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Library Research Basics: Getting Started

Tips on how to find books and articles in the library and on how to research and write a paper.

The Assignment

Understanding Your Assignment

Before you begin your research, you should make sure you understand your assignment. Some good questions are:

How many pages should it be?
How many sources do I need?
What kinds of sources? Books,
   articles, websites? Scholarly or
   popular articles?

In what format should it be

Assignment Calculator

San Jose State's Assignment Calculator is a good resource to help you determine how much time you have to complete various aspects of your research and writing, given your starting date and due date.

Encyclopedias & Background Information

If you are having difficulty selecting a topic, sometimes the best idea is to begin with a general topic and then let your background reading lead you to a more specific idea. Background research in an encyclopedia or other general source can also

  • Provide a good overview of the subject.
  • Help you identify important facts related to your topic -- dates, events, history, overviews.
  • Help you refine your topic by suggesting ways to broaden or narrow a subject
  • Identify keywords and related terms
  • Lead you to bibliographies that you can use to find additional sources of information.

Use one of the resources below to start your research:

Search the Library

Use OneSearch to find books and e-books, videos, articles, digital media, and more. Make sure you sign-in with your CWID to get the best user experience.

search everything

Off-Campus Access

For off-campus access to the online databases and eBooks, you'll need your student ID.

You can also renew your books online from home.

Chat with a Librarian

If you need immediate research assistance, chat with a librarian online! A librarian is online M-TH 8am-7pm and F 8am-2pm.

Contact Us


Reference Desk
(650) 949-7608

Circulation & Reserve
(650) 949-7611

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