Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQs:

  1. Where is the library webpage?
  2. How can I log into the databases?
  3. Can I access an article that isn’t available in the library?
  4. How can I check out a book in the library?
  5. How can I print in the library?
  6. What’s a library “research appointment?”

Research FAQs:

  1. Where is the library webpage?
  2. What kinds of academic articles are there?
  3. What does “peer-reviewed” mean
  4. How can I come up with a good research topic?
  5. I can’t find a lot of articles about my topic. What can I do?
  6. Do I need to read the whole article to understand it?
  7. Where can I find data about ____?
  8. Why are there different formatting styles?
  9. What is considered plagiarism?
  10. How can I get help from the library?

General FAQs

Where is the library webpage?

Direct link to the library webpage:

The easiest way to reach the library webpage is to go to the main university website: and find the “library” tabs in the top right-hand corner.

How do I log into the databases?

DatabaseYou can reach the databases by clicking the big, square “databases” button (shown left) our library webpage:

LoginThen, you’ll see this login page. Use your CNU email and email password to login. Notice that you don’t have to include “” in your username. Once you log in here, you can use any of the databases. CNU subscribes to these databases, which provide research, study and career materials relevant to your coursework.

Example login information:
  • Username (CNU ID#): 12345
  • Password (CNU email/Canvas password): email/canvas password

  • Can I access an article if it isn’t available in the library?

    YES!! Here is how you can gain access to an article unavailable in our databases:

    1. Make an interlibrary loan request on our library webpage: Or: Two databases (EBSCO and OVID) have a “request article from library” button. You can click this to have an automated request sent to the library. You will receive a confirmation email once the request form is sent.
    2. The library will receive your request right away and will locate a copy of your article through our secret library means (just kidding - we work with other libraries in California and share materials together)
    3. You will receive a PDF copy of your request via email within 3 days. Sometimes sooner!

    Please note:

  • If you request a whole book, please note that this takes longer than requesting an article or book chapter through the interlibrary loan process (obtaining a physical book can take up to a month).
  • Also, very occasionally, with older articles and content not frequently used, we will need to use extra means to obtain requested content, and it will take longer to send the content to you. If this is the case, we will update you as soon as we have an updated time frame.

  • How can I check out a book in the library?

    Checking out a book is easy! At your campus library, tell your librarian which book you’d like to check out, and they will take care of the rest of the process.

    Finding a book: You can browse for books in our library catalog (available on our library webpage): Please note that our catalog has all library books within our university. Any books at the Rancho Cordova campus library are labeled “CHS." If your book is at another campus, you can still check it out, this may just take a couple of days to arrange.

    Time frame: check-out time is three weeks. If you would like to check out a book for longer, simply send our library an email ( expressing this, and we will renew the book for you (so you can borrow it for another 3 weeks). Repeat as needed!

    Keep in mind that to graduate, you need to return all checked-out books to the library.

    How Can I print in the library?

    At both campuses, you’ll need to print from a library computer. You will also need to have money on your student account (although in the library we can’t manage student accounts): it’s 10 cents to print a one page, black & white document

    1. Make sure you are connected to the network. Once you're ready to print, select "studentsecureprinter.”
    2. studentsecureprint
    3. The UniFlow popup will appear (below). Enter your badge number (you can find this at on the back of your badge) without zeros at the beginning. For example, if your badge number reads “00###” you would enter ###.
    4. uniflow
    5. Find one of the library printers
    6. library printer
    7. Use your CNU badge to log in to the printer. Select “Secure print” on the printer screen. At this point, you’ll need to have money on your account for printing
    8. badge printing
    9. On the “Secure print” screen to the right, you’ll see the document(s) you’ve sent to the printer. The printer states the name of each document, how many pages will print, the number of copies, and the price of the printing job. You can’t edit this on the printer. If you want to adjust anything on this screen, you’ll need to do so from the CNU computer
    10. printer qeue

      If a document hasn’t shown up that should have, try selecting “refresh.”

    What’s a library “research appointment?”

    Research appointments are half-hour meetings where you can with one of the CNU librarians and ask questions about your research. We can help students at any point in the research process: determining a topic, finding evidence, including evidence into a paper, and formatting and citations.

    Our sign-up page:

    Our goal is to help you become a more experienced and self-reliant researcher, and so we can also connect you with tools, exercises, and resources to use. Please note: we won’t edit a paper or do the research for you.

    If you cannot meet at the times listed above, email us at and we can arrange another time that works for you.

    Research FAQs

    What kinds of evidence are there?

    Primary source: A document or item that provides direct evidence. Examples: research articles, photographs, original artwork, interviews.

    Secondary source: A document or item that discusses and analyzes evidence. Examples: textbooks, book and movie reviews, biographies.

