Library Research Guides > ENG 104 College Writing

ENG 104 College Writing

Part 1: Choosing A topic & Question

This tutorial will cover how to explore an area of interest and narrow down to a specific topic you can use for an assignment.

Explore Topic Ideas Broadly

Watch short excerpts from these two videos to learn how to complete preliminarily research.

TIP: Need some suggestions?

  1. Try starting with your textbook or syllabus and look for course relevant topics of interest. 
  2. This website organizes topic ideas by subject: Research Topic Ideas (Website)
  3.  Read an encyclopedia entry about your topic:
    1. Try one of our Encyclopedia Databases:
      Opposing Viewpoints in Context (Click Browse to see a list of all topics)

    2. Search For an encyclopedia in Primo

How to Use Wikipedia

Writing your Question

You’re ready to choose a possible research question to test search.

Remember, your research question should:

  • fit the requirements of the assignment (assignment length, type of argument, source type requirements)
  • Be answered with evidence from information sources (not yes/no questions)
The 4 W questions often help with this: What, Where, When, Why

 For example:

Q: What is the negative affect of water pollution on children’s development in the United States in the last 10 years?
  • What: affect on child development
  • Where: United States
  • When: 2008-2018
  • Why/How: Water Pollution


Choose Keywords

Library searching requires specific formatting. New to searching with keywords? Watch this short video to learn the basics.

For more information, check out the Using Databases Guide

Create a Search Plan

Write or type your search plan (See example below)

Questions to Answer with your Search Plan:

  • Information Authority: Who is an expert on this topic?
    •  Possible answers: government officials, researchers, scholars, professionals (teachers, nurses, ect), first-hand witnesses
  • Information need: What type of information do I need from experts?
    • Possible answers: data, arguments, facts, background information, opinions,
  • Source type: What format/sources will this information be in?
    • Possible answers: books, newspapers, journal articles, magazines, journals, websites
  • Search Tool: In what search tools will I find these sources?
    • Possible answers: Primo, Library database, Google Scholar, Google,
  • Search Terms/Keywords: what terms or keywords will I use to search?
    • hint: use academic vocabulary for finding scholarly sources

Sample Search Plan:

Authority: government officials, researchers
Information need: proof that water pollution caused or contributed to poor development in children.
Primary Sources: children’s health data, research studies,
Secondary Sources: journal articles, magazine articles, websites(?)
Search tools: Primo,  Academic Search Complete Database,
Keywords: water pollution, water safety, United States, child development, child health, disease, illness,

Where are my sources located?

Library Locations different resources

Part 2: Databases

This tutorial contain information about the basics of searching most of the CUW databases.

General Database Searching

Click on CC icon on the bottom of the video for captions

Subject Terms

Subject terms: a standardized word or phrase describing a topic or concept.

Click on CC icon on the bottom of the video for captions

Reading a Database Record

Databases provide metadata, which is information about the item you have found, that can be used to evaluate the item.

Click on CC icon on the bottom of the video for captions

Using Specific Databases

Most CUW library databases are from one of 3 providers/venders: Ebscohost, ProQuest, or Gale. Each provider has a unique interface for searching. You must be logged in to Portal to access databases off-campus.

Which Provider is it?

In the Databases A-Z list, the provider/vendor is always listed in parenthesis after the database.

A-z databases list

Inside the database, look for the provider logo near the database title.

Ebscohost databases
Proquest vender database
Gale Vender Database

Part 3: Get to Know Primo

Watch both videos or read through the tabs to learn about our discovery layer Primo™

Recommended: watch in full-screen by double clicking on video. 

Primo Features

Primo interface features

Primo™ includes scholarly, professional,  popular, and news sources.

  • Primo™ search results favor two things: newer materials & words that match in the title.
  • Broad search terms = more books and encyclopedias
  • Specific search terms = more articles
  • Primo™ contains your library account where you renew and request items.

What does Primo™ Search?

Most CUW Databases  
CUW Library Catalog
SWITCH Libraries Catalog
Open Access Resources (Repositories & International Materials)

To Login:

1. Click the sign in link in the top menu bar.


2. Choose CUW Portal.

3. Enter your CUW Portal Login and Password.

  1. Always sign in to Primo™. Some resources require sign-in to appear in search results, even on campus.
  2. Enter a few keywords in the search box and choose the correct scope from the drop down options.
  3.  Don’t use stop words: the, a, an, for, on, 
  4. Use Subject, Publication Date, and Resource Type Filters on the left side to reduce large numbers of search results.

The top menu bar links to additional tools. Primo top menu options


When to Use Primo™

  • You want to see if CUW Library has access to a particular item
  • You want a wide variety of source types
  • Your topic is interdisciplinary (more than one subject area) or you need multiple points-of-view

When to Use a Subject Specific Database

  • You need to run a very specific search (e.g. a peer-reviewed research article describing evidence based practice, written by a nurse).
  • You need subject-specific primary sources.

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