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FYSP 073: Home

Research Avenues

Today you are going to attempt to answer a question in only forty minutes! Many library resources are organized by source type (e.g. book, journal article, background/context source, etc.) or by discipline (e.g. literature, history, sociology, etc.) This means that to successfully find sources using these tools, you need to make educated guesses as to which types of source and which discipline might answer your question. The list below outlines some common categories of sources and suggests some of the most common tools used to find that type of source. 

If you're not sure which type of source will answer your question, explore Summon, the library's discovery layer. Summon searches all source types, including books, journal articles, and background sources. If you have trouble finding information in Summon, try refining your search by changing your search terms or using a facet to filter your search. 

Common source types

  • Background/context sources
    • Provide basic facts about a topic, for example, an overview of the life of a historical figure. Think of these as Wikipedia for researchers. 
    • Find: Check the library databases list for databases of a type of background/context. Gale Literature is especially good for literary questions, and the Oxford Research Encyclopedias are especially good for historical questions. You can use the "reference" source type facet in Summon to find background sources. 
  • Books
    • Provide in-depth analyses of scholarly questions. In the event that you can't find an answer to your question in a background source, books might be the next easiest place to check, as they can be more specific and detailed than background sources but do more scene-setting than journal articles. Remember that you don't have to read the entire book to get an answer -  you can use the index and table of contents, or the search function on an ebook, to get right to the specific information that answers your question. 
    • Find: Search OBIS, the library catalog, or search Summon, the library discovery layer, with the book/ebook facets selected. Remember that you will want to use very general search terms in OBIS. 
  • Journal Articles
    • Provide in-depth analyses of specific and focused research questions. Remember that the research questions they're asking are often very specific, so you may need to skim carefully to extract an answer to the question you brought to class today. 
    • Find: Search a library database with a type of "scholarly/peer review" or search Summon, the library discovery layer, with the peer review and journal article facets selected. Sometimes it is easiest to find these articles using a discipline-specific database, like MLA International Bibliography (literary analysis). Sometimes it is easiest to find these articles using an multi-discplinary database, like JSTOR. 


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. 

Research Help


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Elizabeth Sullivan
Main Library, 105 Mudd