    Tertiary source: A document that compiles or sorts secondary sources. Examples: dictionaries and encyclopedias. Textbooks could be considered tertiary sources if they compile secondary sources together.

    What kinds of articles are there?

    Here are some examples of articles you can find in our databases, or may write yourself:

    Research study: An article written by a professional researcher that explains the methods used, data collected, analysis, and conclusions from a research experiment conducted.

    Analytical article: An article written by a professional researcher in which the author discusses theory, concepts, or other literature.

    Literature review: An article in which the author references the research conducted within a specific topic and analyzes it for changes over time, gaps, or different perspectives. Read more about literature reviews on Purdue Owl.

    Annotated bibliography: This kind of paper is usually not published, although you may write this yourself. Take a bibliography (a list of sources used to write a paper) and create an “annotation” for each source. This annotation is a brief 1 or 2 paragraph explanation including: why you chose to include that source, what it’s about, and what it contributes to your paper. Read more about annotated bibliographies on Purdue Owl.

    Systematic review: A systematic review is a collection and overview of all studies relevant to a specific topic. It is essentially a “study of studies.” Systematic reviews are commonly used in healthcare to stay up to date on different topics in the health field. A systematic review can take months to write. Read more about systematic reviews in this article: on Pubmed.

    Thesis/Dissertation: Both theses and dissertations are original works of research conducted in graduate school. In a master’s program, students will write a thesis. In a doctorate program, students will write a dissertation. Theses and dissertations can take months or years to write.

    Clinical trial: This is a medical research study involving people. Clinical trials test new ways to diagnose and treat different health issues or diseases. You can read about clinical trials in more detail on the NIH website. You can browse ongoing clinical trials in the US at

    Observational student: In an observational study, researchers record information in observation of a specific population group without interference. You can read more about observational studies in this article on Pubmed.

    Review: Experts in their fields write reviews of articles and books. A review is not a summary of an article or book. Instead, a review evaluates the quality of the research and analysis in an article or book. For books, reviews often provide a recommendation to read or not to read a book. For articles, reviews can be part of the publication process (peer-reviewed articles have been reviewed by other experts). Read more about book reviews on Purdue Owl.

    What does "peer-reviewed" mean?

    A "peer-reviewed" source goes through an extra step before publication. Not all articles are peer-reviewed. It depends on the journal in which they are published -- some journals have peer review as part of their publication process, and some journals do not.

    The peer review step is where experts in a particular field read and evaluate before publication in order to determine the validity and accuracy of their research. Peer-review is particularly important for research studies since the accuracy of their results are dependent on the setup and execution of an experiment. While not all articles are peer-reviewed, all academic disciplines use peer review.

    Articles found to contain errors or substandard research methods in peer-review are removed from publication. For this reason, peer-reviewed articles are considered more reliable in providing information on different topics. There is ongoing debate in the academic publishing industry about how often and in what ways peer review should be conducted (if you are interested). Often, you will have to write papers using peer-reviewed sources only.

    You can check to see if an article is peer reviewed by Googling the journal it was published in, going to that journal’s website, and going to its “about” (or equivalent) section.

    How can I come up with a good research topic?

    The right research topic can be tricky to find. It's especially difficult to drum up a topic before looking anything up. In the library, we encourage you to: start broad, look through existing research, and let the evidence lead you to an interesting topic.

    When browsing through research, you can ask yourself:

    • What do I find most interesting?
    • Are there any gaps in this research area?
    • What are the changes over time in this field?
    • What aspects of this research topic do authors critique, and why?
    • What current events are relevant to my course and to this assignment?

    For example: If you're writing a paper about environmental science and are looking for a compelling research problem to investigate within that subject, start with "environmental science" and browse through current events in that field. You will become more familiar with the topic and are likely to come across new ideas you haven't heard of before.

    Note: It's difficult to come up with a definitive thesis statement and then search for evidence to back it up. This can lead to biased writing. Instead, try to determine your thesis from the evidence you find. This can lead to an interesting paper without writing yourself into a corner!

    I can't find a lot of articles about my topic. What can I do?

    It is frustrating when you can't find articles directly related to your topic. But there are many options here. First, you can always ask someone in the library for help (and they will try a few methods to help get you on the right path). Sometimes, having another person take a look at your topic can help you get unstuck.

    Also, you can try a few search tricks:

    • Think of some keyword synonymsrelated to the keyword searches you've tried. Often, articles are tagged (like a hashtag) using words chosen by the author. Not every author will use the same word, so using synonyms will ensure that your search is more thorough.
    • Try a different database. While the main three article databases (Ovid, Ebsco, and ScienceDirect) are similar, they have different collections of journals. What you find in one database you may not find in another.
    • Read about your topic in an online encyclopedia Sometimes it's nice to take a break from the databases. A good example is Encyclopedia Britannica online. Here, you'll find brief overviews of many different topics. Is there an aspect of your topic that you just haven't seen before, or a specific key term that can unlock a list of sources for you?

