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Getting Started: Journals & Databases

Topic selection to information search

Scholarly Resources

Doing college level research requires investigating scholarly research as opposed to books, magazines and newspapers that are aimed at the general public. Scholarly books and articles are usually written by people with post graduate degrees and include citations. The citations reflect the ongoing conversation between the scholars on their topic. You can find scholarly books in the libaray shelves and scholarly articles in the databases on the library website. The databases scan articles from thousands of journals and organize them by indexing terms, date, author, title and the journal they came from.  If your professor requires peer reviewed journal articles there is a box to check off in most databases that will limit your results to scholarly articles. Since they are, by nature, advanced investigations into a topic, you will want to get a foundation in the topic from an encyclopedia article or book chapter before reading the peer reviewed journal articles.

Keywords and Indexing Terms

In order to get the most relevant articles from the library databases, take advantage of the indexing terms that sort all the articles into subject categories. Start your search with some keywords that would show up in your perfect article. Look at one that is on topic for you and hit the hyperlink to a subject category. There will be articles that were put into that category by people who read the articles. You can take advantage of the information they attach to the article to zero on good research articles.

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators sit between the boxes in the database search boxes. AND is the default. All search result articles will contain both keywords. You can hit the  drop down box and change the operator to OR. When that connects the boxes, all search result articles will contain at least one of the keywords. If you change the drop down box to NOT, all search result articles will exclude the keywords.   

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

Use the Gale Virtual Reference Library to find an overview article on your topic. GVRL is the academic equivalent of Wikipedia. This is a great place to discover the big ideas in your topic, the controversies and the people involved. It is also a good place to browse topics to see what interests you enough to invest time and energy in researching and writing on the subject.