- What's What
- Need help?
- Scholarly vs. popular articles
- Off-campus access
- Build strong search term
- Search Engines
- Research question
- What is a literature review?
- Scope of literature review
- When I am done?
- Organize a literature review
Legal and Government Information
Citation and Bibliographies
Pick a starting point:
The information you base your scholarly work on will, in part, determine its value. Be critical - if there is a best (or better) source, find it. If you can't find a better source, be clear about the limitations of the information you are using. Remember, items in the library have been selected for their credibility and are high quality information. When searching the internet, you have to determine what's good and what's not on your own.
Articles are found in Journals.
Journals are found either by title or through Databases.
Databases are found by title or subject.
Library Subject Guides are a good place to start looking for information. Each of the over 80 guides lists resources that are the best for a given subject.
Databases A-Z list is good if you know the name of the database you want to use.
eJournals A-Z list is good if you want to jump directly into a journal you want to use. Especially good if you have a citation and are trying to find a specific, known article.
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Library Subject and Course Guides
Self-service guides to resources in over 80 discipline and area study topics
What is the difference between a scholarly and popular article
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.
Brown users must authenticate to gain access to licensed resources.
- Use VPN if off-campus
- Use Secure Wireless if on campus
Build Strong Search Terms
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
Search Engines - How do they work?
Each search engine has its own way of searching. Understanding a little bit about how a search engine decides what to show you can help you use the search engine more effectively. For instance, Google uses hundreds of factors when considering which pages to show you, but some of the more important factors include
- If the webpage has been linked to from other webpages
- If the correct search terms have been entered in the same order or are near each other on the page
- How many pages there are in the website.
If many other people have linked to your website, and you’ve entered correct search terms in both the text and the code of your website, and you have many pages, your website will be ranked higher in Google searches. There are people who make a nice living off of tweaking websites so that they are ranked highly by Google. It’s called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and most commercial companies employ whole departments that make sure their websites come up first when you search.
Most colleges, universities, non-profit organizations, and average people cannot afford to spend a lot of time tweaking their websites like this. So when you want to find non-commercial, local, or very recent information, you have to know specialized techniques.
Yahoo tends to categorize webpages based on key terms and then look at rank based on ‘popularity’. Similarly, the library Discovery tool uses a categorization based on key terms and only searches materials that the library owns or subscribes to.
Now, if you don’t want to be an SEO specialist and you don’t want to stay abreast of all the changes that each search engine makes, how do you find what you want? Use more than one.
Did you know that there are over fifteen general purpose search engines and many more specific ones? Check them out!
What is your research question?
- What is it you want to know? Consider the "so what" factor when you are refining your research question. Why is your topic important to the scholarly conversation? What do we know already?
- What types of materials will you look at to research your topic? Types of materials include (but are not limited to) monographs (books), handbooks, journal articles, newspapers, data sets, conference reports, primary source documents, and special collections materials.
- How will you go about finding those materials? Coming up with keywords and using search terms will help you fine tune your search so you avoid having too many results, or too few. You can do this in a number of ways:
- Boolean operators: AND, OR, NOT
- Put quotes around phrases or words which should show up in results together, such as "labor union". In this case, a search will be done for both labor and union -- in that order.
- Use parentheses to group similar terms together if you are not sure what term might be used in a search, such as (college OR university). In this case, a search will be done of results that contain either college or university in the results.
- Use an asterix as a wild card to search for a term that may have many variations, such as graduat*. In this case, all terms that start with graduat will be found, including graduate, graduates, graduating, graduation, etc.
What is a Literature Review?
- Read widely but selectively.
- Follow the citation trail -- building on previous research by reviewing bibliographies of articles and books that are close to your interest.
- Synthesize previous research on the topic.
- Aim to include both summary and synthesis.
- Focus on ways to have the body of literature tell its own story. Do not add your own interpretations at this point.
- Look for patterns and find ways of tying the pieces together.
What should be the scope of my the Literature Review?
In general you want to throw out a wide net and read, read, read. It depends. How many sources do you need? What types of sources? Which citation style should you use? What time period should it cover? Is currency important? What do you need to be aware of related to scholarly versus popular materials?
How do I know I am done?
One key factor in knowing you are done is that you keep running into the same articles and materials. With no new information being uncovered you can assume you've exhausted your current search and should modify search terms, or perhaps you have reached a point of exhaustion with the available research.
How do I organize my literature review?
- Identify the organizational structure you want to use: chronologically, thematically, or methodologically
- Start writing: let the literature tell the story, find the best examples, summarize instead of quote, synthesize by rephrasing (but cite!) in context of your work
Current; said to be the world's largest full-text, online database, containing more than a billion full-text articles, citation abstracts, and documents. Emphasis is on current news and legal and business information.
Link to A-Z list of resources on LexisNexis Academic. For help in getting started, see Introduction to LexisNexis Video Tutorial.
The Library holds over 250 named collections (A-Z List) which are distinguished by their specialized subject matter, age, uniqueness, or value. Most of the listed collections are located in the John Hay Library and as a list of digitized collections. For questions about special collections in the John Hay Library, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Brown subscribes to many online newspapers with content ranging from the 19th century to the current day. We also own many newspapers on microform.
For complete list of recent newspapers (1980-present), see our Online Newspapers page.
Evaluate the information
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.