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EXPOS 20: The Social Construction of Gender


Searching Strategically

A class assignment or research paper does not require you to find every possible piece of information on the topic. Your goal is only to identify the "best" possible resources for your topic within the given parameters of the assignment. Things to keep in mind:

  • There is no absolute "best" journal, book, or database for your topic.
  • Re-search is an iterative process: Your initial topic may shift in focus, your "best" resource today might lead you to a better one tomorrow.
  • Pay attention to information about the source: Are keywords or subject headings listed? Has the author written more on the topic?
  • Keep a research log: What keywords or subject headings have you used? What online catalogs and databases have you searched?
  • Collect your resources in one place, or better yet, use Zotero.

Consider This

Your instructor may ask for scholarly sources, or peer reviewed articles. What's the difference? Are journal articles always peer reviewed? Can I trust an open-access journal I can access without HarvardKey? Are government publications scholarly? Are all resources on Google Scholar scholarly? Although it's beyond the scope of this guide to provide all the answers to these and related questions, keep these things in mind:

  • Many databases, including HOLLIS, offer options to refine your search by setting particular parameters (usually in the "Advanced Search" option), such as
    • format (e-book vs. print)
    • date range
    • type of resource (e.g. peer-reviewed article, book review, map, etc.)

Types of Sources

There are many different types of sources to consider for your research. One of the important distinctions is between primary and secondary sources. You may be familiar with the examples of a diary, original painting, or any artifact being considered a primary source, while journal articles, movie reviews and the like are often referred to as secondary sources. However, it's a bit more complex than that depending on what kind of discipline/subject area we are talking about.

Here is a guide from the University of Kentucky Libraries that explains some of the different perspectives on these types of resources:

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources