ECS 15 Introduction to Computers

by Melinda M. Livas – November 12, 2021

This course guide is designed to assist ECS 15 (Introduction to Computers) students in using library resources such as article databases, books, APA citation styles and more.


Melinda M Livas

Student Services
Student Services Librarian


In this Guide:

1.  Select a topic related to the role of computers in a particular area. 

The assignment says that the paper “has to be at least 2500 words in length, with references, describing some sort of computer application or use that relates to your major or a field which interests you”.

Past ideas have included, Computers and…

  • the developing world
  • social media
  • health care
  • social movements
  • linguistics
  • animation
  • education
  • music
  • politics
  • games

2. Narrow your topic to something appropriate for a 2500 word paper.  This can be difficult! Approaches you can try:

  • Come up with synonyms for your key terms/concepts:
    • Ex:  computer: computerized, electronic, digital, online
  • Think of narrower aspects of your topic:
    • Ex:  Health care: records, treatments, prescriptions
  • Think of related terms:
    • Ex:  Health care records: electronic medical record, electronic health records, benefits, implementation, systems

Try asking these questions about your topic:

  • What role have computers played in x?
  • How does computer technology affect y?
  • How has z changed because of computers? Is it harder, easier, different?
  • Who is affected by this technology? Who has access? What are the limitations to getting access?

Also see the 5 Steps to Better Library Research guide to help narrow a broad topic

3. Identify a particular research question to investigate. 

What are you interested in finding out about, or answering, in writing this paper?  You can also pick an area of computer technology to look into, but remember that you will need to pick a fairly narrow topic so it is managable, and that most of the papers in computer science about technical topics are VERY technical. Make sure that you are able to find sources that you can understand to write your paper.

For example:

1) Topic: Computer games

2) Narrow your topic, try thinking of areas (sub-topics) related to computer games.
Which of these areas are you most interested in?

  • the computer game industry?
  • how games are developed? (or a particular part of game technology?)
  • the effect of games on people?
  • various kinds of games (MMORPGS, online “casual” games, etc)?

3) Use the computer game sub-topics you identified to develop a research question. For instance:

  • How big is the computer game industry?
  • Who plays computer games?
  • Are games addictive?
  • What technologies are used to develop Facebook games?

Getting Ideas- it’s sometimes helpful to browse online first. The following  sources will highlight the latest technology news and computer science research:


  • UC Library Search: UCD Library Catalog setting

    UC Library Search, the new Library catalog includes all of the UC library collections.  This setting is specific for the UC Davis libraries including (for the first time) the holdings of the Law Library. If you Sign in (on the top right corner) using your UCD login and Kerberos passphrase, you are prompted with your loan period, can renew books online, and request items that have been checked out to another borrower, or are in storage.

WorldCat Catalog

OCLC catalog: millions of records for books, journal titles and materials in other formats from approximately 12,000 libraries worldwide.  Coverage: 1000 A.D. to the present.


Search the HathiTrust Digital Libary for access to a vast array of scholarly content.

INSPEC [via Elsevier, Engineering Village

Inspec provides engineering research information on physics, electrical engineering and electronics, computers and control, mechanical, production engineering, information technology, and more.


Indexes journals, conference proceedings, trade publications, and book series in the sciences, and more.

IEEE Xplore [via IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)]
Digital library providing full-text access to technical literature in electrical engineering, computer science, electronics, and related disciplines from IEEE journals, transactions, magazines, letters, conference proceedings, standards, IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) publications, and select AIP/AVS journals.
DBLP Computer Science Bibliography

The Digital Bibliography & Library Project server provides bibliographic information for major computer science journals and proceedings, including Tables of Contents of selected conference proceedings and journals, and citation information for individual authors and papers. The Lecture Notes in Computer Science and IFIP book series are also indexed

Synthesis Digital Library of Engineering and Computer Science

A collection of online “lectures” on cutting-edge topics in engineering and computer science. Lectures are from 50-100 pages in PDF format, and are designed to provide an introduction to the topic and in-depth analysis. The lectures are arranged in series; sample series topics include computational electromagnetics, digital circuits and systems, and image, video and multimedia processing. New series and lectures will be added continuously and existing lectures will be revised as needed. [via Cornell University ]

ArXiv is an e-print archive that covers the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering and systems science, and economics.

