Empower - An in-depth interactive tutorial to learn how to identify your information need, search for information, evaluate sources, use information, and cite information.

Research can be overwhelming. Even trained librarians can be overwhelmed at times with all the research options and searching features. But as you do more and more research, it does get easier.

Before you begin to search, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is it exactly that I am looking for?
- What information do I need?
- Where am I likely to find this information?
- What words are likely to appear in the article, text, or page?

Now that you understand what you need, you need to select the right databases, search fields, and words to search.

Books, eBooks, DVDs, and other physical items

  • The Library Catalog, which includes items from Peru State College, Chadron State College, and Wayne State College, is a database of all physical items in the libraries as well as our eBooks.
  • For only books and eBooks, use the "Book & eBook" search box or limit your results in the Library Catalog.
  • Under "Find/Search," the eBook web page allows searching ProQuest eBook Central an EBSCOhost Academic eBook Collection.
  • is a library catalog for national and international libraries. You will need to use interlibrary loan to obtain access to these items so you may want to make sure that our library doesn't have the sources you need. Physicainterlibraryry loan items can take up to 2 weeks to arrive because of location and shipping.


  • You can also use the "Articles" search box to search all our databases except the three that aren't compatible with EBSCOhost.
  • Subject specific databases are  perfect when you want to focus your searches to your topic. You may consult a research guide to discover the best databases for each subject or use the list under "Find/Search" > "Articles (Databases)."
  • Google Scholar is a free search engine that only searches the scholarly portion of the Internet. Be sure to evaluate articles before using them to avoid using inaccurate/bias information published in a predatory journal.

Web Pages

For web pages, use your favorite search engine such as Google or Bing.

Search fields indicate what parts of a database you are searching. Unlike search engines (e.g. Google, Bing) that have only one point of access (keyword), the library's databases have several.

The four most common are:

  • keyword - use any words but not all results will be relevant (default choice in databases),
  • subject - all results are relevant but must use exact words for the database (Hint: Start with a keyword search and then look at a few results to see what words are being used in the subjects and try them.),
  • author - search only for works by the author, and
  • title - search only the title.

Brainstorm or mind map words that are relevant to the information you need. Are there any synonyms, slang, or regional words?

Start with a keyword search. Browse some of the results. Are there any words that appear that seem more appropriate? How would using them affect your search?

Remember to use Boolean to link terms together.

  • AND - narrows search results
  • OR - broadens search results
  • NOT - limits search results (Use the minus sign in search engines to remove terms from results.)

Phrase search - place a phrase between quote marks ("") (e.g. "global warming")

Truncation - use an asterisk (*) after the root of a word to find all variations of the word (e.geducatat* will retrieve educate, educators, education, educates, ...)

Wildcard - use a question mark (?) to replace one letter in a word (e.gwomom?n will retrieve woman and women)

Add limiters to your search to focus it (e.g. full text articles, scholarly journal articles).

You will be prompted to log in with your myPSC login information when you attempt to access any password-protected resources or sources.

If your login doesn't work, try resetting your password through TrueYou. Contact the Library if you need further assistance.

Peru State College Library Handbook - Learn about the Library and how to find information

Information Literacy and Research Skills - Four tutorials to help with citing sources, researching topics, avoiding plagiarism, and writing in college

Just Right Topics

Once you have a topic, make sure it fits your assignment. Just like the fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bearsyou want your topic to be just right for your assignment, not too broad and not too narrow.

Broad topics are too general and have little to no direction. They are difficult to cover in detail in your assignment and are hard to research because there is too much information.

Broad topics retrieve hundreds or more results when you search.

Large bear

Broad topic example: Bears


Narrow topics are too focused. They can be covered in specific detail but not meet the required size of your assignment. They are difficult to research because there isn’t much information.

Narrow topics retrieve less than 10 results when you search. This can also happen if the topic is too current.

Small bear

Narrow topic example: Bears in Nebraska folktales


Just right topics have a focus and a direction for your research.  They fit the assignment by covering the topic and by meeting the size requirements. Also you can find enough information to examine the topic in detail.
Medium bear

Just right topic example: Bears in fairy tales and folktales

Icon Attributions

Icon Credits

 Scholarly journals contain articles that havescholarly journal undergone a "peer review" process. Scholars and experts in the subject (the author's peers) review the information and decide if it should be published or rejected. This process ensures the highest quality of scholarship is published. They are also called peer reviewed or refereed journals.

