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ENGL 015: Rhetoric and Composition (Filbeck)

This guide is for students in Janis Filbeck's ENGL 015 course at Penn State Behrend.

Search Strategies

  1. Use only a few keywords when you search. Do not type a whole sentence or question. Databases will look for each word you type in, and will only show you articles that contain ALL of those words. If you type a whole sentence in a database, you likely will miss many articles that would be useful, because they don't happen to contain the words you searched for.
  2. Search for keywords in the abstracts or titles of sources. If a keyword is mentioned in the title or the abstract (a summary of the source), chances are, the whole article focuses on that topic, rather than mentioning the term briefly. This strategy can help you find more relevant results, quicker. Most databases allow you to choose where the database searches for keywords (title, abstract, etc.).
  3. Look for one article, book chapter, or report that is very relevant to your research question to start with. Focus your attention on this source to get more ideas for subtopics and subquestions you want to find information about. Also, look at the works cited/reference list for additional sources. You can search for the sources found in the works cited/reference list using the main search box at


Note: Some sources may discuss only part of your thesis. This is normal. When analyzing a potential source, ask yourself, "How could I use this in my paper?" or "Is there anything in this source that is compelling, surprising, overwhelmingly strong, or unusual related to my topic?"


Finding Counterarguments

Look in the "literature review" section of a supporting article you have already found. Most academic journal articles include a literature review section, which may or may not be labeled. In this section, the authors summarize all of the recently published literature/research on the topic. Often you can find a counterargument listed there.

Add one of the following keywords to your search: concerns, costs, negative effects, criticisms, etc.