Find Science Research
Step 2: Try an Aggregator or Database
Identifying a Topic
- Type in a few keywords: do you notice any patterns in the results? Major topics, ideas, problems?
- Try a new set of keywords: do these results give you a clearer picture?
- Are you noticing a more general field of research? (E.g. ulcers --> oncology)
- Are you noticing a specific sub-topic that might be of interest? (E.g. ecology --> microbiomes)
- Try your keywords in a different resource (HOLLIS+, or news.google.com): does this give you a new angle on your topic?
Locating the most important recent publications on your topic
It's easy to find a source on a topic, but finding the best sources from the most reputable publications on the most important aspects of your topic can be a challenge! Here are some search tips:
- Learn the appropriate index terms and use those as your search terms
- Filter your results by academic discipline, date, impact factor, etc.
- Look for review articles (aka "literature reviews"; sometimes titled "A Review of the Literature")
- Find an important early study and trace it forward through a cited reference search
- Find a recent study and follow its citation trail
Step 4: Look up relevant concepts, research fields, and methods
There's Wikipedia....and then there are the authoritative sources that the library has licensed for you. You may want to use both. The library resources listed below have been vetted and peer reviewed by the academy rather than by the public at large.
Use encyclopedias for a brief answer about a very specific concept, condition, or method:
Britannica Academic: a well-regarded all-purpose encyclopedia: compare to Wikipedia.
Oxford Reference Online : search across Oxford's collection of specialized encyclopedias.
- Use Advanced Search and select "entry title" to return entries that are wholly focused on your search term
- Sort results by Length to get really quick or really thorough answers
- Pay attention to the book title as well as the entry title: the entry for "Cancer" in A Dictionary of Astronomy will be very different the one in the Concise Medical Dictionary!
Springer: search across the publisher's offerings, including specialized encyclopedias.
- Un-check the box that says "Include Preview-only content"
- Select "reference entry" from the left-hand filter menu
Use books for a full overview of a topic (the chapter titles alone can be very informative!)
Oxford Very Short Introductions are compact books designed to give oyu a scholarly overview of a subject.
- use the "Browse by subject" list to zero in on your topic (and get a sense of its disciplinary context)
- explore the "Chapters" tab for more specific sub-topics within the books
HOLLIS+ includes lots of great books.
- Use the filter for "books"
- Adjust your topic terms: start narrow ("phage therapy") and look through your results to find broader terms and index terms (bacteriophages, "complementary therapies")
- Use this search formula: yourtopic AND (encyclopedias OR handbooks OR companion OR overview OR guide OR casebook)