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First Year Seminar: Welcome

Welcome to the Library

The Clarkson Library is the key to being successful in your research projects during your time here at Clarkson. We can help you with finding books and articles, evaluating websites, creating citations, and much more. The library website,, is the place to go for your research needs. 

NOTE: To see a larger version of any of the images on this page, right click and select "Open image in new tab." 

The Library Assignment

Click here to access the library assignment. Email Lisa Hoover,, or the reference staff at with questions. 

How do I start my research project? 

1. Topic

First you need to pick a topic. For this class, you're given suggested topics as part of the assignment. Think about which of these topics interests you. The more interested you are in the topic, the easier it will be to research and write about it!

At this stage, your topic can be pretty broad, like Hurricanes. 

2. Find background information

What do you know about your topic already? It's possible you already know enough to move on to step three, but if not, you may want to do some preliminary investigations to help you figure out what aspect of the topic you are interested in. You may want to browse the Library's reference collection, such as encyclopedia's, for general background knowledge. You may also want to do some general Google searching to just get an idea of what your topic is about and what the issue surrounding your topic are.

For example, when I Googled Hurricanes I discovered a Weather Channel article about a concept I wasn't familiar with - "flooding rainfall." The article tells me that since 2015 rain has been a bigger factor in Hurricane damage via flooding. This might help me narrow my focus to something more specific than Hurricanes, which is too broad to really research. 

3. Create a research question

What is the question you want to answer with your research? Figuring this out will help you narrow down (or expand) your topic until you have a good, workable question to address. This in turn will help you figure out keywords for searching for information. 

After reading the Weather Channel article, I am curious about rain falls and Hurricanes. Specifically, I want to know why rain from hurricanes is causing more damage since 2015. 

Keep in mind that sometimes your questions might have sub-questions "hidden" in them. 

To address my question about rain and Hurricanes, I might want to ask a few subquestions:

1. Has there been more rain, on average, from Hurricanes since 2015? 

2. Has that rain led to more flooding damage?

3. Why has there been more rain (and therefore more damage)? 

4. Depending on the sophistication of my paper, I might also ask: What can we do about it? 

4. Searching the Library for books and articles 

Now you need to think about what search terms you want to use in your searching. What are your main concepts? 

Here, our main concepts are hurricanes, increased rain, flooding, and damage.

What synonyms might you want to search? Try brainstorming before you search. (Hint, if you aren't sure what synonyms for these concepts might be, try a thesaurus

Hurricane, cyclone, tropical storm; increased rain, wetter, increased precipitation; flooding, storm surge; damage, destruction. 

Some quick search tips: put quotation marks around phrases - this searches the concept as a phrase, rather than individual words. 

 "Tropical storm"; "increased rain"

We suggest starting with an advanced search, rather than searching from the homepage.

Using keyword searches, plug in your search terms, using OR between synonyms and AND between the different concepts. This allows you to search multiple concepts, with synonyms, at the same time. 

If necessary, use the filters on the left hand side of your results list to narrow down your results. If your results are too narrow (you don't get enough results), consider thinking about more synonyms or try removing one of your concepts to make your topic a little broader. 

You may need to try a few searches, with different keywords or terms, to get the best results. That's totally normal! Most of us have to try a few searches to get the best results. 

6. Create your video! 


NOTE: There are other potential sources you may want to use for more advanced research projects; this is a simplified list of steps. For more advanced projects, don't hesitate to reach out to a librarian for one-on-one research help. 

Where can I get help? 

  1. The Library website.
  2. The Library's Ask Us 24/7 Chat service.
  3. Schedule a one-on-one research appointment with a librarian.
  4. Call us at 315-268-6672 or email us at
  5. Stop in and see us. Library hours are listed here. Research librarians are usually in the office between 8am and 6pm Monday-Friday during the regular semester and 8am to 4pm during the summer and semester breaks. 

