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Access Resources: Find Articles, Images and More: Beginner's Guide to Research

Beginner's Guide to Research

Begin the process: read and make sure you understand the instructor's assignment.  The assignment will guide your research. 

State your topic: What is the topic that you’ve been assigned or have chosen?  State your topic as best you can; try to be specific. (You might decide to change it or refine it later.) 

Develop Search Terms: What do you already know about your topic?  Write down the key terms in your topic statement, then brainstorm other related terms and add them to make a list.  Helpful key words might come from your lecture notes, the syllabus, textbook, or assigned readings, if any.  Brainstorm by asking questions such as when did this event happen or when did this person live?  Who was involved?  What kind of work is this?  Make note of any themes in your topic.  Determine the most relevant terms, or key words, in your topic.
               Example: writing about Scylla and Charybdis in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. 
               Who: Homer, Greek Poet; sea monsters; Scylla, Charybdis
               Where: Ancient Greece; When: Ancient Greece; 8th century B.C.E.

ancient Greek poetry; Greek mythology; sea monsters; gods and goddesses; Greek gods

Try Out Your Search Terms:  A good place to start is the Jannes Library Catalog to find out what books and eBooks in the Jannes collections can be of use.  In our example, do a keyword search: “Scylla and Charybdis”.

  • Using quotation marks makes this a search for that exact phrase, in that order
  • Review your result set: you might get irrelevant books returned.  If you don’t get any results at all, check your spelling or try different terms.  When stuck, ask library staff for help.
  • Within your result set click on a book’s title to see a description of the book. Identify those you want to use for your assignment.  You might find eBooks in your set – you can access the complete eBook in your browser. 

Beginner's Guide to Research part 2

Gather Sources: Active Reading: make notes all along as you are searching and reading in order to develop what you have to say.  When you make notes, be sure to record citations for your sources (books, articles, and websites) as you go.  See below for more on citing sources.

Searching for Journal Articles: Use Jannes Library’s databases.  Databases are online collections of serial publications: newspapers, popular magazines, discipline-specific magazines, and scholarly journals in every area of academic study, published over many years.  The listing of Jannes Library’s databases is here:

Which Database? Use the short description of each database to determine which ones address your topic.  For example, if your topic is in the area of visual art, architecture, or design, select Art & Architecture Source or JSTOR.   For topics outside of art and design - Greek mythology or climate change - select a multidisciplinary resource, such as JSTOR or Academic Search Elite.  Again, try out your search terms. 

Example topic: Guerrilla Girls (a group of artists).

Begin here: Select Art & Architecture Source from the list.

If off-campus, you will be prompted to authenticate, a step that proves you’re a KCAI student.  Tips for signing in are here

Completing authentication will take you to the search page in your chosen database.  In our example your search term is guerrilla girls: try it and see how many articles are in your result set.  Many of the ‘hits’ in your result set will provide the full article, but some hits will provide only a citation, a brief summary, and subject terms.  See library staff for help if you need to get the full article.

Beginner's Guide to Research part 3

Engaging with Sources: Research includes thinking about a subject in a critical way (analyzing it) and contributing your thoughts to the conversation;  this is something you will continue to do throughout life, both in your studio work and in your own personal lived experience.

Develop your Outline: Integrate your research with the development of your outline.  Use the prompts for the assignment as well as the information gathered from your research to build your outline step-by-step.

Chicago Manual of Style and Citing Sources: A style manual is a book of standard rules for writing, formatting, and designing documents.  It specifies how to format margins, quotations, page numbers, citations, and much more, that are part of your paper.  KCAI uses the Chicago Manual of Style.  When you use a book, an article, or a website as a source of facts, analysis, or argument in your paper, you must cite the source.  This allows the reader of your paper to consult that source should they want to dig deeper; it is also the method for acknowledging the exact source of a quotation, a paraphrased idea, or a general argument.  This is how you credit others for their intellectual work; be consistent in citing sources.   A quick guide to Chicago is here. 

Important: Keep track of your citations as you go.  You can do this in your outline, your notes, your paper or anywhere - just do it; it will save you time in the long run.    The databases mentioned above have a handy feature, the citation generator.  When reading an article within a database, click the “Cite” button, then select ‘Chicago’ from a listing of styles.  The result will be a correctly formatted citation that you can copy and paste into your paper or your notes.

Further Assistance

For help using Jannes Library resources: or 816-802-3390. 
How we can help:

  • Research instruction - Finding the best search terms; developing a search strategy
  • Tips: using Jannes Library’s catalog and the Mobius Consortium catalog to find books and eBooks
  • Knowing which database(s) to use and how to search efficiently
  • Getting resources from other libraries; finding elusive sources
  • Tips for keeping track of citations in Chicago Style Manual format


Language and Learning Lab:
Log into your MyKCAI account and click on 'Student Resources'.
Click on L&L Lab to request an appointment or submit work for editing.

  • Located on the 2nd floor of DeBruce Hall. 
    Services include:
  • Peer tutoring
  • Study assistance
  • Writing assistance
  • Studio Support sessions

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