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University at Buffalo Libraries

Finding and Evaluating Research Materials

Read How - Books | Articles | Web Sites


Books

A good place to begin your research is the Library Catalog, which is an electronic database of all material owned by the UB libraries. This includes books, DVDs, CDs, government documents, journal titles, musical scores and more.

Searching Overview

The four main ways to search the catalog are keyword/all fields, subject, title and author. A keyword or all fields search retrieves the most results because it searches for the word (s) throughout the entire catalog. A subject search is more focused because it looks for the word in a specific field. If you know of an important author or book title in your field of study, you can search specifically for them.

All Field/Keyword Search:

Subject Search:

Title Search:

Author Search:


For specific searching tips go to the Creating a Search Strategy page.

To request books that are not available in the catalog use Delivery+.

 

Evaluating Books
You need to evaluate the information you are finding. It is an essential part of the research process! Consider these five criteria:

  • Authority: Who wrote the book? What are the author’s credentials? Who is the publisher? If the publisher is an academic press, this generally means a scholarly resource.
    o Tip: You can find this information on the title page of the book.
  • Audience: Who is the book written for? A specialized audience? Or a more general one? Is the focus appropriate for your topic?
    o Tip: You can sometimes locate this information in the preface of the book.
  • Accuracy: Does the information appear to be well-researched or is it unsupported? Is the book free of errors?
    o Tip: See if the author is footnoting information and providing a bibliography of sources consulted.
  • Objectivity: Does the book appear biased or is the authors viewpoint impartial? Is the author trying to influence the opinion of the reader?
    o Tip: Is the author’s viewpoint very different than others in the field? In that case you will want to examine the data and supporting evidence closely.
  • Currency: When was the book published? Is it current or out of date for your topic? In general, areas in the humanities don’t need up-to-the minute research while areas in the sciences do. Has the book been revised or is this a new edition?
    o Tip: This information is located on the back of the title page.


Articles

Articles are found in periodical publications, issued on a regular or "periodic" basis (daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly). These include newspapers, popular magazines, and academic or scholarly journals. Scholarly articles are usually the most appropriate source of information for academic research.

Searching for Articles

Full-text articles are found in two main formats: print and electronic. The UB Libraries have vast collections of print journals and also provide electronic access to large numbers of journals through full-text databases.

Using Databases to Find Articles

A database is a collection of organized data that can be used to quickly retrieve information. Most databases owned by the University Libraries are electronic periodical indexes of citations, abstracts, or full-text periodical articles from thousands of magazines, journals, newspapers, historical documents, or other literary works.

The University Libraries subscribe to over 300 databases and electronic information products. Several of the most frequently used general databases are Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, and MasterFILE Premier. These databases contain full-text articles or citations to articles from journals, magazines, and newspapers. However, these are only a handful of the databases you have access to through the University Libraries.

How Do I Select Which Database to Use?

To identify a database in your field of study go to the UB Libraries Resources by Subject page where you can find subject-specific databases recommended by UB librarians.

How Do I Search Databases?

Enter your search terms in the text boxes and click “Search.”

Article Citations

Article citations include important information about that specific article: author, article title, publication title, volume, date and pages. You will need this information when you cite the article in your research.

Locating Full Text

When full text is immediately available:

Many of the articles you find in library databases are available in full text and can be viewed online either in Adobe Acrobat PDF format or in HTML format. In cases where the full text is not immediately available you may see links to where it can be found in other databases.



OR



When full text is not immediately available click on the “Search for Article” link:



Another window will open either showing you where the article can be found online:



OR

Telling you to search the Libraries’ catalog to see if the item is available in print:


***If you have a known item, a citation for a specific article, you can search the catalog by the title of the journal to see if the UB Libraries owns the journal in print:

Refining Your Search

Many databases offer the capability of refining a search after it’s been completed: by date, full text availability, by type etc. Here is what the “refine” section looks like in an EBSCOhost  database:



Emailing, Printing and Saving

Most databases provide options such as emailing, printing or saving articles or citations. Once you click on the title of an article,

You will see the choices on the far right of the screen:

For Journals Not Available at UB

If the article or any other material that you are looking for is not available at UB, request the article through Delivery+.

Evaluating Journal Articles

Articles in databases have already been published, and have gone through a review and editing process, unlike web sites. But it is still a good idea to evaluate them.

