Finding and Evaluating Research Materials
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.
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:
For specific searching tips go to the Creating a Search Strategy page.
To request books that are not available in the catalog use Delivery+.
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 Is it current or out of date for your topic?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 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 even larger numbers of journals through full-text databases.
For A Known Article
If you know the periodical title, volume number and page number for an article of interest, follow the instructions below.
Search the E-Journals tab by doing a title search for the title of the periodical. Do not search for the title of the article. Some databases will identify the journal title as " Source ".
- To locate the journal Scientific American, type scientific american
- To locate the Journal of Marriage and the Family, type journal of marriage and the family
- To locate The New York Times, type new york times
If the article is not available electronically, retry your journal title search in the libraries' catalog.
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 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.
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:
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.
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 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:
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.
- Presidents speeches
- "Presidential speeches" Lincoln – Roosevelt
- Tip: The search engine Google.com uses the symbol – in place of NOT. For example:
Evaluating Web Sites
Anything can be published on the Internet, so it is extremely important to critically evaluate Web sites.
- Currency: The timeliness of the information.
- When was the information published or posted?
- Has the information been revised or updated?
- Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
- Are the links functional?
- Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.
- Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is the information at an appropirate level (not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
- Have you loooked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
- Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?
- Authority: The source of the information.
- Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
- What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
- Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
- Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
- Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
- examples: .com, .edu, .gov, .org
- Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.
- Where does the information come from?
- Is the information supported by evidence?
- Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
- Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
- Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
- Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?
- Purpose: The reason the information exists
- What is the purpose of the information? Is it to informa, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
- Do the authors/sponsors make thier intentions or purpose clear?
- Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
- Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
- Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?