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Sources: Finding Information & Articles

English 127
Research Writing

Check out the Holman Library Class Guide for this course:

Please note that each of the three major essays requires different kinds of sources, and you will need to use more than one tool to find them.  For example, you might use the Gale Virtual Reference Library as an online reference for the Background Essay (the first major essay), and you might Academic Search Premier to find a scholarly article for the Scholarly Review (the second major essay).  Even though you will go to the same webpage of research databases on the Holman Library website to access each of these tools, they are very, very different! 


Researching any topic or question is a fascinating, unpredictable, meandering, frustrating, and often an extremely rewarding experience.  While there is no one path or set of research tools and databases that is best for gathering information and articles on your possible research topic and question, there are some guidelines to follow.  You will want to gather some background information on your topic, through web searches (google.com), encyclopedias and other references materials, textbooks, CQ Researcher, Opposing Viewpoints, etc.  These are fine as starting places, but keep in mind the limitations of any one kind of source, some of which may have already framed the issues and decided what is relevant on a particular topic. 

Ultimately, to move beyond the already-existing information and understanding of a particular topic, you will need to rely on your own research by using books, the Academic Search Premier and ProQuest electronic databases of scholarly and non-scholarly articles, ongoing web searches, among many other resources and tools. 

Since all of the the three major essays for this course -- the Background Essay, the Scholarly Review, and the Final Research Articles -- require secondary sources and since they build upon one another, you should be aware of the overall sources you will need throughout the quarter.  The Background Essay requires five sources, the Scholarly Review requires five new sources, but these need to be scholarly, and the Final Research Article requires a total of 15 sources (at least five new ones).  Each major paper will have its own guidelines about the range of sources required. 

***Keep in mind the difference between secondary research and original (primary) research.  Secondary research is what you do to find out what other people have already published (in the form of articles, books or other media).  Original research is when you generate new data yourself, gather together raw data that hasn't been analyzed, or provide new analysis of data that you think hasn't been adequately or accurately interpreted.  See the Scholarly Sources webpage for a further discussion of types of sources.


You can check out the books (and videos, DVDs, etc.) available at GRC's Holman Library.  Of course, a research university library will have many, many more books than a community college (in some cases, by the millions!).  Check out the University of Washington's library catalog; it may be worth a trip to UW to walk through the stacks looking for books related to your topic.  You may find relevant books through the King County Library System.  You can also check out http://www.worldcat.org/, which will allow you to search for almost any published book while telling you which libraries have that book.  Finally, you can also get an idea of both the popular and scholarly books available on your topic by searching amazon.com; sometimes it is fruitful to look at the reviews that are including in an amazon.com book listing. 

You can use the Inter-Library Loan (ILL) service available through Holman Library to get books (and articles) that our own library does not have.  If you do your search for books early enough, you'll be able to get books that our own library doesn't have in plenty of time to use for your later papers.

The credibility of books depends, in part, on the type of publisher.  There are textbook publishers (e.g., Bedford/St. Martin's Press), trade publishers (for mass marketing and distribution to the general public, e.g., Viking, Penguin, Random House, etc.), underground publishers, self-publishing, etc.  We also have academic (scholarly) publishers, which are most often university presses, for example, Harvard University Press or the University of Texas Press.  The latter, university presses, have the greatest credibility for the purposes of research, and can include single-author books focusing on a particular subject or edited volumes that bring together a number of scholars who all submit chapters on a related topic. 


Academic Search Premier: A database of indexed articles from periodicals (magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals).  Academic Search Premier and ProQuest are the main databases (along with Google Scholar) you should rely on for the Scholarly Review (see Assignments).  Make sure you learn some of the basics about operating this database, such as selecting "Full Text" (to limit your search results only to those articles whose full text is actually available in the database) and "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" (to limit your search results only to scholarly articles, what we call refereed or peer-reviewed articles).   

ProQuestProQuest is like Academic Search Premier, but it indexes fewer scholarly articles is useful for searching newspapers, magazines and other popular sources. 

