COLWRIT R4B: (The Idea of) Prison

How to use this tab

This course guide is created as a teaching tool and designed to be read as a unit. Doing so will provide the context for selecting the "right" resource and the techniques for manipulating it -- knowledge and skills that will support immediate and future research needs.

The notes in this putting it together tab contain suggestions about how to proceed with research based on your assignment. These suggestions build upon, and presume familiarity with, the general concepts addressed in the other tabbed sections of this course guide.

A research trajectory

  1. Review information in the My topic tab to determine who is likely to be writing about your focus, and where

  2. Review the suggested resources, below, and also the information in the Choosing a Resource tab  (to isolate the type of tool you want to use and note important info. about its use)

  3. Visit the library homepage and select a resource whose content matches the kind of materials you are seeking to find.  When choosing an article database, select one whose disciplinary focus maps to your topic (i.e. publications in that field are likely to be writing about it).

    Or... choose a General (interdisciplinary) database.

  4. Search to see what's been written about your topic  (or see what issues others are writing about -- that might help you refine your focus).
    • see Tips section of this tab for help with searching

  5. Examine promising results.
    • remember to note the information you'll need if you end up citing them

Suggested resource types


  • find books on your topic
  • find the periodicals you've already identified as having articles on your topic
  • find encyclopedias to get background information

Article databases (by SUBJECT)

  • to identify article and essay content on your topic
  • to identify current research
  • to identify research focused on a specific aspect of a topic
  • to search for publications from a specific discipline
    • sociology. education, women's studies, history, etc.

Article databases (GENERAL)

  • interdisciplinary
  • often have popular sources (magazine & news) as well scholarly
  • Academic Search Complete is one recommended resource
    • popular and scholarly content (good for popular culture topics)
    • some results available online
    • has UC-eLinks feature
  • Google Scholar is one recommended resource
    • strength is scholarly journal literature
    • use UC-eLinks to get full text
    • you must enable UC-eLinks to display in Google Scholar [set via Options gear > Scholar Preferences > Library links]
  • JSTOR is one recommended database
    • scholarly journals
    • full text resource
    • use advanced search mode (to narrow to specific discipline. and/or limit your search)
Read more


  • Searching the UCB catalog, OskiCat

    • search 2 or 3 terms representing key concepts of your focus
    • try different combinations of term, synonyms, related terms
    • look at the complete record for a relevant result -- do its subjects suggest other search terms to try
    • try adding terms for specific types of materials to your search:  encyclopedias, biography...

      Sample keyword searches...

      prison and gangs
      prison violence

      privatization and prison
      contracting and corrections
      child* and prison
      child* and educat* and prison
      encyclo* and prison*
      leonard peltier and biography

    • subject links (found in relevant results) narrow in on materials about a subject. For example... Prison Gangs -- United States, Children of Prisoners, Prisoners -- United States -- Family Relationship, etc.

    • author search

      • for a person...finds books by, interviews with, correspondence...
                   [use the correct search syntax last name, first name]
      • an organization's name...finds materials by an agency, government body...

    • Limit by material type - change default search of Entire Collection
      to seach by type or location -- i.e. Films/Videos
    • Limit by language - use modify search button
    • If your search is too broad - use Modify button for available limits
Read more
Last Update: May 30, 2012 10:54