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SSI2-146: The Good Life: Finding Secondary Sources

Choosing the Best Finding Aids

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. JSTOR 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. The Philosopher's Index is an example of a subject database. Which subject databases you search will be determined by who may be writing about your topic. 

Search Primo

General Primo Search Tips

  • Use the pull-down scoping options to search Collins, Summit and Articles OR Collins and Summit, OR just Collins.
  • Use quotes to search for "exact titles".
  • Use the filters on the right side to quickly narrow your search.
  • Sign in with your Puget Sound username and password to gain access to online resources and request items from other libraries.

Reading a Call Number

Collins Library uses the Library of Congress classification scheme to organize books on the shelves. Follow these tips to find the book you need.

Example:

Primo book example

  • Start with the top line. It is in alphabetical order. Ex. BJ
  • The second line is a whole number.  Ex. 1481
  • The third line is  a combination of a letter and numbers. Read the letter alphabetically. Read the number as a decimal, eg. Y.23, Y.34, Y.344, Y.4, etc. Ex. B64 (*Some call numbers have more than one combination letter-number line.)
  • The last line is the year the book was published. Read in chronological order. Ex. 2001, 2005, 2010, 2015, etc. Ex. 2011

 

Use the library location chart and map to find where the book is located.

Featured Books

A sampling of potentially relevant books is listed below.

Is it scholarly?

Here are some clues to look for in the catalog record when you are evaluating whether a book is scholarly or popular:

  • The publisher is either a university press or an academic publisher (such as Routledge, Wiley, Blackwell, etc.).
  • The description of the book includes "notes and references."

When you have the book in hand, and still aren't sure if it is scholarly, you might want to do a little more digging, perhaps with a couple of quick Google searches:

  • Who is the author?  What are the author's credentials or other sources of expertise?
  • Does the publisher have a website?  If so, what types of books does it publish and what is the process for submitting work for consideration?

Recommended Databases

Selected articles subscribed to by Collins Library are available in Primo, but you'll want to search individual databases for more comprehensive results. These subject databases are especially useful for philosophical topics.

 

These additional subject databases may be useful for investigating different disciplinary approaches to your topic.

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

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.

Here's an example in action:

Envy Search Example

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.

Tipasa: Interlibrary Loan

Tipasa logo

If your article is not available at Collins Library, you've got another option for 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.

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!

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

For immediate assistance, connect to our 24/7 Ask a Librarian chat service.