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Pirate Read 2021-2022: The Person You Mean to Be: Exploring Topics

ECU's Pirate Read for 2021-2022

Getting started with your research

The library's collection includes books, articles, films, and a wide range of other publication types.  Which publication type is best for your research will depend on the question you want to investigate.

Books can be terrific for providing depth and context to your question.  If your topic unfamiliar to you?  The background information you find in a good, relevant book may be ideal for your needs.  To find books, use the "One Search" search box on the library home page.  Once you have done an initial search, you can limit your results to only "books/ebooks" or to "physical books from the catalog," whichever you prefer.

Articles, whether from scholarly, newspaper, or popular publications, can be found in either "One Search" or in the library databases. 

This page will walk you through the process of setting up a successful search for books or articles; it will also recommend "best bet" databases based on your topic.


Setting up a successful first search


Every first search is an educated guess about what search terms will best connect you with the articles and books you need.  

Before you begin, think about the concepts that will need to be present in the articles and books you need.  For example, if I am interested in environmental justice issues related to city planning and sustainability, I will definitely want to include the concepts of "environmental justice, "city planning," and "sustainability" in my search for information.  Our three concepts would be:

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
"environmental justice" "City planning"          sustainability      


Now that we know what concepts we want to search, we need to think about other terms authors may be using to describe the same concept.  If authors are using different language to describe the concepts, you may not see their articles or books in your search results. 


Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
"environmental justice" "City planning"          sustainability      
poor people & the environment "urban planning" "environmental policy"
"social justice" zoning conservation
ECO-justice "new urbanism"  


Now that we know what concepts we want to search, we should think about any synonyms or alternate spellings that authors may be using.   

Boolean operators

Now we can combine our search terms with Boolean Operators to construct our first search:

"environmental justice" AND ("city planning" OR "urban planning") AND sustainability

If we searched for information using that string of search terms, our search results would show every article and book that references "environmental justice" and sustainability and either "city planning" or "urban planning." 

What database works best for your topic?

Ask yourself what types of professionals are writing about your topic.  For example, is your topic relevant to educators?  If so, an education database might contain helpful articles.  

With some topics you may want to search more than one body of literature.  For example, if you were writing about environmental justice on college campuses, you may want to consult the environmental sciences literature AND the education literature.  

Below are some promising databases for getting started based on the broad area of your topic.  See which databases are most relevant to your research question.  Are you unfamiliar with databases and want to learn more about what they are and what they contain?  Here's a quick video.

Education themes

Education literature covers a broad area, from early childhood to higher education.   Education themes are generally best searched in education databases.  Two of the best are listed below.  You will find coverage of topics like:

  • transformative learning
  • social justice
  • service learning
  • institutional racism
  • counseling

Social Science themes

Many of the themes found in The Person You Mean to Be center on the individual's role in society and thus are well-represented in social science databases.  Below are three large and popular social science databases.  Examples of topics covered include:

  • empathy and compassion
  • social justice
  • racism and racial injustice
  • hate groups

Business and Management themes

Business literature can feature case studies, content on people management, articles about organizational policies, and much more.  Consider searching the business databases if your topic touches on:

  • business ethics
  • human resources
  • implicit bias
  • advertising

Science and Technology themes

The intersection of