Writing Resources

Writing tools, support, and tips.

Find Journal Articles, News, Conference Papers, and More

Course Books
  • Schimel, Writing Science: how to write papers that get cited and proposals that get funded, 2012 -- in print
  • Stewart, ed., The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016, 2016 -- in print
  • Reynolds, Presentation Zen: simple ideas on presentation design and delivery
    -- The most recent is 2014, which is online (only 9 people at a time can use this database, so please log out when you're done!)
    -- That edition and all of our earlier editions are here


Save your time! Use these search techniques:
  • Put quotation marks around PHRASES (two or more words), so that the words are searched together
    --- Example: "chicken pox"
  • Put an asterisk at the end of words, so that you get all of the word endings
    --- Example: high* = high, highs, higher, highest
  • Think of alternate spellings or synonyms
    --- Example: healthcare or "healthcare"; malfunction or failure
  • Start by putting your search words in the Title. If you get nothing, you can take them out of the Title and move them to "Anywhere."

"empirical" (Webster Dictionary):

1 : originating in or based on observation or experience
  • empirical data
2 : relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory
  • an empirical basis for the theory
3 : capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment
  • empirical law

"empirical research" (Pubmed):

  • The study, based on direct observation, use of statistical records, interviews, or experimental methods, of actual practices or the actual impact of practices or policies.

Use journal articles to find:

  • a narrow or specific part of your topic
  • up-to-date information
Find databases by Name or by Subject on the library home page:


To see what a database covers, click the little round "i" button next to its name:

For Engineering topics, the best database is Compendex. It's huge and covers all areas of engineering.

  • However, for a mostly non-engineering topic such as professional communication, Compendex is not very helpful
  • Use databases in Sociology, Communications, or Psychology, as well as Google Scholar's ADVANCED search


In all databases as well as Google Scholar, always use "Advanced Search."

  • This will let you focus your search to get better results, as well as save you a lot of time









In all library databases plus Google Scholar, the FINDIT@JHU link will show you all of the ways that you can get an article.

  • On a Hopkins computer, Google Scholar automatically shows you FIND IT@JHU  links
  • But on a non-Hopkins device (like your laptop), you should either
    --- log in through the portal (my.jhu.edu)
    --- go to the library home page , choose "Articles and Databases," and use the "Google Scholar" tab
    --- configure Scholar to show the links to you: in the upper left corner, click the little icon with 3 lines; choose "Settings"; choose "Library Links"; click "Save

If you do not see "FIND IT" next to a citation, look below the citation and click on the little arrow. Usually, the FINDIT link will magically appear.







  1. Google Scholar will take you to Google Books
  2. But never pay for a book! Search the library catalog for the book you want -- if we have it online, you can see 100% of it
  3. If we do not have a book at all, you can request it through BorrowDirect or Interlibrary Loan (on the library home page under "Request Materials")

In addition to news, news items can also provide the names of information sources about your topics.

For business news: the best database is ABI/INFORM, and the other two under CORE

  • Library home page --> Databases by Topic --> Business --> CORE

What journal articles are the most used? Which ones have been cited the most often?

Three databases now tell you the answer. (Remember that newer articles will not have had time to be cited by other authors.)

  1. Web of Science -- sort by "times cited"
  2. Scopus -- sort by "times cited"
  3. Google Scholar -- tells you how many times each article has been cited, but you can't sort by that

NOTE: Google Scholar's number will almost always be wrong. It will be too high, because Scholar adds things that are not appropriate, such as lecture notes and Powerpoint slides.

For writing help:


Citing sources correctly and completely is very important!

Organizing your references:

  • Your citation manager lets you put citations into separate folders and also use tags
  • On the Literature Reviews page (on the Public Health Guide) is the matrix I showed in class, with other info. This is a great tool and really helps you sort out who said what, so that you can *synthesize* the points you want to make into a smooth piece of writing



RefWorks is the citation manager that is supported by JHU. It is free for you.
  • Citation managers let you export citations FROM databases INTO the manager, so that you can put them into separate folders, and print out a bibliography in whatever style you want
  • Here is our guide about how to use it
Use the NEW RefWorks!
  • Here are video tutorials about the NEW RefWorks
  • NEVER search from within RefWorks; always search from within the database itself

HELP is the question mark at the top right:

Here are some of the links from HELP:

Getting Your Citations into Refworks

While you are still searching for articles:

  1. Find an article in a high-quality database
  2. Go to the full text
  3. "Export" to RefWorks or other citation managers, if "export" is an option

When you have found a specific article:

  1. Put article TITLE into Google Scholar
  2. Click the little quotation mark symbol
  3. Export to RefWorks or one of the other citation managers:
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Citing Interviews and All Kinds of Other Things

Publication Manual of the APA (American Psychological Association)
BF76.7.P83 2010

This is a blue book on C-level, on the first (tall) Science Reference shelf. There is also a copy on M-level in the Reference Office; just ask the librarian for it, and give them your name

  • Page 179 - personal communications, including interviews, letters, e-mails, phone conversations, and more:

    "Because they do not provide recoverable data, personal communications are not included in the reference list. Cite personal communications in text only. Give the initials...and surname of the communicator, and provide as exact a date as possible."

    My opinion is that their examples don't give enough information, and I think that MLA's style is a little better (see next tab).
  • Chapter 7, page 193 - everything else, including blog posts and comments, messages on message boards, videos, maps, musical recordings, software, and more. Just page through the list until you see what you want.
  • Data Sets, Software, Measurement Instruments, and Apparatus, page 210. More about citing data sets from the APA blog (as of December 2013)
  • Twitter, Facebook, Google+ -- On the APA style blog (as of October 2013)
  • YouTube -- On the APA style blog (as of October 2011)
  • More info from APA's style blog -- This is a list of most of the things mentioned above (although I don't see a date)

MLA (Modern Language Association) Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
M-level Reserves, and A Level General Reference, LB2369 .G53 2009

  • Interviews, pages 201-202 -- "...[G]ive the name of the person interviewed, the kind of interview (Personal interview, Telephone interview), and the date." I'm assuming that, unlike APA, you *should* put these in your reference lists.

    Pei, I.M. Personal interview. 22 July 1993.
  • E-mails, pages 204-205
  • Chapter 5, pages 123+, lists the other print and electronic things you may have to cite.
  • Twitter and YouTube, from Purdue's excellent writing guide
  • I don't see anything anywhere about MLA style for citing data or data sets. So follow this page in our Citing Guide, and ask our Data and Statistics librarian if you have more questions.
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