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ENG 108: Researching a Place: Home

Fall 2011

How to search for info about a place


When researching, it pays to spend a little time thinking about what you want to know and what strategy you might employ to find the information you need.

After all, you know what you want to know but to find published information you have to think about who would write about your topic and how they will talk about it. Will they always use the same words that you use? The people writing about it and the words they use will affect where you search and how you search.

Searches on the Internet, in a library catalog, in a database, and even in the index of a book require you to think about language. What terms, phrases, words are used to talk about a subject? Most concepts use synonyms and word variations/ There is not just one way to say something. Those words will be used to search for information about the topic.


When researching a place, your search will focus on the name(s) of the location. Realize that a place may be known by more than one name. For example, information about Terre Haute may be in a publication about the Terre Haute town, Vigo County, the state of Indiana, the Midwest region, the country of the United States, or the continent of North America. The more specific pubmications may have more specific information about Terre Haute but a book about US nature preserves may include the local Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area. You may be looking for information about a specific neighborhood, a specific river, a specific park, a specific wetland, a specific desert, etc. So publications on the Ohio River, the Wabash Valley, the Wabashiki Nature Preserve, wetland regions in the United States, deserts of the world, etc. may be useful to you.

As you search the Fusion Catalog, the Internet, or a database, use the retrieved results to look for how they identify the place or natural world and use those terms. Steal from others!


For this assignment, you may also be looking for a specific time period, too. Information about Terre Haute during the civil war would be published during or after that period. Descriptions and impressions may vary depending upon whether they were recorded by someone at that time who was there (primary source) or whether they were written later by someone who researched that time and place (secondary source).

In our example of the Civil War, we may search for the United States Civil War. (Remember civil wars occur in other countries, too.) But we could also search for 1861-1865. Or we could find information within the entire decade of the 1860s. We could search for the 19th century. Be aware that other names may apply. The "First World War" is also known as the "Great War" and "World War I;" your search results will be different if you only search for one of these phrases.

You may ultimately be interested in what led up to your time period or what followed later. So think about what you want to know.

As you search the Fusion Catalog, the Internet, or a database, use the retrieved results to look for how they identify the time period and use those terms. Steal from others!


Do you need factual, scientific information about a place? Do you want emotional impressions from people who lived there? For the former, you will be searching for documented scientific publications recording the terrain and environment of the area. For the latter, you might be looking for biographies that describe the area (primary sources) but the authors may not be scientists or experts on the ecology--however, amateurs could be very observant, too. So be aware of what you want and what you are finding. Choose what is appropriate for your needs and your assignment.

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Shelley Arvin
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