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Research 101: Where to Search

Understanding Where To Search

Deciding Where to Search 

What type(s) of sources might you need? 
Does your assignment recommend certain source types (e.g. peer-reviewed articles, newspaper articles, data, books, videos)? What role do sources play in the project? 

Reference articles for background:  database like Gale Virtual Reference Library contains background articles usually written by professors to provide an overview of a topic. Reference articles can help you become more familiar with the important questions, events, and people within your topic and the vocabulary used by experts that can help you with later searches. These are often a good places to start your research.

News Sources: Newspaper and news magazine articles are good for current information on recent events. You can use OneSearch, go to our databases that contain newspaper articles. Also remember that you can have a free digital subscription to the New York Times, which has a search feature online, at the top left corner.

Books: Books are good resources for more in-depth exploration of a topic. Remember that sometimes when you use a book for research, you might just need to use one relevant chapter, so don't hesitate to use books because you think you don't have time to read the whole thing. For more help finding books, visit Finding Books on Your Topic.

Peer-reviewed scholarly articles: These articles are usually about original research, and are highly specific and written by and for experts. For more guidance, look at Finding Peer-Reviewed Articles.

Primary Sources: These are first-hand accounts like letters, diaries, testimonies, photographs, records, and other documents that serve as a direct record of events. See our databases that contain Primary Sources

For more information, see "What kinds of sources should I use?"

Government sources:  The New York City government has a wealth of sources at 

New York State has a portal for state agencies.

The US Census Bureau provides useful information about the population.

In general, adding the words to any Google search will limit your results to government websites.

Still not sure where to search? Ask a librarian!

Background sources

Reference resources (often used for background information, and so called background articles) help you get more familiar with the important questions, events, and people within your topic and the vocabulary used by experts that can help you with later searches. These are often a good places to start your research. Here are two different ways to find reference articles (for more info, see the video on this page).

1. Using a reference article-only database

You can use a database like Gale Virtual Reference Library to find background articles in academic encyclopedias, usually written by professors to provide an overview of a topic. Gale Virtual Reference Library has articles on a wide range of topics.


2. Using OneSearch to find reference articles 

In OneSearch, to limit your results to reference articles, use the "resource type" filter on the right and select "Reference Resources".

resource type filter on the right

PLEASE NOTE: this list is arranged A-Z. If you don't see the words "Reference Resources" you need to click on "show more" to see the whole list.

show more

reference resources circled


Should I use a discipline-specific database?

What is a database?

Databases are collections of information. Library research databases are collections of articles from journals, magazines, and other publications that are available to you because you pay tuition to Hostos, and the Hostos Library pays to gain access to those publications.

Why might I want a discipline-specific database?

Databases are organized by disciplines like psychology, history, law, etc. If you are sure you only want those published within a specific field, you should use a discipline-specific database.

Why might I want to search across several different databases at once?

Many research topics can be approached from different disciplines.

For example, the subject of race relations in prisons might be explored by scholars in different disciplines such as sociology, law, criminal justice, public policy, psychology, or ethnic studies.

Depending on your assignment, articles from many different databases could be relevant and useful to you.

If you are looking for articles from a wide range of disciplines, OneSearch is helpful because it searches mulltiple databases at once. OneSearch may not have every single article that we have on a subject, but it is a great place to start.

If you want to only look within databases within a specific academic field (only psychology, only English literature, only history, etc.), select a you can select subject area from our list of databases: click on the menu and then click on the discipline.

After that, you will see a list of databases, like this:English lit databases

Note that we have highlighted some of the "best bets" - try these first.



How to get to a specific database from the Hostos home page



how to get to the library from the home page(1) Go to the library website from the main Hostos page.


homepage database tab circled(2) Find our list of databases (library database = collection of publications)

homepage database dropdown menu (3) If you know the name of the database you want, you can pick it from the dropdown menu.


Using OneSearch

You can search many types of documents through OneSearch.  Enter your key words in the search box.

  • Remember that a great search strategy is to be flexible with your keywords, trying different synonyms and related terms.
  • The way we describe something may or may not be the way someone else does, so trial-and-error is a normal part of searching.
  • Click here for more tips if your searches are not finding you what you want.

OneSearch front page

Once you have a results list, you can filter it to see certain types of documents, for example books or reference resources or newspaper articles.

filter by resource type



 Go back to getting startedgo to OneSearchGo to library home page

What are reference resources and how should I use them?

Go back to finding and evaluating sources

 Finding research sources Evaluating research sources