Navigating Online Databases

It’s your senior year and you have to write a 15 page paper integrating scholarly research to support a thesis you have written. Yet, somehow you missed how to identify a scholarly article.   Google, your problem-solving search engine, won’t help you at this point (Wikipedia is off limits too!).

What you need is an online database, conveniently provided by your school’s library and resource center. Go to your school’s website.  (Here’s a link to the Lewis Library)  Find the link that leads you to the library’s homepage. There, you should find a huge heading labeled “Online Databases.” Your search for the right article may begin at either EBSCOhost, Jstor or Proquest.

Here are a few tips for finding scholarly resources:

1)      When you enter your keywords, know that you might not find exactly what you’re looking for the first time around! Looking for a resource that matches your interest or assignment is like putting together a puzzle. Be specific with your search but alter it periodically to increase your chances of finding what you need.

2)      Know what kind of article you are looking for. Do you want to read a correlational study or an experimental study? Would a literature review be more helpful so you can familiarize yourself with present research in the field on your topic? No matter what you’re looking for, make sure it’s peer reviewed!

*A peer reviewed article means that the study has been looked at by many scholars in the field who are familiar with the specific topic. The purpose is to assess the article for quality and to make sure it is valid and reliable.

3)      The articles you find will likely be long. Very long. Like in the 10-20+ page range. Be an effective reader! Read the abstract first to know if the article will be examining the topic you’re interested in. If it doesn’t match what you need, don’t read the rest!

4)      Based on the abstract, if you decide that you want to continue reading, know that you don’t have to read every single section. By all means, if you want to read it all, do. But if you have 10 other resources to integrate in your paper, you’d be wise to skim the article, making notes that support your argument or highlighting theories that are important to your paper.

5)      Skip the “Results” section! Unless you understand statistics and can decode numerical information. Go right to the “Discussion” section after reading about the “Methodology.” This is where you will read about the implications of the study, whether the hypotheses were supported, and what all of that means!

Looking for research can be frustrating. There is plenty of information out there, so it’s up to you to be a good consumer of information. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or be skeptical! If all else fail’s visit the Writing Center to keep you on track. Happy researching!

Written by: Samantha Agins

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