Scholarly Journals have:

  • citations supporting the author's research.
  • author is a scholar or expert in the subject.
  • language is associated with the field.
  • charts and tables.

To find scholarly journals, check the limit results box for "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals", "Peer reviewed", or "Scholarly journals" when you search.  You will retrieve only journal articles.

Trade magazines contain articles on topics trade magazinerelevant to that trade or career. They are written by specialists in that field or journalists and are for in people in that trade.

Trade magazines:

  • are not peer reviewed.
  • may or may not have citations.
  • have an author that is a specialist in the field or a journalist.
  • have an audience that is people in that trade.

Popular magazines contain articles on topics popular magazineof popular interest and current events. They are written by journalists and are for the general public.

Magazines have:

  • no citations.
  • author is a journalist.
  • audience is general public.

An empirical article reports research based on observations or experiments. The research may use quantitative research methods, which uses numerical data, or qualitative research methods, which objectively and critically analyzes behaviors, feelings, or values with few or no numerical date.

Empirical articles:

  • are published in scholarly journals.
  • have an abstract that mentions a study, data collected, survey, interview, assessment, observation, or questionnaire.
  • usually contains the following sections: introduction, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion, and references.

To find empirical articles in:

  • PsycINFO, limit search to Peer Reviewed.
  • Academic Search Complete, Business Source Elite, and Education Research Complete, limit search to Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals.
  • ERIC, select Yes for Peer Reviewed.
  • ProQuest databases, limit search to Scholarly journals.
  • JSTOR requires no limiter since all the articles are from scholarly journals.

You may also add the terms STUDY or STUDIES in the final search box after your other search terms to further focus your search.

Primary sources are original documents or physical objects usually written, created, or produced during the event or time period. It is first-hand information.

To search for primary sources add one of these words - charters, case studies, correspondence, diary, documentary films, early works, interviews, letters, manuscripts, pamphlets, personal narrative, public opinion, songs and music, speeches, statistics, statues

Secondary sources interprets and analyzes primary sources. It is second-hand information.

Discipline Example of Primary Source Example of Secondary Source
Art Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa Critique of Renaissance painting
Business NASDAQ stock quotes Analysis of the stock
Criminal Justice Court report Book on criminal procedure
Education Speech by Secretary of Education Education textbook
History Interview with a Vietnam War veteran eBook on the Vietnam War
Literature The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck Literary criticism on novel
Music Beethoven's 5th Symphony Biography on Ludwig Beethoven
Sciences Scientific results of an experiment Magazine article reporting on the experiment

Information Literacy and Research Skills - Find and Cite Sources - Select the Find and Cite Sources tutorial to learn about sources and how to cite them

Boolean Logic

Link words together with AND, OR, NOT.

AND - narrows a search (e.g. global warming AND United States)

OR - broadens a search (e.g. global warming AND United States OR Canada)

Best to use with synonyms, slang, or related words.

NOT - limits a search (e.g. global warming AND United States NOT Alaska)

Phrase Searching - Place a phrase between quote marks ("") (e.g. "global warming" AND United States)

Truncation - Use an asterisk (*) at the end of the root of a word to retrieve all variations of the word (e.geducatat* will search for educate, educators, education, educates, ...)

Wildcard - Use a question mark (?) to replace one character in a word (e.gwomom?n will search for woman and women)

Limiters - Focus your results by limiting to full text, publication types (e.g. magazines), document type (e.g. article), language, publication date, and more

Articles in Scholarly Journals - Check the limit results box for "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals", "Peer reviewed", or "Scholarly journals" when you search.

Empirical Articles - Limit results to scholarly journals and add the terms "Study" and/or "Studies" to search.

