Selecting the best or most appropriate finding aid for identifying sources depends almost entirely on the context of your research assignment. 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 (i.e., JSTOR) can be the most appropriate choice when you just want to get a sense of what's available on a topic and when it isn't so important that you pay attention to disciplinary lenses.
Subject databases (i.e., Historical Abstracts) are the best choice for identifying the widest range of sources on a topic within a specific academic discipline. Recommended subject databases for each discipline can be found on the "articles" tab in each library subject guide.
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:
Don't forget to prepare a list of related terms and concepts BEFORE you begin searching! This will save you time a give you a sense of direction as you search.
When you construct your search, you'll want to connect synonyms with the Boolean operator "OR" and different concepts with the Boolean operator "AND." You also can use truncation (the asterisk*) to find all forms and spellings of a word.
Always use the advanced search interface and some combination of the following techniques to increase the effectiveness of your searches:
|Search Technique||What It Does|
|quotation marks||Searches for exact phrase|
|Truncation (usually an *)||Searches for all forms of a word|
|Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT)||Lets you broaden or narrow your search|
|Database thesaurus or index||Allows you to pinpoint the exact indexing terms the database uses|
Here's an example in action:
During the preview phase, you'll want to concentrate on these key elements:
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.
When reading a citation, break it down into parts. Check out the color-coded example below:
Thomson, Richard. “‘Les Quat’ Pattes’: The Image of the Dog in Late Nineteenth-Century French Art.” Art History, vol. 5, no. 3, Sept. 1982, pp. 323–337.
Author. "Article Title." Journal Title, Volume, Issue No., Year of Publication, 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.
These e-journal collections provide access to many journals in the humanities, but they are more limited in coverage compared to subject databases. In most cases, it's better to search subject databases to identify articles, and then search the journal title in Primo to link to the materials in these e-journal collections.
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 this page as well as others found on the database A-Z list.
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:
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.
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!