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SSI2-117: Coming Out! The Gay Liberation Movement: Secondary Sources

Where Do I Search?

A good starting point for academic work is one or more of the many databases available through the library's website. Databases provide access and content to sources that are generally not available on the open web through a general search engine like Google.

Every database contains only certain types and amounts of information. Which one you choose depends almost entirely on the context of your research project. There is no single database or web search interface that will work for every research context; instead, you'll need to match your specific research needs to a variety of options.

Library catalog searches (i.e., Primo) can be the better choice when you are seeking in-depth, book-length treatments of a topic.

Multidisciplinary databases cover a wide variety of subject areas and may include a mix of popular and scholarly sources. They are good resources when you begin your research.  Academic Search Premier is an example of a multidisciplinary database.

Subject databases cover a specific discipline and provide the widest range of access to scholarly sources. They are used for in-depth research. America: History & Life, a history database, is an example of a subject database. Which subject databases you search will be determined by who may be writing about your topic. Looking for articles about lesbian political activity in the United States? In addition to the America: History & Life, search the Gender Studies database.

Forming a Research Question

Research is not passive reporting, it is a search for answers. A research question is what drives your research project; it is something that you want to know about your topic and it is something you want to explore and try to answer in your research project. 

Research typically begins with a topic that has piqued your curiosity.  When you're researching a topic, you typically are interested in questions of whowhatwhere and when.

As you learn more about your chosen topic, however, you'll discover that scholars may have different approaches and arguments about the topic, and you'll start to ask your own research questions.  Research questions typically begin with why or how.

When you've selected a research question to explore and are ready to make an argument as to how to answer it, you'll come up with a thesis.

Practice: Comparing and Evaluating Search Tools

Choose a broad topic (no more than 2-3 concepts) and conduct a preliminary investigation into the topic using three different search tools: Google Scholar, a multidisciplinary database, and a subject database.  Use the same terms for each search tool.

Write your search terms on the worksheet linked below.

Respond to the following questions:

  • How many results did you get?
  • What types of sources are included?
  • Are the sources popular, scholarly or both?
  • Scan the first two pages of search results. List some aspects of your topic discussed.
  • Rank the search tools in order of relevance to your topic, with one being the most relevant.

Search Tips

Don't forget to prepare a list of related terms and concepts BEFORE you begin searching! This will save you time and give you a sense of direction as you search.

Number 1 Search Tip

Use Advanced Search and limit features whenever possible. Subset limits, date limits, citation searches, subject searches, etc. -- are all useful timesavers.

More Search Tips:

  • Start with a general search.
  • Avoid long phrases.
  • When given a choice, go with advanced search.
  • Use AND to find all the words (distinct concepts) on your topic.
  • Use OR to find any of the words (synonyms or related concepts) on your topic.
  • The symbol * is used as a right hand truncation character in most databases; it will find all forms of a word.
  • Use limiters to focus your search by date, full text, peer reviewed articles, etc.
  • Be flexible in your searching.

Too MUCH Information?

  • Use more specific words.
  • Narrow your search by adding more words connecting them with AND.
  • Do a subject search instead of a keyword search.
  • Put phrases in quotation marks.

Too LITTLE Information?

  • Try different search words, including synonyms, broader terms, or related words.
  • Use the truncation symbol * to get all forms of a word.
  • Try a different database.

Reading a Scholarly Article

During the preview phase, you'll want to concentrate on these key elements:

  • Abstract (if available)
  • First paragraph (sometimes the second paragraph, too):  What does the author want to find out?  What is the research question the author is asking?
  • Evidence:  What are the primary sources the author uses?
  • Scholarly conversation:  What are the other scholarly works (secondary sources) the author uses?
  • Conclusion (typically the last paragraph):  How does the author tie the evidence together to answer the research question? What is the significance of this research?

Once you've selected the article, you can actively read for content, argument, analysis and evaluation. 

Tip: Read the article more than once!  It may help to print out a copy so that you can make notes.

Reading a Citation

When reading a citation, break it down into parts. Check out the color-coded example below:

Gilmore, S. & Kaminski, E. (2007). A Part and Apart: Lesbian and Straight Feminist Activists Negotiate Identity in a Second-Wave Organization. Journal of the History of Sexuality, 16(1), 95-113.

Author(s). (Year of Publication). Article Title. Journal Title, Volume(Issue), page numbers.

Tip: The most common pitfall of reading citations is mixing up the article and journal titles. Remember when searching Primo to find out if we have access to an article: it will be most efficient to search for the journal title.

Recommended Subject Databases

These subject databases may be especially useful for your research projects for this class. Depending on your topic and your angle, you may wish to search additional subject databases. 

Multidisciplinary Databases

The databases listed below are examples of multidisciplinary finding aids.

Note: If you need discipline-specific resources, it is better to use the recommended subject databases under the "articles" tab in the library subject guides

Google Scholar

Google Scholar searches open access materials as well as items from many publishers, including some of the resources to which Collins Library subscribes. However, Google Scholar only searches a fraction of the published scholarly literature. Use the databases listed on the page as well as others found on the database A-Z list.

Tips:
  • Use advanced searching to search phrases, authors, publications, and dates.
  • Google Scholar includes many citations that link directly to publishers' web sites of which most will charge a fee for access. However, Collins Library may subscribe to these publications. Search the journal title in Primo.
  • Google Scholar provides forward citation searching, automatically extracting and displaying works cited as separate results.

Tipasa: Interlibrary Loan

If your article is not available at Collins Library, you've got another option to getting it. Use Tipasa, our interlibrary loan service.

Tipasa is linked to your library account so you'll need to log in to use it.

Once you are logged in, either go directly to Tipasa and manually enter the information, or, if you're using a database, look for a shortcut link to automatically fill out the form, like this:

Interlibrary Loan Link

Allow at least a week for the article to come. If your article is delivered in electronic format, you'll receive an email with a link to follow as soon as it's arrived. If it's delivered in paper, you'll receive it right in your campus mailbox.

Need Help?

This subject guide highlights only a small portion of the many resources available to you.  If you're not finding what you need, don't hesitate to contact Katy!


Katherine "Katy" Curtis, Humanities Librarian
email: kcurtis@pugetsound.edu
Schedule an appointment
tel: (253) 879-3672
office:  Collins Library 140

If you can't find Katy, remember there are several ways to get help with your research

And don't forget about the Ask a Librarian 24/7 service: Anytime, anywhere! This instant messaging reference service lets you chat with a librarian no matter what time it is. Puget Sound librarians can email you to follow up if you leave your email address.