English 4 and 5 offers SMC students writing and research skills that they'll use throughout their time at SMC, and beyond.

Subject Guides


Click on the blue headings below to explore the resources librarians recommend for your English 3, 4, and 5 assignments.

Reference Sources (Background, Encyclopedias)

Reference sources are things like encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks. They're the sort of book where you probably just look up one or two entries on your topic, rather than reading the whole thing cover-to-cover. And they're perfect for getting a general overview of your topic, finding out the main points academics have studied, picking out keywords to use in your search, and finding key books and articles in the field. These databases are kind of like Wikipedia, but you know that they've been written and edited by experts in their field. Many of our reference sources are searchable online in the following databases:

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Gale Virtual Reference Library has encyclopedias on all kinds of topics: addiction, contemporary poets, countries and their cultures, espionage, sports, sustainability, world cultures, and hundreds more. It's easy to search them all from one search bar to find the articles on your topic, and then it's a cinch to read, save, and cite. Need an encyclopedia article? Start here.

Oxford Reference Online also lets you search tons of encyclopedias and dictionaries in one search bar, all from Oxford University Press. You can browse by topic, like art & architecture, religion, and society & culture--or search by keyword. In Oxford Reference Online, searching, saving, and citing is also a breeze. Great for definitions in your discipline and scholarly overviews of a subject.

Sage Knowledge also lets you search their encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks all in one place. One search bar finds entries in works like Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture, Encyclopedia of Gender in Media, Sage Handbook of Tourism Studies, and many more, from a variety of disciplines.

Research Reports on Current Topics

Opposing Viewpoints is a research paper lifesaver. Click "Browse Issues" to find your topic (Iraq wars? Media bias? Millennial generation?), and Opposing Viewpoints will give you articles arguing multiple sides of your subject, plus news, scholarly journal articles, primary sources, encyclopedia articles, websites, maps, statistics, and radio stories on your topic. A true gold mine. 

Writing about abortion, animal rights, bullying, climate change, or another current issue? CQ Researcher has journalist-written and fact-checked reports on hot topics. Each one includes helpful features like background, chronology, pro/con arguments, maps/graphs, and a bibliography of other sources you should read. Super helpful for choosing or narrowing down a topic, or supplying facts supporting and contradicting your argument.

Books and eBooks

For an in-depth look at your topic, search Albert, the library's catalog of books and e-books:

Albert Search

Search Albert to find books, movies, etc..


Advanced Search

  How to read the catalog results.



Databases of Scholarly and Popular Articles

Not sure where to start? Try Multisearch, which searches the library catalog and many of our databases of scholarly and popular articles.


Discover articles and books from many of our databases.


Scholarly & Popular Articles

(Use the filters to narrow down your results to scholarly journals.)

This scholarly collection offers unmatched full-text coverage of information in many areas of...

Academic OneFile indexes nearly 13,000 academic journals, magazines, newspapers, and reference...

Multi-disciplinary database providing the complete content from six of Wilson's full-text...

All Proquest databases in one search, including Sociological Abstracts, ABI/Inform, and the New York Times (historical)



World newspapers

World newspapers, including California newspapers such as the San Francisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times, and San Jose Mercury News

Full text database of the newspapers, magazines and journals from alternative and independent...

Evaluation of Sources

Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals Video

How do I know It's a Scholarly Journal?

Some of the following characteristics are found in most scholarly journals. As you examine the publication, ask yourself the following questions:

Is the word "journal" or "review" in the title of the periodical?

Is the publication published or sponsored by a professional scholarly society or association? (Hint: Examine the inside cover or first few pages of the journal.

How frequently is the publication published? (journals tend to be published monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually rather than weekly)

Is there a list of reviewers (editorial board) on the inside cover or title page?

Are individual articles organized into at least two of the following sections?

  • Introduction or Literature Review
  • Theory or Background
  • Subjects
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion

Does the article have a bibliography or list of references to identify what sources were used to write the article?

Does the title of the article reflect its content (is it fairly detailed?)?

Is there an abstract at the beginning of the article?

Who wrote the article? Are the author's credentials listed? (Hint: Often this information on the first or last page of the article. If not, check at the beginning or the end of the publication for a list of all the authors and their credentials). Journal articles are usually written by college and university professors or scholars from research institutes or associations.

Is the article based on either original research or authorities in the field? (as opposed to personal opinion)

Are there supporting diagrams or illustrations with the article.

How long is the article? (journal articles tend to be longer than a popular magazine article, sometimes as long as 20-30 pages!)

If you answered "yes" to most of these questions, then it probably is a scholarly journal!

Citing your sources
Maps & Directories

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