UCB Libraries

Subject Guide Undergraduate Studies

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This guide is intended to help you explore library resources useful for undergraduate research. The pages will step you through many essential aspects of the research process.


You may use the tabs to navigate through resources or click on steps below. You may also Email me or use the chat window on the left with questions!


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Starting your Research

Finding Topic Ideas

Focussing a topic

Getting background info

UCB Research Tutorial

Finding Information

Finding Books

Finding Articles

More Sources

Topic and Subject Guides

Managing & Citing

Citation Styles


Tips & Strategies

CU Honor Code


Finding Topic Ideas | Focussing Your Topic | Finding Background Info


Finding Topic Ideas

Choosing a topic you are interested in can be a difficult step in the research process. You will find a few suggestions for selecting a topic below:

  • Think about what interests you! You want to be engaged with your topic.
  • Draw from recent articles, interviews, blog postings etc. that peaked your interest.
  • Pull from other classes. Is there a topic or issue you wanted to explore more?
  • Choose an issue relevant to your major or career interests.
  • Browse newspapers, encyclopedias, or magazines.

Some resources you may use to generate ideas:


CQ Researcher
An excellent starting point to generate timely topic ideas. Each CQ researcher report provides an introduction to the topic as well as resources for continued research. Provided by UCB libraries.


University of Colorado Government Publications

Hot topic and subject guides developed by UCB government publications librarians. Links and information to a number of highly useful resources.


ProQuest newspapers

Index w/ full-text of articles in Wall Street Journal and 500+ other major U.S. and international newspapers, news wires and other news sources.




Once you have determined a topic, issue or subject of interest, you will need to focus the topic into a researchable question. Some tips for doing so are:

  • Brainstorm about your topic. Identify related issues, people, events etc.
  • List what you already know about your topic, and what you need to know or want to know.
  • What perspective will you take on your topic? There are often many possible perspectives: sociological, economical, political etc.
  • Deternine the geographic region on which you will focus.
  • Choose a specific time period.

Often doing some preliminary reading or background research is extremely helpful in developing a focus. Move to the next step 'Getting Background Info' for some tips.



Getting background info

Reference sources can be an ideal starting point in the research process. Many reference sources will provide you with:

  • an overview and background information on a topic
  • the established knowledge on a topic
  • the most important facts about a topic
  • the key figures, places, or events related to your topic
  • a list of recommended readings on a topic

You may choose to search the internet or newspapers for background information, which may be helpful as well. But keep in mind some of the benefits of reference sources:

  • They have gone through an editorial process
  • They are often written by specialists in the field
  • They do not use jargon
  • They tend to be short and concise

You will find numerous reference sources in the UCB Libraries' collection, both online and in print.

SEARCH your topic in Reference Universe, enter your topic in the search box below:

Reference Universe: This is a searchable database that indexes information from specialized subject encyclopedias. It does not include the full text of reference materials but will point you to reference sources that cover your topic. It searches both the titles of reference articles as well as the encyclopedia / dictionary indexes, providing a thorough level of access to materials and potential sources. CU

Some more CU Reference Source examples:

General Online Encyclopedias:

Encyclopedia Britannica CU
Gale Virtual Reference Library CU
Oxford Digital Reference Shelf CU

World Almanac CU


Specialized Online Encyclopedias:

Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology CU

Encyclopedia for Science and Technology CU

Encyclopedia of Environmental Science and Engineering CU

Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy CU

For more reference source search tips, go to How do I find Reference Sources.



Chinook | Prospector | Interlibrary Loan

Chinook is the catalog for materials owned by the CU Libraries. You can do a title search for a specific book, or a keyword search if you are looking for books on a particular topic. You can also use MyChinook to manage your library account (including renewals, holds, recalls, saved searches, etc.)  


Chinook Catalog


Tutorial: Chinook Keyword Search


For Tips on developing keywords for your topic go to:


How do I Choose Keywords for my search


More Chinook Tutorials


If you search Chinook and find that the CU Libraries do not have the item you are looking for (or if the item you are looking for is checked out), you can search Prospector, which is a combined library catalog of 23 libraries in Colorado and Wyoming. CU students, staff and faculty can request materials through Prospector, and the items will generally be delivered to Norlin within a few business days. prospector prospector


Request through Interlibrary Loan (ILL) - http://ucblibraries.colorado.edu/ill/

If the item you are looking for is not in Chinook or Prospector, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Generally, an ILL request will take longer to be delivered than material requested through Prospector.