Web of Science Core Collection [via Clarivate Analytics]

Scholarly journals, books, and proceedings in the sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities. Navigate the full citation network

Academic Search Complete

The multi-disciplinary database Academic Search Complete (ASC) provides full-text access to more than 5,500 periodicals, including over 4,600 peer-reviewed journals, and indexing and abstracts for an additional 9,500 journals and 10,000 publications, including monographs, reports, conference proceedings, etc.

JSTOR: The Scholarly Journal Archive

JSTOR provides Full-Text access to back files of hundreds important scholarly journals in nearly 50 disciplines spanning the arts, humanities, social sciences and the sciences.


Provides access to global news and business information, including local newspapers, same-day newswires, company reports, and media programs. Provides company information including market data and competitors. Includes full-text of the Wall Street Journal.

Business Source Complete

“Indexing” and abstracts for the most important scholarly business journals.

To find appropriate resources, first look at the library subject guide for your area: All Subject Guides

A subject guide will list specialized article databases, reference books, and other sources appropriate for your research area. For example, if you are interested in exploring the impact of computers in education then you might look at the education subject guide to find specialized resources in the educational literature.

Another option is to search for articles using large multidisciplinary databases. The following three are good choices to start your research:

  1. Web of Science Core Collection– A general multidisciplinary database for science, engineering, social sciences, and humanities topics
  2. Academic Search Complete– Academic Search Complete (ASC) provides coverage of multidisciplinary, full-text academic journals to support scholarly research in all areas of the arts, humanities and the social, life and physical sciences.
  3. JSTOR: The Scholarly Journal Archive – JSTOR provides Full-Text access to back files of hundreds important scholarly journals in nearly 50 disciplines spanning the arts, humanities, social sciences and the sciences.

To search a database, you will choose keywords that express your topic. You will need to refine your keywords during the search process as you find relevant articles. If you are getting lots of results, your keywords may be too general; if you are finding none at all, they are probably too specific.

To help narrow the focus of your topic, think of ways you can limit by: Time, Place (Location/Geography), Person or Groups (Demographics/Organizational), and Aspects.

Once you have your topic, here are some basic tips for searching:

  • Phrase searching — to search words only as a phrase put quotation marks around them, e.g. “world of warcraft” (searches for the phrase rather than “world” and “warcraft” separately)
  • Truncation — to search for variations of a word use an asterisk, for instance “comput*” will get you “computer”, “computing”, “computes”, etc.
  • Synonyms — be sure to think of synonyms for the words you are using. For instance, rather than just “computerized” you might try searching for:
    • computational
    • digital
    • digitized
    • electronic
  • Abstracts — be sure to read the abstracts of the articles you find; this will give you a summary of the research and some ideas for additional terms to search on.

For help with your search, Ask a librarian

In academic work, it is important to cite your sources anytime you quote or summarize any work that is not created by you. This includes: text, charts, photos, graphs, diagrams, ideas, or anything else that you did not create.

Your ECS15 professor will, more than likely, ask you to cite your sources in APA citation style. See UC Libraries’ APA Quick Guide 

To cite your sources:

1) Place in-text citations within your paper

Use the format appropriate to your citation style. For the author-name and date format (used by APA and other formats), put in the body of your paper:
what-you-summarized-or-quoted  (Thompson 1995)

2) Then place full citations at the end of your paper:

For articles:

Author name(s). (date published). Article title, Journal name, volume number (issue number), page numbers, URL or DOI for online sources.

For books:

Author name(s). (date published). Book title. Place it was published: Name of publisher, Pages you used.

The format of both in-text and full citations will depend on the Citation Style you use. Many different  Citation Styles exist.  If your professor or TA did not specify a particular Citation Style or Citation Manual, ask them which one to use, or use the library’s “Citation Guides web page”   to select one.

Remember the purpose of citations is to enable someone else reading your paper to find the information that you used to write it, and to document where you got that information from.


Video on how to cite your sources

Video on how to avoid plagiarism

For help, Ask a librarian