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First Year Writing for Non-Native Speakers of English

Resources and tools that support research of students enrolled in EN 121

How to navigate this guide

This guide uses tabs to provide examples of each skill that is presented. Feel free to explore the different tabs in each section before moving on to the next portion!

Boolean Operators

The term "Boolean Operator" sounds very technical. Don't let the name scare you! It's actually a very simple concept. Boolean operators refers to a set of words that we can use in our searches when we want create a specific relationship between our search terms. There are three Boolean Operators:

  1. AND
  2. OR
  3. NOT

Using these three words, we can put together searches that yield results that reflect the approach we are taking towards our topic. When we use one of these three words, our results will be more focused and relevant to our specific interests.


Example: Sunken pirate ships make create artificial reefs and promote a healthy ocean ecosystem.

If we want to find a source that talks about both sunken pirate ships and artificial reefs, we could search with the terms:

"Sunken pirate ships" AND "artificial reef" 

This search would give us results that overlap both of these terms within each source.


"Sunken pirate ships"  AND "artificial reefs"



If we wanted to find specific examples of artificial reefs in specific bodies of water, we could search with the terms:

"Gulf of Mexico OR "Indian Ocean"

This search would give us all of the results each of these terms (all of the results for "Gulf of Mexico;" all of the results for "Indian Ocean.")  


OR Boolean search in Scout

If we wanted to search for sunken pirate ships in the Gulf of Mexico but exclude any ships in the Caribbean, we would search with the terms:

"Gulf of Mexico" NOT Caribbean

This search would give us results for the Gulf of Mexico but exclude anything that has to do with the Caribbean.


Screenshot Boolean Not in Scout


Scout is the University Libraries' main search interface. When you search Scout, you access most of the library's collections including newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, electronic books, print materials, and some primary source materials. Scout is a great place to start searching for your assignment! This section will explain:

  • The basics about searching Scout 
  • What you can do to refine your search and make it more specific
  • How to create an account to that you can save your search history and store items in a folder for future access

Complete the following steps to create a Scout account:

  • Head on over to Scout;
  • Select Scout Login from the top menu bar on the right hand side;
  • Click on Sign Up. This will direct you to sign up with EBSCO, which provides Scout services.
  • You can either click Continue with Google to sign up with a Gmail account or fill out the fields to sign up with an email address.

Once signed up, you will be able to review your search history and re-run any previous search, as well as save materials in Folders, and organize materials in subfolders.

Note that your Scout account is not connected to any other EBSCO login and it is not connected to you MyBama login; your Scout account is also not connected with the authentication process for accessing library materials.

Finding and Using Databases

What are Databases, anyway?

A Database is, quite literally, a container for sources of information. Sometimes that information is an index or a directory that leads you to another location where an item is stored, but often the database contains the item itself. So for example, we have databases that hold newspaper articles (Proquest Newspapers, America's News,  and Nexis Uni are a few of our newspaper databases). We also have databases like Statista, which is a portal for statistics on a wide variety of topics. It is important to be able to indentify and search in specific databases that are relevant to your topic because Scout searches a lot of the library's content, but it doesn't have access to some databases.


You can access all of our databases using the Database link on the University Libraries homepage, or check out the examples of databases in this section.