Library Research Tips
The Cardinal Meyer Library offers a variety of print and electronic resources that provide information needed to successfully complete your assignments. The following information is intended to help you identify your topic and gather appropriate information. Do not expect to get the best possible results right away. Be prepared to put some time into your research project.
- Choose a topic in consultation with your instructor.
Survey Reference Resources
- Specialized encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks are good places to start your research. They provide an overview of a topic along with references to other books or articles on the subject.
- Textbooks present a broad overview of a subject that may help clarify ideas and identify a topic.
- Bibliographies that are found in encyclopedias, dictionaries, textbooks and journal articles are excellent sources for further research.
Locate Materials in SabreSearch
Locate Periodical Articles
Periodicals vs. Databases
- Periodicals are continuous publications such as newspapers, magazines, or scholarly journals. They are usually issued on a regular basis — e.g. weekly, monthly or quarterly.
- Databases index articles found in periodicals. A database search will result in a list of citations to articles. Many citations provide links to the full text of the article. If full text is not found, check our Journals page. Your article may be full text in another database or may be available in the library.
Choose a Database
- Alphabetical and subject lists of databases are available by clicking on <Databases> on the library homepage. Select one or more that are relevant to your topic/discipline. Help guides for specific databases are available from the Reference Services page, or in the database itself.
- When searching a database, note the citation or source information of the articles you choose. The citation is needed for two reasons: to locate the specific article and to compile the bibliography in your paper.
Not all materials found will provide appropriate or useful information. Before selecting a source to use in your paper, consider the following:
- What are the author’s credentials or affiliations?
- Was he/she mentioned by a professor, in a class text, or cited frequently in class readings?
- Is the organization reputable?
- Is the organization or author known to be biased?
- For websites, what is the domain type? (.com, .edu, .org, .gov, .mil, etc.)
Publication Date or Edition
- Is a recent publication date of consequence to the research topic in question?
- Is there a newer edition that may have more up-to-date information?
- Is the research topic in a subject area where information becomes obsolete very quickly or will older sources be appropriate?
Knowing the difference between primary and secondary literature will assure that appropriate materials are selected.
- Primary literature refers to original source documents or the reporting of original research. When looking for a primary research article, look for sections labeled “Methods” and “Results.” Such articles often report research data.
- Secondary literature refers to a collection of material including literature reviews, popular periodical publications, indexes, abstracts and reference books. These materials synthesize primary research. Articles published in popular magazines such as Newsweek and Time are examples of secondary literature.
Is this type of publication appropriate for this research topic?
- Scholarly journals: Articles found in scholarly journals are peer reviewed — i.e. they are judged by experts in the field to represent scholarly research. These journals are often published by professional organizations or are associated with academic institutions, e.g., American Literary Scholarship published by Duke University Press, or American Journal of Nursing published by the American Nursing Association.
- Popular/general interest periodicals: Articles in periodicals such as Time or Newsweek are of general interest to many people. Because of their commercial nature, these tend to have a glossier format than scholarly journals. Articles in popular/general interest periodicals may not be signed, are not peer-reviewed, and may not contain bibliographies.
- Are the sources of information cited?
- Does the bibliography lead to other relevant materials for this topic?
- What type(s) of sources did the author(s) cite?
- Is the organization or author clearly biased?
- Does the author attempt to present a variety of viewpoints?
- Is there an attempt to distinguish fact from opinion?
- What is the purpose of the information? (informative, persuasive, marketing, entertainment, etc.)
- Are the facts supported by research?
- Does the author offer ample evidence to support opinions?
- Does this article update, support, or add new information to the materials in hand so far?
- Is the information related to your research topic (will it be useful)?
- Does the source meet your assignment’s requirements (type of source, length, date, etc.)?
Evaluating Internet Resources
In addition to scholarly resources which are available in databases and full text journal articles, the Internet provides access to a wide range of sites that must be carefully evaluated before including them in your research. Consider the following:
- Scholarly journals are referred or peer-reviewed. The Internet is open to anyone who wants to put up information whether accurate or not. Consider the authenticity of the information provided.
- The Cardinal Meyer Library Web page includes links to Internet sites. Included are reputable university and government sites. All sites have been reviewed by librarians or experts in the field.
Citation formats vary. The formats commonly used at Marian University are MLA and APA. Copies of the MLA and APA manuals are available at the Library Reference Desk. Ask your professor for the preferred choice.
GEN 101 Source Evaluation Exercise:
Using the criteria above, evaluate the following sources on the topic of divorce and its effect on the individuals involved. Which sources are credible and why?
Please ask for assistance at the Reference Desk. From off campus, call 920.923.8096 or submit the online Ask A Reference Librarian form.
For online help using our databases, check out our Database Guides and Tutorials page. Subject specific tutorials are available via Marian Online 2. Your username is the first part of your Marian University email address — i.e. everything before “@marianuniversity.edu.” Your password is your Marian University email password.
For information on accessing databases from off-campus, see the Off-Campus Access page.