Questions to ask yourself:
1. Is it peer-reviewed? Some databases index articles in only peer-reviewed journals; if you're not sure, do some research on the journal title, or ask your professor or a librarian.
2. Is the article current? Currency means different things in different disciplines. In the sciences, currency might mean the most recent two to five years; in the humanities, currency might mean the most recent 50 years.
3. Is the article sufficiently substantial? Again, there are disciplinary differences. In the sciences, a dense three-page article is substantial; in the humanities, it would be hard to develop an argument in less than about ten pages.
4. Is the article relevant to your research question? Note that "relevance" can include evidence of a counter-argument.
Read the article more than once! It may help to print out a copy so that you can annotate it.
What is the thesis of the article?
What primary source evidence does the author analyze?
What secondary (scholarly) sources does the author engage in conversation?
What is the structure of the argument? (You may wish to outline the argument.)
How is this article relevant to your research question?
As you write up your annotation, take a moment to remind yourself of Puget Sound's Academic Integrity requirements.
A subject database indexes a full range of scholarly work--typically books, essays within books, and journal articles--in a specific discipline. Each academic discipline taught at the University of Puget Sound has at least one specific subject database; to identify these subject databases, simply click on the "Articles" tab any any of the library's Research by Subject pages.
A subject database is very different from an e-journal database like JSTOR or Project Muse. Consider:
|Database:||# Classics Journals||#Books||Date Range|
|JSTOR||322 titles full-text||0||about 1880-2012, depending on journal|
|Historical Abstracts||2,300 journals indexed||over 81,000 indexed||1953-present|
In what circumstances might it be a good idea to search Historical Abstracts? When might you want to search JSTOR?
1. Before starting your search, make a list of keywords to search. For each concept, try to come up with a list of synonyms or closely related terms.
2. Select a database from the list on the right and select the advanced search option. (Hint: for best results with any database, always choose the advanced search interface.)
3. Begin to input your search terms. Separate synonyms with OR in the same row. Connect separate concepts with AND in different rows.
4. Choose your limiters. For example, you likely will want to limit the results to only those languages that you can read.
5. Evaluate your results. Click on each record to see the abstract of the article. You may wish to explore these results; you also may wish to try out other search terms as well.
6. To access an article, click on the link to "Check for full text." If the article is available in our library, a link will be provided. If we do not have a copy of the article, then request it via ILLiad (interlibrary loan). If the source is a book or chapter in a book, you'll need to check Primo for the holdings. If the book is not available in Collins Library, you can request it from SUMMIT.
7. Cast your net wide at first, and only then start to narrow things down.
Good databases for your research project in this course are listed below.
Note that you can combine database searches when databases are published by the same company. For example, EBSCO publishes Historical Abstracts and Art Index, so you could search both simultaneously by clicking on "choose databases" on the search interface.