sources. You would look for a limit that allows you to only see peer-reviewed sources in your results list. See the section titled "Peer Review" on this webpage for more information.
  • Your instructor asks you to only use sources published within the last 10 years. You would look for a limiter that allows you to choose a date or range of dates to narrow your results.

Video: Narrowing or Broadening Your Search by Utah State University

Need More Help?

Don't hesitate to reach out to us at the contact information on this website!

Advanced Search

Once you have a set of subject terms to work with (see the "Search Terms and Filtering Results" section above), you can use Advanced Search in LibSearch or individual databases to narrow your search.

Advanced search allows you to add, change, or remove search terms as you research your topic. LibSearch and most databases will use Boolean Operators when searching for multiple terms.

Video: Advanced Search Techniques by Boston College

Boolean Operators

AND, OR, and NOT are called Boolean Operators. These words give the database additional information about how to process a search that uses more than one term.

  • AND tells the database to retrieve all of the results that contain both Term A and Term B. It narrows the search by leaving out results in which one term, but not the other, is used.
  • OR tells the database to retrieve all of the results that contain either Term A or Term B. It expands the search to include all instances where either term appears. This will be the largest set of results — remember it as “OR means more.”
  • NOT tells the database to include one term but exclude the other. It narrows the search by leaving out any result that contains the second term.

A Boolean operator should always appear in all capital letters. This tells the database to use the capitalized word as an instruction, not as a word that is part of your search.

You can use Boolean operators with single words and phrases in quotation marks. For example, to search for information on bicycle lanes and traffic safety, link the two phrases together with AND, such as seen below:

"bicycle lanes" AND "traffic safety"

Source JSTOR: Research Basics for Students

Video: Boolean Operators by North Carolina State University

Saving Results

When you are searching for articles, books, or material you may use in your classwork, it is very important to regularly save ones that may be relevant or catch your interest. It is very easy to forget how you found the article once you close your browser, or try to find the exact same article a week later.

The Learning Commons recommends you save your results using the LibSearch search engine, which contains all of the databases MPCC subscribes to. Use the Favorites function by using the Pin icon next to each source.

Video: How to Save Your Favorites in LibSearch by Mid-Plains Community College

Need More Help?

Don't hesitate to reach out to us at the contact information on this website!

Accessing Full-Text Articles

When you are searching for articles to use in your classwork, sometimes the result will not have the entire article available for you to view. It may only have a citation and abstract of the article.

When using the LibSearch search engine, all articles in the results are full-text by default. That means you can view the entire article. Each database has a different icon and location for where to download the full-text article, but it will always use a combination of the words full text.

Video: Viewing and Downloading Full-Text Articles by Mid-Plains Community College

If you find an article you would like to view, but it does not have the full-text available, submit an interlibrary loan request and the Learning Commons will request a copy for you.

Reading a Scholarly Article

Scholarly articles are intimidating at first. Often these articles are long, with section headings, reference lists, charts, and graphs.

Most people do not read scholarly articles start to finish like a book, especially when looking for sources to use in research. They jump between sections to determine if the article is relevant and how much of it they want or need to read.

Some sections commonly found in a scholarly article include:

  • Abstract (a summary of the article)
  • Introduction (the purpose or thesis of the article)
  • Literature Review (summary of other research on the topic)
  • Methodology (how they did the research)
  • Results (what they found out from the research)
  • Discussion/Analysis (what the authors think the results mean)
  • Conclusion (what was learned from the research)

Use the following method when reading a scholarly article. Your instructor may only want you to read certain parts of an article. If you are not sure, ask your instructor for clarification.

If at any step you decide the article is not relevant to your research, you can stop and move on to another article.

  1. Know what you are looking for or what your research question is before you start reading the article
  2. Read the Abstract and determine if the article is relevant to your research
  3. Read the Introduction to find out more information about the article and its purpose
  4. Read the Conclusion to decide if the article helps with your research question
  5. Read the Methodology to see how the research was done or conducted
  6. Read the Results to see what the findings or outcome of the research was
  7. Read the Discussion/Analysis to find out what the authors think the results means

Video: Reading a Scientific Article by Utah State University

Need More Help?

Don't hesitate to reach out to us at the contact information on this website!

If you can’t find the item you are looking for in LibSearch even when using Expand My Results (see the section Search Terms and Filtering Results for a how-to guide on expanding your results), we can request it from another institution - at no charge to you! To request an interlibrary loan, please click on this link and complete the form.

Both MPCC Learning Commons locations use the Library of Congress shelving system. When you find a physical item in LibSearch, it will have a call number. The call number tells you where the item is located on the shelf and contains a combination of letters and numbers, such as:

Q162 .N68 2018

The first one or two letters and following numbers are the subject of the book. You can find a list of subjects organized by letter and number at this link.

Letters and numbers after that represent the author's name. The date at the end of the call number is the publication date of the book.

When searching on the shelf for the item, read the numbers line by line. For our example call number, you would use the following logic:

Q will be located after the P section
Q162 would be located after the Q161 section
.N would be located after .M
.N68 would be located after .N67
2018 would be located after 2017

Video: Finding a Book on the Shelf by Call Number by Mid-Plains Community College

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Don't hesitate to ask at the front desk or reach out to us at the contact information on this website!