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Search Strategy

Here is a good, basic formula for getting started with your research:

  • Begin by using the keyword brainstorming worksheet to help you tweak your research question, identify keywords and related terms, and keep track of what you find.  
  • Search in a library catalog (Summon, OBISOhioLINK and/or WorldCat) to find books and reference sources.  These sources will:
    • provide BACKGROUND and CONTEXT
    • REVIEW and SUMMARIZE earlier work
    • help you FOCUS your topic and
    • provide CITATIONS to important books, journal articles, conference papers, interviews, etc.
  • Next, search research databases to find articles. The library has hundreds of databases; those listed on this guide are good places to begin.
  • You may also wish to use Google Scholar to search the Internet.  This is a great tool for doing cited reference searches.
  • Finally, use the CRAAP test worksheet to evaluate the sources you find.

Databases

Multi-discplinary databases are listed below. Use the subject and source type limiters on the A-Z list to find subject specific databases. 

Summon

Summon logo

Search approximately 300 million books, scholarly articles, newspaper articles, data, digital audio, digital video, digital images, government documents and more. It draws from the library catalog (OBIS), many of the full text and article indexing databases, as well as digital repositories from colleges, universities, research centers, and other open-access archives on the web. 

Finding Full Text

Many databases offered on the library's website include the full text of articles.  Click on the pdf or html icon to download the article.

If full text is not available, click the 360 Link icon to see if there is access from another source.  Look for:360 Link Find Full Text button icon displayed for each item in the databases offered from the library's website.  In Google Scholar, look for Find Full Text @ Oberlin.  Access at publisher's websites is generally limited to subscribers.

Full-text is not always accessible for immediate download.  The 360 Link may lead to an intermediary page that offers access through Interlibrary loan.  If you have trouble, consult library staff.

Journal Finder

Use the Journal Finder to look up coverage dates for a specific title. 

What is a Scholarly Article?

Both scholarly and peer-reviewed articles are written by experts in academic or professional fields. Scholarly articles are published in journals for specific academic disciplines. Many scholarly journals are also peer-reviewed.

Peer-reviewed articles are submitted to reviewers who are experts in the field. Because the reviewers specialize in the same scholarly area as the author, they are considered the author’s peers (hence “peer review”).

Both scholarly and peer-reviewed articles are excellent places to find what has been studied or researched on a topic, as well as find references to additional relevant sources of information. 

What is a Popular Source?

Popular sources are written for a general audience and are intended to inform readers on a broad range of topics, such as news events, topics of current interest, and the business and entertainment worlds.  Examples include newspapers, magazines, best-sellers, and consumer-oriented websites. They can be useful for getting ideas for a topic or for background information. When used to document historical events, cultural practices, or public opinion, popular sources may be valuable to researchers as primary source material. 

Typical characteristics of popular sources:

  • informal in tone and scope, with language that is easily understood by the general public
  • often include illustrations or advertisements
  • content usually written by journalists, staff writers, or free-lance writers
  • do not report on original research, are not peer-reviewed, and rarely include citations