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Research Survival Guide

Searching vs. Researching

How often have you used Google to search for answers to your questions? Using Google helps you find facts and explore topics in easy and fast ways. However, when you’re conducting research you are not just searching for information and facts; you are analyzing different information and putting it together in a way that makes connections and correlations. Real scholarly research takes time, effort, and skill.

Watch this video from the McMaster Libraries to learn more about the differences between searching and researching.

Searching Researching
  • Can be many unqualified authors
  • Materials not evaluated for accuracy
  • Qualified researchers in field
  • Materials evaluated (peer-reviewed) for accuracy
  • Find facts and information to answer simple questions
  • Uncover information and add knowledge/connections to field
  • Short timespan
  • Lengthy process
  • Not necessarily an in-depth process
  • Simple keywords used
  • Requres multiple steps that can be circled back to throughout process
  • Requires search strategies and multiple steps
Types of Resources
  • Few free scholarly resources
  • Popular websites
  • Government websites
  • Scholarly journal articles
  • Reference Books
  • Books
  • Newspaper articles

 Types of Research

What types of articles will I find during researching?

There are many different types of articles available for your researching needs. Here are just some examples:

  • Clinical Trial: A research study performed on human subjects to evaluate a medical, surgical, or behavioral treatment/intervention.
  • Meta Analysis: Systematic combination of qualitative/quantitative study data from multiple studies to develop one conclusion.
  • Randomized Controlled Trial: Study that randomly assigns participants to an experimental or control group. The only difference between the two groups is the variable being studied. 
  • Double Blind Trial: Study in which neither the participants nor the experimenter knows who received the treatment being studied. This is used to prevent bias.
  • Review Article: Source that analyzes or synthesizes research already conducted on the topic. These generally summarize the current state of the research.
  • Case Studies: An intensive study of a person, group, or unit which aims to generalize the results or examine in-depth data relating to several variables.
  • Original Research/Empirical Article: An article that reports research based on actual observations or experiments. May use different types of research methods to study two or more variables.
  • Theoretical Article: Refers to new/established principles related to a specific field. These do not contain research or present experimental data. Look for terms like concept, conceptual framework, theoretical foundation to see if an article is theoretical.
  • Quantitative: The collection and analysis of numerical data used to find patters, make predictions, test relationships, and generalize results for wider populations.
  • Qualitative: The collection and analysis of non-numerical data to understand concepts, experiences, and opinions. Can also be used to gather in-depth insights into a problem and generate new ideas for research.
  • Trade: Publications whose target audience is the people who work a specific trade/industry. Can contain elements of both scholarly and popular publications.
 Popular vs. Scholarly Resources

What types of sources are available for me to use?

There are many types of sources you can use in your research:

Types of Sources

What are Popular vs. Scholarly Resources?

Popular and scholarly resources provide information on different levels of accessibility and specificity. Popular resources are readily available and can be easily consumed; scholarly resources are found in specialized publications and often contain specialized information. Take a look at this handout from MeL to learn more about the differences between academic journals, trade publications, and magazines!

  Popular Scholarly
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Websites
  • Trade Publications
  • Scholarly journals
  • Dissertations/theses
  • Academic books
  • Readily available to the public
  • Available through libraries and online databases
  • Usually behind a paywall
  • Journalists
  • Freelance writers
  • Researchers
  • Scholars
  • Inform, entertain, persuade general public
  • Share original research with other researchers/scholars
  • Expand knowledge in discipline
  • No formal citations
  • All sources cited
  • Extensive reference lists or bibliographies
Editorial Process
  • Reviewed by single editor
  • Blind peer-review by multiple experts
  • Mix of short and in-depth articles on wide variety of subjects
  • Lenghty articles with subsections within articles (literature review, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion)

Watch this video from McMaster Libraries to understand the difference between popular and scholarly resources.

Ask yourself these questions to see if your source is scholarly:

  • Are the author’s credentials/affiliations listed?
  • Does the article begin with an abstract?
  • Does the source include extensive endnotes/footnotes or a list of references?
  • What is the length of the source? Is the source more than five pages long?
  • Is the source in a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal?

Why Should I use Scholarly Resources?

In a university setting, the credibility of your paper rests on the credibility of your sources. Your paper will have more impact and be taken more seriously if you use research conducted by experts in the field that you are writing about. Using scholarly sources add weight and credibility to your research.

  • Most scholarly articles undergo a peer-review process that ensures the published work is authoritative and of high quality. Watch this video from the American Chemical Society to learn more about the peer-review process

 Conducting Scholarly Research - Resources

Why Shouldn't I use Google for My Research?

