Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

SSI2-163: Becoming Modern: Paris 1870-1900 : Articles

Choosing the Best Finding Aids

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.

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.

Database Search Tips

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:
Search Example

 

Too Many Results? Narrow your search.

  • Use subject databases.
  • Add limiters.
  • Add more terms to your search.
  • Use more specific search terms.
  • Narrow the scope of your topic as it may be too broad.

Too Few Results? Broaden your search.

  • Try different databases.
  • Add synonyms or related terms.
  • If you have used limiters, remove them.
  • Use fewer terms.
  • Your topic may be too narrow. Think of broader concepts related to your topic.

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:

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.

Recommended Subject Databases

E-Journal Collections

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

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.

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.
Google Scholar Search

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.