1b: Researching the Academic Databases
Almost every college subscribes to a list of academic
databases where more specialized, academic essays can be found.
If you are an AUC student, go to the AUC
and choose Electronic Resources
the 80+ academic databases that AUC subscribes to. Each of these
databases specializes in a different kind of information. For a
writing class exploring general research topics, the following four
indexes are probably the most useful:
|(Note that at AUC, in
order to search the databases from your home, you will need
a dial-in account so that you can dial in directly to
the AUC server. Otherwise, you must use a campus computer
lab to access these databases.)
Academic Search Premier is the most popular
student database, and the most costly for schools. It is one of
a handful of databases on EBSCO Host. After selecting Academic
Search Premier, you will see a screen allowing you to specify
more databases within EBSCO Host. Depending upon your topic, you
may also want to check some of these boxes. On the search query
screen on Academic Search Premier, you can control the kind of
return hits your search retrieves.
On the Advanced Search tab, you can also search for keywords
within a specific publication. This would be helpful if you knew
a good journal or magazine, but were unsure of when an article
was published on the topic in it.
is a bit different than other journals. Every two weeks a new issue
dedicated solely to one hot, current issue is published. One or
two researchers produce all the content, and the articles are mainly
informational rather than argumentative, giving readers an overview
of the issue, of pro/con debates, a history, a bibliography of sources,
and so on. CQ Researcher's bibliography is a great source
for finding more sources -- you can plug some of the titles into
other academic databases or even the Internet itself and often find
the source. Because CQ Researcher is single-authored, you
should careful that you do not overquote from it.
To cite a source from CQ Researcher, click on the nifty
link on the top toolbar of the article and select MLA style.
A more academic journal, JSTOR has its articles stored as
.pdf files. These .pds files can sometimes be large and therefore
take a long time to download. However, all articles within the JSTOR
database are quality academic articles, some perhaps beyond the
scope of what you're looking for. To read a .pdf file you must have
Adobe Acrobat reader, which you can download
for free if your computer doesn't already have it. Before you
search on JSTOR, you must first select which journals you
want to search in.
The most common complaint students have about JSTOR is that the
essays are too long and difficult to read. In fact, reading from
JSTOR in contrast to the Internet will give you a good feel for
the difference between academic and non-academic sources. When you
use a source from JSTOR in your essay, your essay will be much more
credible and scholarly.
If you're looking for news articles, LEXIS-NEXIS is the
database to search. Keep in mind, though, that news articles aren't
usually scholarly articles; they mostly give current information
about topics. Some of the longer articles on LEXIS-NEXIS may be
more scholarly. You just have to judge by the depth and research
in the essay. The LEXIS-NEXIS database seems to contain almost every
newspaper in the world. Hence specifying the search queries to get
the returns you want can be a bit more complicated than usual.
First, select guided
Guided News Search.
In the Guided News Search tab (rather than the "Quick News
Search" tab) follow the four steps for making a more specific
selection. Doing so will yield much better results than simply typing
in general keywords into the Quick News Search.
If you're having trouble
finding information on one database, try another. Mix up your keywords
or use different ones. If you get too many hits, try searching with
more specific keywords. If you don't get enough hits, search with
a broader set of keywords, or even just one keyword.
Finally, remember that
you are not limited to these four databases. There are dozens more
that the library subscribes to. Scan down the list and see if any
others might be useful. These five are perhaps worth checking out:
- ERIC (EBSCOHost)
- Oxford English Dictionary
- Project Muse
- Sociological Abstracts