Google is a good source to use to find background information on your topic, but it does not necessarily provide the peer-reviewed scholarly articles that most professors want you to use in your assignments. There are multiple disadvantages of using Google as your main research tool:

  • It provides you with an overwhelming amount of result, some which may not be credible.
  • It filters the more popular results to the top, not necessarily the more qualified/accurate results.
  • It is harder to narrow down your search to exactly what you want.
  • The scholarly articles you do find will mostly be hidden behind a paywall, not accessible to the public.

Can I use Google Scholar for my Research?

You can use Google Scholar for your research, but it is not the most effective way to search for scholarly materials. Watch this video from the Wayne State University Libraries to learn more about using Google Scholar.

Google Scholar provides access to articles from academic publishers, professional societies, and articles from databases that the library subscribes to.

  • The results are compiled by bots that collect documents from the web and make them available via Google Scholar.
  • The algorithm used to find the results makes a calculated guess at whether the result is a scholarly source. This is why you must still look at the source to decide if it is a scholarly/popular resource.

Google Scholar has an option to link the Madonna Library databases to Google Scholar so that it also shows articles subscribed to by the Madonna Library.

  • Go to Google Scholar and click the three-lines in the upper left-hand corner of the website.
  • Click on Settings > Library Links > Enter Madonna University > Click on Madonna University > Click Save.    Comparisons
 Conducting Scholarly Research - Databases

Why Should I use Databases for my Reserach?

Librarians will most likely point you to databases for your academic research. Libraries pay money to subscribe to databases so that students can access full-text access to scholarly materials. Databases are organized, searchable collections of scholarly materials. Library databases provide you with multiple advantages over Google, Google Scholar, and other internet search tools:

  • Provide credible content through peer-reviewed publications.
  • Allow less time for searching by having multiple ways to narrow down results.
  • Provide better information than a general Google search.

Watch this video by the Yavapai College Library to understand what databases are and why you need them to conduct research for your papers.Database Sources

The Madonna Library subscribes to a large number of databases that you can log in to and find scholarly materials that aren’t freely available to the public.

  • Find databases by Alphabetical order or find databases By Subject if you have a specific academic area that you are researching in.
  • Look at our Resource Guides, where we collect all of the databases, journals, books, and websites that are relevant to a specific academic field.

You can also use our catalog to find books related to your topic.

 Conducting Scholarly Research - Search Strategies

How do I Create Search Strategies?

Before conducting your searches in library databases, come up with a search strategy that will help you find information.

  • Choose your topic and turn that topic into a question.
    • Determine what you want to know about your topic.
  • Come up with keywords that will help you search for articles.
    • Keywords are significant words/phrases that describe your topic.
    • Can be found in the title, abstract, author, text, etc. of the articles.
    • Watch this video from Winona State University to learn how to select and use keywords.
  • Select a database and type in your keywords into the separate search boxes.
    • Too many results? Add other keywords to narrow down the results.
    • Too few results? Remove a keyword or add synonyms of your keywords to expand the results.
  • Use subject headings in the databases to narrow down your search.
    • Subject headings are descriptive words assigned to an article by catalogers/indexers.
    • Items with similar themes or about similar subjects can be found under the database’s subject headings.
    • Watch this video from the Utah State University Libraries to learn more about the differences between searching with subject headings vs. keywords.Search Strategies

Use Boolean Operators in your search to expand or narrow down your search. Watch this video from McMaster Libraries to learn more about how to use Boolean Operators.  Boolean Operators

Using the Boolean Operators together will help narrow down or expand your results in different ways: Venn Diagram

 Reading and Analyzing Articles

Is Reading Research Articles Different than Reading Popular Articles?

Academic research articles are organized and written differently than popular articles/sources. Research articles usually contain 5-7 different sections; work through this Anatomy of a Scholarly Article Tutorial to learn what sections a research article consists of.

Anatomy of an Article

Research articles can also include a literature review in the introduction. Literature reviews provides background on research already conducted in the field.

Reading research articles should not be read from beginning to end like a novel or popular article. To get the most out of an article for the least amount of effort, reading a research article should be done strategically.

  • Read the abstract, discussion/conclusion, and introduction (in that order) to figure out whether the article is relevant.
  • Go back and read the rest of the article.
  • Read the whole article from beginning to end.
  • Watch this video from Western University Libraries to learn why you should read scholarly articles differently!

                                         Reading an Academic Article

Take a look at our Evaluating Resources page to learn how to see if your articles are scholarly and relevant to your topic.

 Additional Internet Resources

Madonna Resources:

  • Database Tutorials – Collected tutorials on how to search databases Madonna subscribes to. Click on the Tutorials drop-down menu.
  • Madonna Library Resource Guides – Find resources in specific disciplines taught at Madonna.
  • Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources – Madonna Library’s guide to understanding and finding primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.
  • Evaluating Resources – Still under construction, check back for more updates throughout the semester! Madonna Library’s guide to evaluating resources for accuracy and relevancy.