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Searching for Sources

Leave Plenty of Time for Searching

You are probably going to go back to searching various times throughout your research process in order to get the most relevant resources for your paper. In the beginning of the research process you are going to do some background research to familiarize yourself with your topic and develop a search plan. Then, as you start research, you might find that your topic changes and you need to go back and do a little more background research. Finally, when you begin writing,  you might find gaps in your research that you need to go back and fill. All this is to say, that research is not a process where you do it once, find three articles, and start writing. It takes some time and some finessing to find the best sources.

Some Search Tips

Identify Key Concepts and Alternative Search Terms

  • Hear yourself think/speak about your topic.  What do others refer to this concept as?  Are there other terms that mean the same thing? Often this step can be the hardest because it can be difficult to identify which terms will find you the most relevant resources. This is where your background research can come in handy. What terms did you come across when you were looking at a broad overview of your topic?
  • Try some searches in the databases and see what kind of results you get. If you find an article that seems relevant, look at what subjects are listed on that article and try a different search using those terms. This can be the most powerful tool to finding relevant sources.

  • If you have two different concepts, use two separate boxes to search for those terms. You'll get better results.

advanced search screen

  • Use the advanced search screens to eliminate search terms that aren't relevant but keep coming up in your results.

advanced search using not

Like I said, finding the right terms to search with can be the most difficult and time consuming part of research. If you need help with this, please contact me. I love searching and would be happy to help you.

Using Good Sources to Find More Sources

Sometimes All It Takes Is One or Two Good Sources

While finding the right terms to use to search can be difficult, the good news is that once you've identified one or two good sources you can use those to find more sources really easily.

  • First, look at the works cited or bibliography of your source. This is a treasure trove of more sources. Find some titles that look relevant and do a search either in Google Scholar or in Search Everything for that title and see if you can find it. (Tip: Just search on the tile, don't copy and paste the entire citation. You won't get good results).
  • Next, click on the author's name and see what other articles they have published. Most often, an academic scholar specializes in one area and writes many articles about that topic.
  • Finally, and I think this is the best tool, is to use Google Scholar to see what other papers have cited the paper you've identified as a good resource. The cited by link will bring a you a list of papers that have used your original source as a source in their paper. As you can imagine, the list will probably have a lot of sources that are relevant to your topic. If you find some good ones in that list, use their cited by links to find even more, and those to find even more, and so on.

Here's where you find the cited by link in Google Scholar:

cited by link in google scholar