English 110 – Lukomski – Places in California

California farming poster

Poster from the California State Library History Collection.

About this Guide

This guide provides students with recommended resources for researching places in California. Use the tabs to navigate through the pages of the guide.

Your Assignment

Essay Assignment: Geography of Desire – Research paper exploring a place in California, using as least two good sources.

Paper Writing Assistance

SBCC’s Writing Center
SBCC Learning Resource Center Writing Tools Online

Need More Help?

If you need more help with research, ask a librarian! Stop by the Reference Desk, or contact a librarian by phone, text, or chat for more help.


Sometimes the words you use to describe a topic are too specific, or just different from the words used by the library catalog and databases. Before you search, try coming up with other ways to describe your topic. For example:

  • If you want to research Mission Santa Barbara, you might also search for California Spanish Missions in general.
  • If you want to explore how tourism shapes the sense of place in a town like Carpinteria, you might search for beaches and tourism.

If you have trouble finding information on your topic, ask a librarian for help choosing the best keywords to use in your search, or try some of the search words listed below.

Reference Sources

Reference sources are a good place to begin preliminary research on your topic. They can provide general background information, as well as give you ideas for additional keywords.

Print Reference Books

  • California’s Geographic Names — R 917.94 D961c
  • California Gold Camps — R 917.94003 G922ca
  • A Companion to California — R 979.4 H325c 1987

Online Reference Sources

These resources are available online and will require your Pipeline account information when you access them off campus.

  • Credo Reference Contains the full text of nearly 600 encyclopedias, dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, and other reference books.
  • RAND California Statistics Contains statistical information in a variety of categories, including Community, Education, and Population and Demographics.


Search the library catalog (books+) for books on your topic. Your search results will include articles as well. Limit to books by choosing the appropriate box from the menu to the left of the results.


Search for articles in the following databases. These resources will require your Pipeline account information when you access them off campus.


    • Academic Search Premier This multi-disciplinary database provides full text for more than 4,600 periodicals (magazines, scholarly journals, and newspapers).
    • Project MUSE Provides complete, full-text versions of scholarly journals in a wide range of subject areas.
    • JSTOR Contains articles from hundreds of scholarly journals covering a wide range of subjects in the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Full text articles are available, from the first issue (sometimes going back over 100 years) until five years ago.


    • America: History and Life with Full Text Covers the history and culture of the United States and Canada, from prehistory to the present. Provides full-text coverage of more than 200 periodicals (magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals) and nearly 100 books.
    • History Reference Center Covers all time periods of U.S. and World History, providing full text from reference and non-fiction books, periodicals (magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals), and primary source material such as historical documents, photos, and maps.


    • Newspapers Several databases with searchable full-text versions of many newspapers.

Black and white photograph of Highways 5, 10, 60, and 101 Looking West

Highways 5, 10, 60, and 101 Looking West, L.A. River and Downtown Beyond, 2004, Michael Light.


Figuring out whether the information you find online is credible enough for college research can be challenging. Use the P.R.O.V.E.N. Test for Evaluating Sources to determine whether the sources you find are credible:

  • Purpose: The reason the information exists. Is the purpose to sell, to entertain, to inform, to teach, or to persuade? Do the authors and publishers/sponsors make their purposes clear? Is this source designed for general readers or academic readers?
  • Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs. Does it relate to your topic? Does it meet the requirements of your assignment? Is it too basic or too advanced?
  • Objectivity: The reasonableness of the information. Is it fact or opinion? Is it biased? Do the authors use strong or emotional language, or leave out important facts or alternative perspectives?
  • Verifiability: The truthfulness and accuracy of the information. Where does the information come from? Can you verify it in other sources? Are there citations or links to other sources? What do experts say about the topic?
  • Expertise: The source of the information. Who are the authors, publishers, or sponsors of the information? Are they experts, or has the information been reviewed by experts? Is it posted on a personal website or blog?
  • Newness: The timeliness of the information. When was the information published or posted? Is it up to date? Is your topic in an area that requires current information (such as technology or current events), or will older sources work as well?

Searching for Websites

You will find a lot of information about specific places in California on the internet, if you know where to look. Try searching for these types of websites:

Recommended Websites

    General Information

    • CA.gov The official website of the State of California.

    Geographical / Geological Information (topography, area, etc.)

    Demographic Information (population, employment, etc.)

    The following resources are available on the United States Census Bureau website:

    Primary Sources (photographs, personal stories, etc.)

    • Calisphere The University of California’s free public gateway to a world of primary sources, including more than 150,000 digitized items on history and culture of California and its role in national and world history.
    • The Online Archive of California (OAC) Part of the California Digital Library project, providing online access to a wide range of primary source materials held in libraries, museums, and archives all over California.
    • American Memory Primary sources, from the Library of Congress.