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Intensive American Language Center (IALC): Level 5 Research Assignment

This guide will help you to conduct research on themes this semester of World/Public Health, Climate Change, and Immigration.

Getting started!

It is extremely helpful to do a little bit of "pre-searching" before you begin your research. Pre-searching means that you are trying to gain a better understanding of your topic, BEFORE you start to find and organize research for your paper. It is an informal way of exploring your topic.

  • You will be looking to see what has already been written on your topic, and if there are enough resources that will help you to pursue your topic.
  • It will also help you to narrow and refine your topic, as you will be able to see if you find something specific that sounds interesting.
  • It will also help you to find keywords that will allow you to search the library databases and catalog.

To learn more about pre-searching, click on this guide!

You can also visit some of these databases to search for your topic. These databases include encyclopedias and other broad resources that will help you gain an understanding of the background of your topic.

You can also go directly to some of these databases (if you do not want to sift through another research guide). Here are a few databases where you will find a variety of resources that will help you learn more about the background of your topic, help you to narrow your topic, and help you to find keywords. HAVE FUN EXPLORING!


Library staff and faculty may use words that are unfamiliar to you. Below are the words you will hear most often in a library. For more words, check out the University of Illinois-Urbana University Library Glossary of Library Terms.

Atlas – A book of maps.

Author – This is the person who wrote a book or article.

Call number – This is the letter and number combination that is used to identify the location of a book on the shelf. It is like the address of the book. You can find this number pasted onto the book’s cover.

Catalog – The library catalog is online and holds information about all of the library’s books. You can search for a book on any topic using keywords. In the catalog, you will find a book’s title, author, and call number.

Checkout – This is the action to take a book home. “I would like to checkout a book” means “I would like to take this book home.”

Circulation  This is the desk where you go to checkout your books (like to "circulate" a book).

Database – This is a central place that holds information, resources, and data. The library subscribes to several databases that you can use for your research to get good, scholarly resources for your assignments. You can also find newspaper articles, magazine articles, images, video and audio clips, and much more.

Dictionary – These books describe the meanings of words. Some dictionaries are written in more than one language and allow you to look up the English translation of a word in your language.

Due date – This is the date that you must return a book.

Encyclopedia – A large set of books (more than one volume) that contain short articles about almost any topic you can imagine. These articles will provide an overview of the topic, including key terms, dates, places, and more.

Fiction – Stories that are not true, or that never really happened.

Keyword – This is a word related to your topic that you use to search the library catalog and databases for information. For example, if you want a biography on Abraham Lincoln, the keywords would be “biography” and “Abraham Lincoln.”

Non-fiction – Stories that are true.

Peer-reviewed – When an article is reviewed by experts in the field before it gets published. This ensures that each published article is accurate and current.

Plagiarism – This occurs when you copy someone else's words or ideas and do not give them credit. Plagiarism results in many negative consequences, including possibly failing a course.

Reference – This department assists students and faculty with research. If you need help finding resources (books, articles) for your paper, then visit the reference desk.

Renew – To check out a book again. If you already have a book checked out and you want to keep it longer, you can “renew” your book at the circulation desk.

Scholarly – A “scholarly” book or article is one that is written by an expert. It is also often reviewed by other experts in that subject (“peer-reviewed”) to make sure that the research and writing is good before it gets published.

Stacks – The shelves that hold the books that you can to checkout.

Subject – This is what the book is ABOUT. For example, the book could be about biology, math, history, or geography. Books are grouped together on the shelf according to their SUBJECT.

Title – This is the name of a book or article.

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