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S-STEM Scholars Library Research Guide: Home

Library Research Guide for the NSF S-STEM scholars to use for their research over the summer.

Library Spaces & Services

group selfie iconIntroduction

In order to learn more about the library spaces and people that can help you, you will go on a    selfie-tour   in groups. But first, consider the following questions to reflect on what you already know about libraries:

  • How have you used libraries in the past? What kinds of things were you looking for?
  • How did you find things within the library?
  • Were you comfortable in the library? Why or why not?


Now, let's create our own tour! You'll do this by asking your own questions about the library that you want answered. Then you will move around the library with your group to find the answers.

Step 1: Brainstorm questions on this padlet. (Click the + in the circle to add questions). Click the heart if you want to upvote someone else's question.

Step 2: Vote on the questions that everyone wants answered and write them on your selfie sheet.

Step 3: Go through the library to find your answers! Once you do, take a selfie with all of your group members and the answer.

Step 4: Post your selfies on the Padlet for your assigned Team. Give them a "Subject" in the form of a descriptive #hashtag.

Step 5: Be prepared to discuss your pictures and your answers.

magnifying glass with question mark iconFor more about library spaces, check out our Wayfinding Guide.

Getting Started with Research

Circular process icon with light bulb, pencil, puzzle piece, and bar graph.Understanding the Research Process

How do you start when you investigate a new topic? For example, if a friend of yours was recently diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and they asked you to help them understand what that is and what treatment options are available, what would you do?

After you understand the basics, where would you go next?

Remember, research is a process AND research can be messy. Check out the diagrams on this University of Illinois Introduction to Library Research guide.

magnifying glass with question mark iconFor more, watch the video: The Research Process Part 1 (Pre-Research) and Part 2 (In-Depth Research, Outlining, and Writing

checklist iconBrainstorming Keywords

Before you can start looking for information, you need to decide which keywords/search terms to use. During your library research workshop, you will work with your group to break a research topic into its main ideas or concepts and then brainstorm related keywords. 

After brainstorming keywords with the group, fill out the first part of the S-STEM Scholars Library Research Worksheet.

magnifying glass with question mark iconIf you would like to learn more about keywords, check out this Tutorial: Choosing and Using Keywords

eBook iconFinding Background Sources

Background sources are a good place to start your research, so that you can learn the basics and the vocabulary that is used to describe your topic. 

Try finding some background sources on the example topic used in your workshop. Use some of the keywords that you brainstormed as a group. You can:

  • Search Google or another web browser



Write down your sources on your S-STEM Scholars Library Research Worksheet and also keep track of any additional keywords that you might find. You can put any additional keywords in row 3 of your Brainstorming Keywords chart.

magnifying glass with question mark iconFor more: Tutorial: Background Research Tips 


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Finding Scholarly Articles

Magnifying glass with text iconRecognizing Scholarly Articles

Before you can start searching for scholarly articles, you must understand what they are. Consider the following questions about them:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the content? What are the sections?
  • What is the purpose?
  • What is the writing like?

woman on a computer iconSearching for Scholarly Articles

Where can I find them?

Scholarly articles are typically located within specific databases. There are general databases that cover a variety of subjects that can be good for interdisciplinary topics. Or, there are subject databases that are specific to a particular discipline, like Biology or Engineering. Subject databases can be found on the library Subject Guides in the right column of this guide.

Give the general databases below a try.


magnifying glass with question mark iconFor more info: Video: Choosing a Database 


How can I find them?


You have already generated numerous keywords/search terms you can use to find scholarly articles during your workshop.


  • The more specific you can be about your topic, the better.
  • Make sure to represent each concept in your searches.
  • Try multiple searches with different combinations of keywords.
  • Reflect on which words seem to be working and which don't.
Refine Your Search

Make sure to use the tools within the database to refine your search. Options to more efficiently find relevant results usually include:

  • Selecting a field to search
  • Limiting by date
  • Limiting by source type
  • Limiting by subject

Additional Advanced Search features are also available in most Subject Databases.

Follow the directions on your S-STEM Scholars Library Research Worksheet to find a few scholarly articles and record the citation information so you can find them again.

magnifying glass with question mark iconFor more info: 

  • Video: Refining Search Results Students will learn techniques to conduct effective background research using multiple keywords in order to narrow in on a research focus.
  • Tutorial: Search Techniques, Part 1 This tutorial will help students master searching library resources such as scholarly databases—starting with choosing keywords, then putting them together to retrieve accurate results.
  • Tutorial: Search Techniques, Part 2 This tutorial covers: Full-text searching, Field searching, Subject searching and thesaurus, Truncation/wildcards, and Limiting your search.

Man reading a book iconReading Scholarly Articles

Reading scholarly articles is not an easy thing to do. Remember, they are written by experts FOR experts. Check out this article written from a student's perspective about reading scholarly articles. Then, check out how actual scientists read scholarly articles

As you see, there are some strategies you can use to make reading these articles easier. The main one is to NOT read the article straight through the first time you read it. See the video below for a different reading order.

Take notes on how to read a scholarly article on your S-STEM Scholars Library Research Worksheet. Then practice reading and identifying the main points of the article selected voted on in the workshop.

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Science Librarian

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Melissa Gold

Phone: 717-871-7124

Office: McNairy Library 205

Computer Science & Math Librarian

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Scott Anderson
Office: Library,
Lower Level 102A ( LL102A )

Robotics Librarian

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Krista Higham

Phone: 717-871-5511

Office: McNairy Library LL102B

Top Links


Subject Guides

Synthesis Tools

icon of a tool boxTools for Synthesis


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