Starting to Research

May 12th, 2014

Whether you’ve been a student for a long time or are just getting started, knowing how to do good research can be a challenge.  You’re probably great at finding movie times with Google, browsing Wikipedia for quick information, and maybe you even do your shopping or banking online.  So you know that you’re good with a computer.  But what about the next step?  In your classes, you’re often told that you can only use ‘scholarly’ sources, and professors reject web pages.  How do you distinguish what the scholarly sources are, and where to find them?  And how do you use them?

IU East subscribes to a lot of high quality sources that are ideal to use in your academic work.  And they are much different from the largely commercialized or self-published or free tabloid-fodder echo chamber that makes up the bulk of the free internet.  We list them all here.  These databases bring together articles and books written by scholars who rely on research – and in many cases, their work is reviewed by other experts in the field before it is published (something we call ‘peer review’).  This list is the best place to start your research.

However, in order to get better information, you need better tools.  Systems like Google, with their one user-friendly search box, have chosen to sacrifice power for ease of use.  That is sensible for less important things.  But when you want accuracy?  For that, you need a more powerful tool.  These databases are usually more complex to use than Google, but they will get you much better information.

Searching can be affected by the syntax you use, and what types of limits you want to put on it.  Do you only want something from the last five years?  How about something published in a nursing journal?  Restrictions like this are impossible to do in Google’s lonely search window, but having all the extra controls in a database makes what you get back fit your needs better.

And we have a handy video that shows you how to do it.  It may look complicated at first, but try it a few times and searching techniques such as boolean language, nesting, truncation, field codes, and limiters will feel natural to you.  And your research will be great, too!

In the next few weeks, we’ll go further, looking at specific, common topics you might be interested in, and highlight the databases and techniques you would use to answer them.  And if you get stuck, don’t worry – we’re always here to help.  Any questions?  Ask us at iueref@iue.edu.