Articles By Topic | Choosing a Database | Articles From a Citation

In order to find articles about a particular topic, you will use a library database. UCB Libraries provides access to numerous databases. They are available on the Find Articles and More Page.


You may explore our databases organized by categories and subcategories. Remember to read the descriptions of each database to determine which will suit your needs. Think about disciplines that may be exploring your topic!


Typically you may search by keyword, author, title and more. For help developing keywords, go to How do I Choose Keywords? HINT! Keep track of search terms. Look for database recommended search terms and help resources.


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Tutorial: VPN

The Libraries subscribe to numerous databases and choosing the right article database can be difficult. There are numerous types of databases some will provide citations and abstracts, some will also include full text, some will link to reference materials, and more.There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • What discipline or subject area does your topic fall within? Who is having a conversation on the issue?
  • What perspective are you interested in? (medical, psychological, sociological etc.)
  • What type of material do your need? (scholarly, popular, newspapers)
  • What time period are you researching?

All of these questions will help lead you to a relevant database. Keep in mind that there are a few types of databases.

  • General and Interdisciplinary databases: These databases are a good starting point when you are new to your topic. They often include scholarly and popular sources as well as material from a variety of disciplines and perspetives. For Example: Academic Search Premier

  • Subject or Discipline Databases: These databases will help you find material from specific disciplines. They provide more in-depth and focused research. For Example: Sociological Abstracts or SPORTDiscus
  • Format Specific Databases: These databases are narrowed to specific types of material, such as newspapers, statistics, images, biographies etc. For Example: ProQuest newspapers

REMEMBER! We are here to help, so please ASK US if you need suggestions. You may also choose to meet with a subject specialist librarian for more guidance.

If you have a specific article you need or you are tracking works from a bibliography, you will use:


Find it @ CU Article Finder
Complete this form to find the article in electronic or print.

Tutorial: Find it @ CU Article Finder

OR use the Chinoook Journals/ Serials Title search. Be sure to look for the journal/ magazine title NOT the article title. Then follow the links to the correct volume, issue, year, page number.

Tutorial: Chinook Periodical Title


Citation Styles | RefWorks | Tips & Strategies

Citation Styles

The following guide provides samples of common citation formats. Consult Reference Desk personnel for additional information.


How do I cite and manage citations




Turabian (Chicago)

A personal online database and bibliography creator that allows users to create a personal database online, import references automatically from multiple databases, organize references, and quickly format bibliographies and manuscripts. You will need to create a login and password. Provided by the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries.


How do I use RefWorks?


Pick an Interesting Topic It is easier to express your own opinions and thoughts if you are interested in the topic.


Manage Your Time

Many students are tempted to plagiarize because they do not start researching and writing far enough in advance. Start your paper at least 3 weeks before the due date. Plagiarism could compromise your entire academic career. Speak to your professor if you have run out of time.


Create a Bibliography as you Research

Record the sources you consult. Include all the bibliographic information needed in your works cited (Author, Title, Pages, Publisher, Year, Volume, Issue).This will help you to cite correctly and to compile your works cited.


Take Clear Notes

Designate all direct quotes with quotation marks.

Designate when you are paraphrasing.

Electronic Research and Note taking is the same: Use quotation marks when you cut and paste.

Always note the source/ author.


Be Careful with Paraphrasing

Be sure you understand the text.

Do not look at the original source when writing your paraphrase.

Reorganize the information in your own words and in your own style.

Check to be sure you have not used the vocabulary or structure of the original work.

Mention the author near or in your paraphrase.


And Remember to Cite:

Any information that was not originally created by you:
  • Quotations
  • Key terms or phrases
  • Ideas
  • Facts not broadly known
  • Images and Sounds
Any material from another source regardless of where you found it:
  • Printed sources
  • Electronic sources
  • Conversation or email
  • Recorded sources
  • Images