    Do I need to read the whole article to understand it?

    This is a relatable question. There can be a lot of reading involved in researching a topic. While yes, you should read an article fully to understand it, you can be strategic about your reading. Reading line-by-line, start-to-finish may not be the most efficient way to read an article.

    For example, studies have sections that you can read out-of-order: introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion.

    Question-driven reading is often much more engaging than tunnel-reading. When you find an article with content that you want to understand, try asking yourself:

    • What experiment was done here?
    • What did they conclude from this experiment?
    • How was the experiment conducted?
    • What previous research led up to this experiment?
    • What do they discuss about this experiment, are there any potential biases or errors I should know about?
    (You can substitute “experiment done” with “argument made” for articles that are not studies.)

    Where can I find data about ____?

    "Data" refers to a collection of information about a group that leads researchers to make statistical statements and generalizations about that group.

    For example, a group of researchers conducted a study and found that “95% of people sneeze less than four times per day (Hansen and Mygind, 2002).” To state this, these researchers had to first collect data. For two weeks, 80 people participating in this study (all of whom worked in their hospital) recorded how many times they sneezed each day. The data collected in those two weeks includes: each person’s relevant health information (age, gender, lack of nasal disorder) and number of sneezes per day.

    Luckily, many organizations collect data for you and make it freely available online.

    What kind of data are you looking for?

    In library research appointments, we often get questions about finding data as evidence for someone's research topic. The hard thing here is that college-level research doesn't always work this way. No matter how great and compelling your thesis statement is, the existing data is not guaranteed to back it up.Keep an open mind: the data you find may not reflect the argument you had expected to make.

    We recommend:

    1. Looking at evidence first.
    2. Building a thesis statement around the data you can find.


    Hansen, B., & Mygind, N. (2002). “How often do normal persons sneeze and blow the nose?”

    Rhinology 40(01)), 10-12.

    Why are there different formatting styles?

    Different formatting styles suit different academic fields. If academic research is a conversation, then formatting styles are like the accents of different research fields. Each formatting style highlights different aspects of evidence used in academic research. Here is a list of the different citation styles:

    • APA - American Psychological Association
    • MLA - Modern Language Association
    • Chicago Manual of Style
    • Nature
    • ACS - American Chemistry Society
    • American Political Science Association
    • Modern Humanities Research Association
    • IEEE - Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
    • AMA - American Medical Association
    • Vancouver

    From this list, hopefully it's clearer that each field has its own citation style that uniquely suits its research methods. You may have to use multiple different citations styles in your college education. But if there is a takeaway here, it's that you don't have to memorize a specific citation style! There are many free tools in the library and online that can help you check your formatting and citations and ensure they are correct.

    Instead, remember the four parts of your paper that need formatting:

    • Title page
    • Margins (page number, heading)
    • Body (in-text citations)
    • Reference list

    What is considered plagiarism?

    Plagiarism is when you take an idea that isn't yours and incorporate it into your writing without giving credit to the person who came up with the idea, as if it were your own.

    There are two main ways to include someone else's work or ideas into your writing WITHOUT plagiarizing:

    1. Quote another person's idea (and cite where this quote came from)
    2. Paraphrase another person's idea (and cite where the original idea you paraphrased came from)

    BOTH options above require a citation in your paper.

    When in doubt--cite the source! It is great to incorporate other ideas into your writing, the readers just want to know where those ideas are from

    How can I get help from the library?

    There are a few ways: research appointments, email correspondence, and walk-up hours.

    • Research appointments are 30-minute, one-on-one sessions where you can work with a librarian to improve a writing assignment or research project you are working on. A librarian can help you at any stage of the research process, from the very start to the final touches. A librarian will not edit your paper for you. They will give you suggestions and feedback on what you have and can guide you toward resources that are relevant to your work.
    • Walk-up hours: Hours vary but are posted near the librarian's desk. This time is intended for people who have quick questions (under 10 minutes). Walk-up questions are first-come, first-serve. If someone is asking a question, wait a few minutes, and the librarian should be free quickly. An alternative to walk-up hours is emailing a question to the library at A librarian will respond to your question as soon as they are able.
    • Email: us at with any questions about research and writing. In the past, we’ve been able to provide help for people who were unable to attend a research appointment and walk-up hours.

    PLEASE NOTE: We help with research methods. Check your college’s tutoring programs for expert help in a particular subject!

    If you aren't able to meet with a librarian at their offered times, please know we still want to help you!! Please email us at, explain that you can't make the existing appointments, and we can arrange a time to meet virtually or in-person.

    If there is a question you have but don't see here, email your question to and we will help you!