  • Source- Look for articles from scholarly journals, written by experts in the subject. There will be references that can lead you to additional books and articles on the topic. In some databases, you can limit your search by type of article -- a research article, an editorial, a review, or a clinical trial.
  • Length- The length of the article, noted in the citation, can be a good clue as to whether the article will be useful for research.
  • Authority- Use authoritative sources in your research. Use articles written by experts in the subject area, and who are affiliated with an academic institution.
  • Date– research in many subjects requires the most current information available. Is the article sufficiently up-to-date for your purpose?
  • Audience - For what type of reader is the author writing? If an article is written for other professionals, it will use terms and language special to the subject area.
  • Usefulness - Is the article relevant to your research topic?

For more detailed descriptions of various forms of periodicals, go to Periodicals by Type.


Web Sites

Databases vs. Web

It is important to understand that the information found in databases such as LexisNexis Academic or Factiva is not the same as the information found on the Web. A great deal of time, effort, and money is spent to purchase, collect, and organize the scholarly data found in these and other databases provided by the University Libraries. In contrast, because of its free and open nature, there is little to no organization involved in Web information resources. Therefore, many instructors will require that the Web not be used to collect information for research assignments. It is recommended that when doing research, UB databases be used before seeking information from the Web. While the Web often provides useful and reliable information, it must be used with discretion.

Search Engines
Search engines are the most common tools people use to search the Web. They are indexed by computerized "spider" programs that crawl through the Web searching for new Web pages to add to their listings. Most general search engines have millions of indexed pages which are not organized into any discernible order. This often leads to the returning of numerous records which may have nothing to do with your original search. Therefore, search engines are best used for specific references, general facts and information, or information about specific people or organizations. Examples of general search engines include:

Subject Directories
If you already know the subject matter that you need to research, it might be better to start searching with a subject directory. Subject directories are indexed by the same "spider" programs as general search engines, however they are organized by human beings into subject specific hierarchies . Subject directories emphasize "quality over quantity", therefore there are smaller numbers of Web pages listed in subject directories than search engines. Examples of subject directories include:

Basic Search Engine Tips

  • Read over the HELP screen of each search engine you use.One of the main advantages of using search engines is their ease of use. However, each search engine has different options for searching. Therefore, always read the HELP screen and guides offered by each search engine.
  • Use quotations where applicable.  Most search engines support the use of quotations. When looking for a specific name, title, organization, or phrase encase them in quotations for more accurate results. For example:
    • "Fall of the House of Usher" - title
    • "quoth the raven nevermore" - quote
    • "Edgar Allen Poe" - name
    • "The Academy of American Poets" - organization
  • Use Boolean searching if there is more than one keyword, term, or concept needed. Boolean terms are conjunctions such as AND, OR, NOT which are used to connect concepts and construct search statements. Most search engines do not require the use of AND; by default all searches are AND searches .
    • Tip: The search engine Google.com uses the symbol – in place of NOT. For example:
      • Presidents speeches
      • "Presidential speeches" Lincoln – Roosevelt

Evaluating Web Sites
Anything can be published on the Internet, so it is extremely important to critically evaluate Web sites.

  • Authority: Who is responsible for creating the web page? An individual or an organization? If it is an individual, you can search for information about the author's credentials or affiliations in Google Scholar, in our online catalog, or in online databases. Is the content produced by an organization such as the American Medical Association? If so, check the site's "About" page to learn about the background and expertise of the producer. Does this organization represent a point of view or bias, or attempt to influence public opinion? Think about how the website of The Democratic Party, might differ from the one for The Republican Party.
  • Audience: Who is this web site created for? Is the content geared to a certain age group? If so, would a site focused on middle school children be appropriate for a college paper?
  • Content: What is the content of the web site: images, articles, a blog? The type of domain (.edu, .gov, .org) may provide some clues about the information. Is the content original or reproduced from another source? If it is reproduced, is there a permission statement indicating this? It is very important to verify that this information is correct and hasn't been altered.
  • Currency: How recent is the web site? The site should be up-to-date and updates listed after the original date. Generally this information is located at the bottom of the web page.
  • Usefulness: Is the web site relevant to your research topic? Does the level of information meet your research needs?