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WRIT 101: Writing 101

This is your guide to doing better research in WRIT 101. Using it will help you become more "information literate" by knowing more about library resources, source evaluation, and citation mechanics.

What is CatSearch and how do I use it?

CatSearch is the  Library's discovery layer. You can get to it on the Library's homepage. Use CatSearch to find out quickly what the library subscribes to or owns that will help you with your research topic. Watch the CatSearch Basics video (7.5 minutes) to use it effectively.

CatSearch Basics video link

What does CatSearch find?

What can I find in CatSearch?

  • Journal Articles
  • eBooks
  • Books (Print)
  • Newspapers (Print & Microflm)
  • Streaming Videos
  • Library Guides
  • Government Documents
  • Images
  • Music Scores (Print & Online)
  • ScholarWorks
  • Course Reserves (Print Only)
  • Finding Aids & Archival Material
  • Tech Checkouts
  • Maps
  • Audiovisual (DVD, VHS, & CD)

How can I do more with CatSearch?

You can do more than just a simple search with the Search panel. Try the following search options to get the best results for your search:

Searching for a Phrase

To search for a phrase, type quotation marks around the phrase. You can combine both words and phrases in your search.

If you do not enclose the phrase with quotation marks, the system will find items that contain the individual words in the phrase, regardless of whether these words are located next to each other in the order specified.

For example, to search for global warming as one term, type the following in the search box:

Searching for Any Specified Words or Phrases

You can search for items that contain at least one of the words or phrases you type in the Search box. To do so, type OR between the words or phrases.

If you search for words or phrases without specifying OR or NOT, CatSearch assumes that you are searching for all the specified words or phrases.

For example, to search for items with the word Irish or the word Celtic, type the following in the search box:

To use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) within search phrases, you must enter them in uppercase letters. Otherwise, CatSearch removes them and performs a simple search that includes all search phrases.

Excluding Words or Phrases

You can exclude items that contain specific words or phrases. To do so, type NOT and then type the word or phrase to exclude.

If you search for words or phrases without specifying OR or NOT, CatSearch assumes that you are searching for all the specified words or phrases.

For example, to search for items with the word Celtic and exclude any of these items with the word Irish, type the following in the search box:

Searching Using Wildcard Characters

You can include the following wildcard characters in your searches:

  • ?—enter a question mark to perform a single character wildcard search. For example, type wom?n to search for records that contain the strings woman, women, and so forth.
  • *—enter and asterisk to perform a multiple character wildcard search. For example, type cultur* to search for records that contain strings, such as culture, cultural, and culturally.

The system ignores wildcard characters placed at the beginning of search terms. For example, the system treats the search terms ?aying and *aying as if you had searched for aying.

Grouping Terms Within a Query

You can use parentheses to group terms within a query. For example, to search for Shakespeare and either tragedy or sonnet, type the following in the search box:

Selecting Your Search Scope

The search scope defines where the system should perform the search. A default search scope is predefined based on your login, usually corresponding to your major field of study or some other criteria set up by the institution. However, you can change the scope of your search by selecting one of the following search scopes:

  • Everything + TRAILS: find most electronic items that MSU Library has access to (e.g., electronic books and journals), locate physical materials owned by MSU Library, plus, you will discover physical materials owned by other TRAILS libraries that you can request to borrow
  • MSU Library Physical Collection: locate only physical materials owned by MSU Library such as print books, periodicals, or DVDs
  • Databases: search for the names of databases that MSU Library subscribes to

How do I search specific library databases in my subject area?

While CatSearch helps with broad searching across the MSU Library's resources, often you will want to search more specifically in a subject database that the MSU Library subscribes to.  For instance, if you're a business major you'll usually want to search for sources within a business-focused database.  Finding databases in your subject area on the MSU Library's homepage is easy.

Go to the MSU Library Homepage and under the CatSearch box click on Articles and Research Databases.

Articles and Research Databases link

Then choose Browse Databases by Subject

Browse Databases by Subject graphic

There you'll find the topic of Business listed, as well as a category for most other MSU majors. Click on a topic to explore the databases that the MSU Library subscribes to in that area.

List of database topics graphic

How do I choose a database?


One of the best ways to choose a database is to ask for help!  Use the Library's help service to talk to a human being about the best database for your topic 

Ask the Library

How do I find library sources using Google Scholar and on the broad web?

Google Scholar is another good place to locate research for your topic. With a few simple steps you can connect your Google Scholar searches with resources that the MSU Library subscribes to so that you don't end up paying twice for information. It will also link you to open access research publications. Check out our video "Discovering Library Resources with Google Scholar and Across the Web" (5.51 minutes) to work more efficiently and find access to free full-text.

Google Scholar tutorial graphic

And while we're at it, how do I search Google more efficiently?

Use Google to learn how to use Google better!  Here are some sites that give powerful tips for getting what you want out of your Google searches.