Mellon Mays fellows, welcome to your start-up guide to library research.
It's my hope that this guide answers some of the basic questions you might have about using library resources, and offers a useful place to begin your research.
You'll also find a list of subject librarians. We are research specialists in our assigned disciplines, and are available to help you with your work at every stage. Please feel free to chat with us online, call, or email. If you're not sure who to contact, please get in touch with me and I can help.
Best of luck in your research!
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What is a scholarly article?
A scholarly article appears in a publication, such as a journal, which is made up of articles on a narrow topic and which document and discuss the results of original research. Authorship is usually by one or all of the researchers who did the research. Publishing in a scholarly journal is a method researchers use to communicate their research and share with other scholars in their field of study. The content usually includes a review of literature previously published on this topic, methodolody used in the study, and the findings. The audience for these articles is usually discipline specific, and as a result the language in articles is often technical and discipline-specific. Articles in scholarly publications have gone through an editorial review by a panel of experts (peer-review) to ensure that the article has met the requirements of a scholarly article. Many scholarly periodicals are only available through libraries. An increasing number are also available as open access publications.
What is a popular article?
A popular article appears in a magazine or newspaper that you may buy at the supermarket. The content in these publications often covers current events or summarizes research done by others. The content in these publications is often brief, written in simple language, and often includes pictures and advertisements. Authors are not always named, and sources are not always identified.
A good search term is the key to effectively and rapidly finding information on the internet. Check out the Unofficial Google Advanced Search.
1) Be specific. Consider including the location, time period, synonyms or specific terminology.
For example, the term ‘eating disorders’ might become ‘anorexic eating disorders in the 1980’s among men’.
2) Link your terms in specific ways. Using AND, OR, NOT can structure the search engines' assumptions about the order in which the terms should appear in a webpage. A better search term is: ‘anorexic AND eating disorders AND 1980’s AND men’
3) Get rid of what you don’t need or want. Since anorexic is a specific type of eating disorder, we really don’t need 'eating disorder' if we have 'anorexic'.
4) Broaden terms to capture variation with * (asterisk). For example, a search for grad* will search for a variety of terms which build on that stem such as graduate, graduating, graduates, etc.
If you don't want webpages with a certain word, use the NOT or the minus sign to get rid of them. For instance, if you want to know what Josiah Carberry gets up to when he's not at Brown, type in 'Josiah Carberry -Brown'.
The minus sign is another great way to screen out whole categories of webpages that you don't want. Maybe you want scholarly information and you know that it's unlikely that you'll find it on a commercial website. To get rid of all commercial websites, add this to the end of your search term: '-site:.com'.
The new search term is: ‘anorexic AND 1980’s AND men -site:.com’
4) Search for phrases: If you're searching for a specific term, and you know the words should always appear in a particular sequence, then search for the entire phrase by using double quotation marks.
The new search term is: anorexic AND 1980’s AND men AND "body dysmorphia" -site:.com
There's a lot of information out there. How do you decide whether it's good information? Use the following criteria and see if your information passes muster.
Currency - Is it the most up-to-date information on the topic?
Relevancy - Is the information fully relevant to your topic? Does it cover all aspects, or is it just tangentially related?
Authority - Is the author qualified to be speaking or writing about the topic? Does he/she have degrees related to the topic? If there isn't an author, how do you know that the information is reliable?
Purpose - If the website is selling something, then it has an inherent bias and you should be very skeptical. Even if you agree with their point of view, it's better to find a source that is unbiased and as objective as possible.
If Brown doesn't have everything you need, Interlibrary Loan is always an option.
Books: using WorldCat/ Borrow Direct
If the book you need is checked out or not in our catalogue, try looking for it in Worldcat, a catalogue of libraries worldwide. You can also use WorldCat to conduct additional subject searches just to see what’s out there. Be sure you're on the Brown network, then click on the Request This Item in the green box. If it’s available, the book will be sent to you. This service for books is called Borrow Direct.
Journal articles: using ILLiad
If you found the article in a database, click on the Find It button-- if we don't have it, you'll be directed to an Interlibrary Loan link. If you're not in a database, or don't see the Find It button, open your own ILLiad account and request the article there. Generally, you'll be emailed a PDF of the article, and it can be found in your ILLiad account.