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Michigan State University

AL 110: Writing and Civic Life

Search Strategies for the Disciplinary Literacies Assignment

Depending on how your instructor has written the disciplinary literacies assignment, you may need different kinds of information or use different search strategies. Pay close attention to the assignment for your class, and choose the strategies that you think will work best for your assignment.

Start Here: SearchPlus

Using SearchPlus for the Disciplinary Literacies Assignment (video)

Try These Next...

Find a professional organization

Professional organizations are a great way to see how people in your future career or discipline communicate. Most professional organizations also produce some kind of publication, so finding a relevant professional organization can also give you some leads on relevant trade or scholarly journals.

Look at the resources commonly used in your profession/discipline

If professors or professionals are looking for information in their field, they probably aren't using a large general search tool like SearchPlus or Google. Instead, they will use a more specific tool, or database, that contains a smaller set of information relevant to their field.

The list below is broken out by major or subject. Select the subject that is most closely related to your profession or discipline, then see what resources are recommended to you.

Other career websites

If you are looking for background information on a certain career or major, these are good places to start.

Popular, Scholarly and Trade Comparison

  Popular Scholarly Trade
  • Mostly journalists
  • Scholars in an academic or professional field (i.e. doctors, lawyers, educators)
  • Staff writers, industry specialists, and contributing authors
Intended Audience


  • General public
  • Scholars or professionals in a particular discipline, field of study, or trade (psychology, medicine, law, etc.)
  • Practitioners and professionals in a specific industry, trade, or organization
  • General interest
  • Popular culture
  • General news
  • Entertainment
  • Original research (such as scientific experiments, surveys and research studies)
  • Critical analysis of topics relative to the profession
  • Charts, diagrams, and/or tables showing data or experiment results are often included
  • Industry related news, trends, techniques, product reviews, statistical data, upcoming events, and more
Level of Language
  • "Everyday" vocabulary/terms
  • Meant to be easily understood by all audiences
  • Specialized vocabulary
  • Terms and concepts specific to a particular discipline or field of study
  • Use vocabulary relevant to an industry, trade or organization
References or Bibliography of Sources
  • Very rarely are any sources listed
  • A list of references or sources is provided at the end of each article
  • Some, but not all, articles contain a list of sources
Review Policy
  • Articles are reviewed by the magazine's editor or editorial staff
  • An editorial board, composed of experts in the field, reviews articles to decide whether they should be accepted
  • Also known as "refereed," "peer-reviewed," "professional," or "academic"
  • Articles are reviewed by the publication’s general editorial staff
  • Almost always and in high quantities
  • Occasionally, but highly specialized and specific to scholarly discipline (i.e. specific laboratory equipment, medical tools and drugs)
  • Advertising almost always present
  • Ads relate to relevant industry, trade, or organization
  • Time
  • Newsweek
  • People
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • Stone Soup
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Journal of American Studies
  • College Composition and Communication
  • Journal of Business Administration
  • Annual Review of Plant Biology
  • Nature
  • Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
  • Publishers Weekly
  • Advertising Age
  • American Libraries
  • Chronicle of Higher Education
  • American Nurse
  • PC Week

Evaluating Information Online (video)

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