Google Scholar:  A great resource for finding articles published in scholarly journals, academic conference papers, scholarly books, etc.  The downside is that you will just get the citations and perhaps abstracts for many of your results.  If the full text of an article is not available, you may have the option of subscribing to a journal online or purchasing a specific article for a fee.  Again, try the Inter-Library Loan service through Holman Library to get copies of these articles, but you will need to have a bit of lead time. 

CQ Researcher:  CQ Researcher does some of the work for you in making available overview articles that highlight various common issues within your topic area; still you must discover your own original angle after browsing, reading and becoming familiar with the "literature" (the scholarly material that has been published on your topic); CQ Researcher may also be useful as you begin working on your Scholarly Review (the second major essay for this course); however, you cannot use CQ Researcher as one of your sources for the Scholarly Review. 

Opposing Viewpoints:  Opposing Viewpoints is useful in giving you a sense of the main controversies and arguments that you might expect to find in the media.  However, please note that this course asks you to move beyond the for/against, good/bad, either/or way of framing topics and questions.  Do not accept the framing of Opposing Viewpoints, even as you use this database to familiarize yourself with some of the popular debates.  You must cite the original source if you use an article from Opposing Viewpoints, while also indicating that you got it from this database. 


Since scholarly sources often present the results of original research studies, one strategy you can try to find scholarly sources, whether on the web (using google.com) or in an electronic article database (such as Academic Search Premier) is to enter your narrowed topic and one research method into the search box.  Research methods include the following:  survey, ethnography, case study, focus group, oral history, experiment, primary source analysis, archival research, statistical analysis, among others.  For example, if you were researching women in prison, you could try a variety of searches ONE AT A TIME, such as <women prison ethnography>, <women prison case study>, <women prison survey>, <women prison statistics>, etc.  You may need to experiment with different phrases for your narrowed topic and research method; for example, you might use "primary source" in quotation marks (to indicate that it's a phrase) and leave out "analysis" in your search. 


I recommend that use Google for your internet searches (web browsing).  Review the Advanced Search Tips page to see how to narrow your searches and take advantage of the power of this search engine. 


Various criticisms of the mainstream media have pointed to the fact that it is almost entirely owned by for-profit corporations; even Public Broadcasting relies heavily on corporate funding.  Critics have pointed out that this means that this does not allow for an accurate range of viewpoints that actually exist within the U.S., even though there is often a claim that "both" sides -- the liberal (left) and conservative (right) -- are represented (are there ever just two possible sides or approaches to anything?). 

Check out Alt-Press Watch for a range of "independent" media publications that are not corporate owned and outside of the mainstream. 

Also see Radical Reference for finding information outside of the mainstream.


Encyclopedias can be good starting places to give you basic information on a topic or even to help you explore what angles or questions may be worth pursuing.  First conceived in the late 18th century, encyclopedias used to be huge multi-volume sets that sought to cover a bit about every topic.  The information in encyclopedias is relatively stable, that is, encyclopedias are not the place to find new, cutting-edge research, complex arguments, or controversial perspectives.  With the electronic information revolution, most people use digital or online encyclopedias; some of these require a subscription, while others are free.  A particularly innovative encyclopedia, designed to allow anyone to add an entry or propose revisions to existing content, through a sophisticated editorial process, is Wikipedia.  Some online encyclopedias, such as Gale Virtual Reference Library, and Credo Reference, or the Encyclopedia Britannica, require subscription, which, in fact, our library has.


You might think that all dictionaries are the same.  They're not!  In fact, the history of dictionaries is quite interesting, and it's useful to examine the assumptions behind some of the revisions that have taken place from one edition of a dictionary to another.  The granddaddy of all dictionaries is the Oxford English Dictionary, which gives extensive history about the origins and the varying uses of each word in 20 volumes in its print edition!  Here are a couple of free, online dictionaries:




Review the links available on the following Holman Library webpage:  https://libguides.greenriver.edu/bahl_engl127