AND - the default or use a plus sign (+) (or AND in Bing) in front of a word to include it (e.g. Taming +of +the Shrew)

NOT - use a minus sign (-) (or NOT in Bing) to exclude a word (e.g. will remove commercial websites; Taming +of +the Shrew

Phrase Searching - most helpful when searching the Internet by retrieving more relevant results (e.g. "Taming of the Shrew")

Search engines remove common or stop words such as THE, A, OF, IN, ON, etc. from your search. If you need to include a stop word, use phrase searching or use the plus sign (+) in front of the word. (e.g. "Taming of the Shrew" or Taming +of +the Shrew)

Search Titles of Web Sites - Use intitle: followed by words you want in the title (e.gintitlele:"Taming of the Shrew")

Search for a File Type - use filetype: followed by the file type extension (e.g. "global warming filetype:PDF)

Search a Specific Website - use site: followed by the domain name (e.g. graduation

figure content

Created by International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions

The SIFT Method

Created by the University of Oregon Libraries using the idea by Mike Caulifield

Plagiarism Spectrum

From Turnitin. (2012). The plagiarism spectrum: Tagging 10 types of unoriginal work. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from

Plagiarism is an act of fraud, the unauthorized taking of someone’s work and lying about it.

It is claiming someone’s work as your own, using someone’s work without giving credit, and presenting ideas as original when derived from existing information.

Intellectual property or creations of the mind are protected by U.S. copyright laws.

To keep from plagiarizing, cite your sources.

Providing citations tell readers and professors where the information came from and give credit to the individuals whose ideas, thoughts, experiences, and words appear in your work.

Provide a citation when you:
– use a direct quote from a source
– summarize or paraphrase a source
– use facts and ideas that are not common knowledge

Common knowledge is information that is stated in many different sources or is so well-known that it doesn’t need to be cited (e.g. water is comprised of 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen).

When summarizing or paraphrasing, read the text and then without looking at it write what you just read in your own words.

Understand and Avoid Plagiarism - A tutorial on plagiarism and how to avoid it

Intellectual Property are creations of the mind. They are songs, books, scientific formulas, plays, drawings, emails, Facebook posts, or anything that is written, recorded (audio and visual), drawn, invented, or created.

All intellectual property is protected by copyright even if it is not registered or does not have the copyright symbol ©.

Fair Use permits the limited use of the works of others in certain circumstances. These are only general rules rather than definitive ones. This was done to avoid limiting its definition and allowing it to be open to interpretation much like free speech.

You need to consider four factors when deciding if it qualifies for Fair Use.

Is it for commercial use? Will you be paid? If so, it isn't allowed under Fair Use.

Is it for nonprofit educational purposes or commercial? If so, it is allowed with Fair Use.

Is it transformative, meaning it adds something new and isn't a substitute for the original use of the work? If so, it is allowed with Fair Use.

However, remember that Fair Use isn't set rules. Courts balance the purpose and character of the use along with other factors to decide if it is fair or not. In other words, not all educational purposes are fair nor all commercial uses unfair.

Is it a published work? If so, it is allowed more under Fair Use unlike an unpublished work, which would be less supported.

Is it factual or nonfiction based? If so, it is allowed more under Fair Use. Highly creative works such as music, movies, plays, novels, works of fiction are less supported.

Is the objective educational? If so, it is allowed more under Fair Use.

Are you only using a small portion of the work? Fair Use is more likely rather than if you are using a large portion of the work.

Are you using an important part or "heart" of the work? If so, it wouldn't be considered Fair Use.

Does the use harm the market (i.e. the buying and selling) of the work? If it does, it isn't Fair Use.

Courts consider if the use is harming the market for the original work by displacing sales. An example of an unfair use that would hurt the market of a work would be photocopying a workbook rather than buying it.

Fair Use Checklist: Introduction – Columbia University Libraries/Information Services

Fair Use Evaluator – American Libraries Association

Fair Use Checklist Tools – University of Minnesota

Your library login for all library resources except the Library Catalog is the same as your myPSC login, what you use to register for classes and view your class schedule.

To create a login for the Library Catalog, you first must register your PSC ID to be used as your library card. If you don't have a PSC ID, the library can provide you with a generic library card.

After you have a library account, your login will be your name and your NUID. If you don't have a NUID, please contact the library and we will setup your password.

There are two ways to access the library’s online resources. You use a search box or select the hyperlinked title of any resource. You will be prompted for your library login before the resource opens. Your library login is the same as your myPSC login information.

You will remain logged into the library until you close your browser (e.g. Internet Explorer, Google, Chrome, Firefox).

Downloading an eBook depends on the provider.

Instructions for ProQuest eBook Central

Instructions for EBSCO eBooks

If you are off-campus, you must add in front of the URL for the article. This directs the link to go through the library's password protection system. Once it is added to the URL, you will be prompted to log into the library and then the article will open.