Video Product Tips from the
Communications & Media Department









When can I use Google? 

You can use Google to familiarize yourself with your topic, but you need to be careful using resources you find through Google in your actual project. 1) Your professor may require that you use more scholarly sources. 2) Even if they don't require scholarly sources, you need to carefully evaluate any information you find on Google before citing it in an assignment. 

Why shouldn't I use Google for more in depth research? 

1. Think of the internet as an iceberg. Google is only the tip of that iceberg. There is so much else on the internet that is not found with a Google search - the bit of the iceberg under the water. This includes the paid databases searched by the library website, which is why we recommend using them! 

2. You may have heard this before, but it bears repeating - not everything Google finds is high quality! In fact, a lot of it is not. Using the library resources allows you to more easily ensure that the materials you are finding are high quality. 

What do you mean by Scholarly Sources? How do I know if a source is good quality? 

You're going to hear the phrases "scholarly" and "peer reviewed" a lot in your college career. What do they mean? Scholarly generally refers to the idea that it was written by an expert - usually an academic - in the field. Peer review specifically means that it was not only written by an expert, but was reviewed by other experts in the topic. You can find out more about peer review here

One of the easiest ways to make sure your sources are peer reviewed is to use the "peer reviewed" filter on the left hand side of your results list from a library search.

Just keep in mind that the concept of "peer review" only applies to journal articles. With books, you'll want to make sure they are scholarly by looking at who the author is (what are their qualifications?) and who the publisher is (is it a university press?). 

How do I use my research in my video? 

Wheeewee. Now you've got your sources, what do you do with them? How do you incorporate them into your video? 

Incorporating Research

Here are some resources on how to incorporate research into a paper or project:

  1. Incorporating Sources into Research Writing 
  2. Integrating Sources into Your Paper 
  3. Integrating Research: How to include your academic voice with your research

Making an Interesting Video

  1. Documentary Filmmaking - NY Film Academy 
  2. How to prepare & conduct a documentary interview
  3. How to Write a Documentary Script

Finding/Using Images

  1. Consider using graphs and images from your research in your video!
  2. Don't forget that any image you use should be cited (just like any source you use)! Here's a guide to citing online images.
  3. Here are some useful places for finding copyright free images:
    1. Google Images - You can find copyright free images in Goole Images under Tools, Usage Rights, and Labeled for Reuse
    2. Pixabay 
    3. Creative Commons


Plagiarism is “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) “without crediting the source” – Merriam Webster 

Also includes copying, infringement of copyright law, piracy, theft, stealing, cribbing, etc.


Types of Plagiarism 

Direct Plagiarism

Direct plagiarism occurs when a student copies the work of another author verbatim without citing the source and without using quotation marks. Think "Cut-and-Paste".

Self Plagiarism

Self-plagiarism occurs when a student "Recycles" material from another one of his or her own papers without citing that paper as a source.

Mosaic Plagiarism

Mosaic plagiarism occurs when a student "Cherry-picks" words, phrases or more general concepts from another source, then finds synonyms or changes the wording slightly, without acknowledging the source.

Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism occurs when a student forgets or neglects to properly cite his sources. Not knowing what consititutes plagiarism, making errors in attribution, or simply forgetting still results in an offense.


Avoiding Plagiarism 

Ask Yourself…

Did I know this information without having to look it up?
Are there data or images I did not produce?
Is this an idea that is not my own?


Cite whenever you use an exact quote, and make sure you use quotation marks
Make sure you cite periodically if you’re paraphrasing another’s ideas or work
Take detailed notes as you read
Keep track of the citation information for your sources
Keep your thoughts clearly separated from the experts in your source
If you’re not sure if it should be cited, ask a librarian!
When in doubt, cite!


For help with your citations, check out our "How to Cite Sources" guide. You can also set up an appointment to sit down with a reference librarian one-on-one for citation help.

We also offer support for the citation management software Zotero.