COR 110 Parsley: Step 2: Identify Sources of Information
Step 2: Identify Sources of Information
This section contains information on the following:
- Saints Search (the library catalog)
- What is a database?
- Selecting a database by subject
- Why use library databases?
- What are scholarly and peer-reviewed articles?
- Checklist for identifying when an article is peer-reviewed
Saints Search (searching the Library Catalog)
The Library Catalog can be searched using our discovery tool, which we call "Saints Search." Saints Search allows you to search most of the library's physical and electronic holdings; holdings are items the library owns.
The "Saints Search" box is accessible from the library homepage. You can see it below as well.
What you are not able to search with Saints Search is: the Archives collection; some of our Special Collections; and, technology available for check-out (e.g. headphones, iPads, etc.).
Library catalogs of any kind are not natural search engines like Google. You need to use strategic searching when you use them.
Saints Search is a great starting point to finding scholarly resources. However, it is always best to also run a search within a specific database as Saints Search will search the databases we have access to differently from how an individual database would run the same search terms. This is because all of these tools - Saints Search, databases, Google, etc. - have their own unique algorithms for how they recall results to match the search terms you have entered.
Finding the Right Database
What is a Database?
A library database is a curated collection of resources which are available for electronic searching. These resources might be bibliographic citations, abstracts, full text articles, ebooks, streaming media or datasets. Databases provide access to professionally published material which are generally organized around a specific subject.
Databases are typically organized around a specific subject or group of subjects. Understanding a database's scope will save a lot of time on the part of the researcher by helping them anticipate what will or will not be inside a given database.
Example: If you are doing research on melanoma, then spending time searching LitFinder, a database of plays, novels and speeches would not be productive. Instead you would want to identify databases whose scope would include articles on melanoma.
No database covers every article written about a given subject. Databases might cover the articles published by a given journal from a particular date through a particular date. Sometimes publishers place an "embargo" on their content, meaning that the database is only able to cover articles of a certain age. Embargo periods might range from a month to a year or more. Understanding what is or is not covered in a given database is also important when conducting scholarly research.
Different databases contain different types of content, so understanding what records will or will not be in a database will help when searching.
Example: If you are looking for video demonstrations of specific counseling techniques you would not want to spend a lot of time searching a database containing only bibliographic citations and abstracts. Instead you might pick Academic Videos Online, a database of streaming media content.
Selecting a Database by Subject
The Research Question
Get started by thinking about your research question. What are the major topics the question addresses? It can be helpful to write down these topics and related topics for constructing your search. Think about the scope of resources which might address these topics. Is your scope contained to a particular field or is there an interdisciplinary element to your question?
After you have thought through your question, find the database that will match the needs you have identified. Begin any resource search at the Corette Library Homepage. This site will have the most current links and information related to library resources available to you as a student at Carroll.
From the library home page click "Articles & Databases" for a comprehensive list of Carroll's databases.
To help you identify the database that might work best for you, we have organized our resources by subject and type.
Click the subject tab and choose "Environmental Science" for a list of databases which might be helpful for environment related research questions.
You will see a list of resources which might be useful. In the example below, those which are most heavily associated with Environmental Science are highlighted at the top in the "Best Bets" area. Below that are a list of other databases which might also be helpful depending on your particular question. These results show the name of the database as well as a brief description to help you better understand the scope, coverage and content of the resource.
Difference b/t Library Databases and Google
If you have already searched within some of the library databases, you probably noticed they function a lot differently from search engines like Google.
Library databases are not built like Google, which is a natural language search engine. You have to be very precise and intentional with what language you put into a library database (and a library catalog, for that matter). What results you retrieve from your search are dependent on how precise and relevant the search terms you used, so it is beneficial to take the time to be thoughtful about what terms you use.
See the images below for a better idea about the differences between an open web search engine like Google, its academic cousin Google Scholar, and library databases.
The key to navigating library databases is to apply certain search techniques that respond well with databases, such as searching with keywords or subject terms.
Remember that library databases have a lot of scholarly content in them, and thus, the language used in, and to describe, those materials is academic and highly-technical.
TIP: If you are not familiar with the type of language or jargon that is used to discuss your topic or you are not getting the results you want, this is a great time to go back to Google and perform a search using what terms you do have. You can then learn the other ways people are "talking" about your topic, and bring that more technical, alternative language back into the library database and search again.
What are scholarly and peer-reviewed articles?
Scholarly journals are journals which are well respected for the information and research they provide on a particular subject.
- They are written by subject matter experts in a particular field or discipline and their purpose is to advance the ongoing body of work within their discipline.
- These articles might present original research data and findings, or take a position on a key question within the field.
- They can be difficult to read, because their intended audience is other experts and academics, but they are the capstone when it comes to authoritative information.
Scholarly journals are oftentimes peer reviewed or refereed. A peer-reviewed or refereed article has gone through a rigorous process where other scholars in the author’s field or discipline critically assess a draft of the article. The actual evaluations are similar to editing notes, where the author receives detailed and constructive feedback from the peer experts.
Not all scholarly journals go through the peer-review process, so not all scholarly journals are peer-reviewed. However, it is safe to assume that a peer-reviewed journal is also scholarly. In short, “scholarly” means the article was written by an expert for an audience of other experts, researchers or students. “Peer-reviewed” takes it one step further and means the article was reviewed and critiqued by the author’s peers who are experts in the same subject area. The vast majority of scholarly articles are peer reviewed.
Watch this 2 minute video overview by Jessup Library describing the difference between popular and scholarly sources.
Checklist for Identifying when an Article is Peer-Reviewed
When you are determining whether or not the article you found is a peer-reviewed article, you should look for articles that possess the following characteristics:
- The article's journal is published or sponsored by a professional scholarly society, professional association, or university academic department; article is described as a peer-reviewed publication. (Check the journal's website for this information)
- Article citation was retrieved from a databases that includes peer-reviewed literature. (Read the database description to see if it includes this).
- In searching a database, you limited your results to scholarly or peer-reviewed articles.
- Beginning of article has an abstract (summary of what the article will discuss/present)?
- End of article provides a bibliography or list of references.
- Footnotes or citations of other sources are provided throughout.
- Article topic is explored in depth and is narrow in focus.
- Author is a subject matter expert on the topic/field (see if author's credentials or short bio are listed to provide this information).
- Article is based on either original research or findings from authorities in the field (as opposed to personal opinion/viewpoint).
- Research methodology is discussed.
For further help, check out the Anatomy of a Scholarly Article: this is an Interactive tour through a scholarly article to teach you about the different parts.
Watch this 3 minute video overview by North Carolina State University explaining peer review and scholarly literature.
Betty Sue Jessup Library. "Research Minute: Scholarly vs. Popular Articles." Piedmont Virginia Community College, 29 Jan. 2014, https://youtu.be/i1bbyG9drwM
La Trobe University Library. "What's a library database" YouTube, 20 Jan. 2015, https://youtu.be/M0vwZVQuI_4
MCC Libraries. "Library Databases versus Google" YouTube, 18 Feb. 2016, https://youtu.be/DHgWZrridi4
Pilgrim Library. "Features of Peer-Reviewed Articles." Finding Information. Defiance College, 17 Apr. 2019, https://library.defiance.edu/InfoLit-sourcesofinfo/peerreview