This guide includes the basics you'll need for doing library research for your San Diego community study. There are sections on general library research, San Diego new sources, finding journal articles, local government & community resources, an overview of the U.S. Decennial Census & more.
Start by looking at the Community Profiles and plans from the City of San Diego.
Don't hesitate to contact me directly for research assistance. For help with basic questions, you can also use the 24/7 chat reference service; be aware that a librarian from outside UCSD may respond to the question, and they may end up referring you back to me.
Library Research Step by Step
Library Research Step by Step
Choose your topic.
- Develop your research question, hypothesis, or thesis statement. In this case, you'll be researching a San Diego community over time
- Break that statement into key concepts and variables you want to explore, e.g.[San Diego community name], variables that often affect communities
- Think of other ways to phrase those concepts. Use synonyms. Consider more specific words (to narrow your focus) or more general terms (to expand your search), e.g.
Community name: official community name, neighborhoods within the larger community, major streets, major businesses/buildings/geographic features, major people (council members, developers, philanthropists, etc.)…
variables: housing, population demographics, average income, access to transportation, access to development funds…
Construct a basic search strategy.
- In most databases, you can combine terms with and (both terms must appear in the hit) and or (one term must appear in the hit—for synonyms or evenly weighted terms), e.g. San Diego and Linda Vista; Oceanside or North County
- In many databases, you can use a symbol such as * or ! to take the place of letters to get hits with multiple endings of a word, e.g. communit*
- Example search: san diego and communit*
Choose the kinds of resources you want to find and the best tools to find them.
- Books: an online library catalog like Roger (UC San Diego’s library catalog)
- Government documents: the online catalog or the agency's website
- Scholarly articles: discipline specific databases such as Worldwide Political Science Abstracts and interdisciplinary databases such as Academic Search Complete
- Primary sources: the online library catalog, specialized databases, websites
- Data: specialized databases or directly from the researchers
Run searches using the tools you choose.
- Experiment with keywords and combinations of keywords, e.g. you might try
San Diego and Linda Vista and plan
San Diego and North County
Cowles Mountain or Lake Murray or Mission Trails Park
Try different tools.
- Check the help screens or guides to each database for specifics on combining your terms and whether your results are ranked by date or relevance.
- When you find good hits, look at the subject headings/descriptors. Try running new searches using those terms.
Get the citation information. You need this for your bibliography.
- Email records to yourself as a backup
- Some databases can export the citation in a specific format (e.g. APA, Chicago, MLA)
- Use RefWorks (free to UCSD students) to manage, store, and format your citations
Get the actual item.
- It may be full text in the database or it may be available through UC-eLinks. If we do not have it, you can usually request the item through Interlibrary Loan (ILL).