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GQS 320: Queerly Scientific

Articles FAQ

You can find articles by searching databases. When researchers write an article, they submit it to a publisher, who publishes the article in a journal. Databases then collect journals, and academic libraries subscribe to those databases. These databases provite access to content and sources that are generally not available on the open web through a general search engine like Google. You can view some relevant databases we subscribe to below.

Our A-Z List of databases contains all the databases we subscribe to. You can also check below on this page for more relevant databases.

Primo is a search tool that searches most of the full-text databases the library subscribes to, all at once. However, since it does not capture everything we subscribe to, we recommend you start with subject databases first.

Google Scholar is a search tool that searches many different databases, even those we don't subscribe to. It's always a good idea to double check that an article you find on Google Scholar is peer-reviewed by looking up the journal it was published in. If you find an article while using Google Scholar that we don't subscribe to, you can still read it by submitting an interlibrary loan request to have a librarian from a partner library scan the article and email it to you in 2-10 days.

It really depends on your topic. I like to start by searching one of the databases below, and following it up with Primo and Google Scholar, which search as many sources as possible to find articles if I'm not discovering enough relevant articles. Read our descriptions for each database and if you’re still not sure feel free to send me an email or book an appointment with a librarian.

Searching databases is different from searching Google. Let’s say I want to research supports for people with arthritis. My research question is “What new supports are being tested for people living with arthritis?”

In Google, I usually just type in my question and it’ll find me the most relevant results. When I type my research question into a database, in this case the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health (CINAHL), it finds no results.

CINAHL database showing no results for 'What new supports are being
      tested for people living with arthritis?'

Does this mean there’s no research being done on new supports for people living with arthritis? No! The problem here is that many databases consider each word in your search as a keyword. So CINAHL is looking for the words “what,” “new,” “are,” “being,” “for,” and “with,” in all the articles it searches, which cuts out all of our results. Instead, I’m just going to search "new supports AND arthritis".

This returns 67 results, which isn’t bad. However, most articles won't include the word "new" - or they might, but be 20 years old. Instead, I can take out the word “new” and use the left sidebar to filter sources from the last two years. This gets me 839 results.

839 is too many to look through individually, so instead I’m going to ask for the word “supports” in the title (or subject) of the article. I do this in CINAHL by going to "advanced search" and choosing "Title" from the dropdown. “Supports” might also not be the most relevant term, so I’m going to add some synonyms using the “OR” keyword. This gives me a final search term of: TI(supports OR strategies OR interventions) AND arthritis

For me, this search term worked great, and I see a lot of relevant sources. But if I didn’t, I would keep experimenting:

  • I could include synonyms of my phrases with the "OR" operator
  • I could broaden or narrow my terms - instead of "Arthritis" I could try "Joint Disease" or "Rheumatoid Arthritis"
  • I could search the title or subject field for one or more of my terms

Once I find a relevant article, I can use that article to find more relevant articles.

Once you find an article with a title and abstract that seems interesting, you'll likely be able to find a link to the full text on that page. Look for a link or buttons that says "Check for Full Text" or "Download PDF" or similar.

If you can't find a full text button, then you can try copying the article into Google Scholar or our catalog. With Google Scholar, you may be able to find a PDF from another source. In our catalog, you can see if we have access through another database. If we don’t, then you can use our catalog to request it via interlibrary loan, and a partner library will scan and email you the article within 2-10 days. Still not sure if you can find the full text? Send me an email!

When I search a database for articles, I usually start by just opening the ones with titles that seem like they may be useful in new tabs. When I have about 5-10 tabs open, then I go through them one by one to decide whether to keep or discard them. First, I read the title again. Then, I quickly read the abstract, spending maybe a minute or two. When I read the abstract, I look for four things:

  • Is it a primary or secondary source? Does the abstract describe the article as a trial, study or experiment? Or does it describe the article as a review or meta-analysis?
  • What was their research question? What did they want to find out?
  • What were their methods? How did they study their research question?
  • What were their results?

Usually, the abstract will have one or two sentences for each of the questions above. If you read the abstract and can’t find an answer to all of the questions, then the author isn’t doing their job, and you’ll unfortunately have to check the respective sections of the paper itself (background, methods, results, and maybe discussion).

Once I decide a source is relevant, then I save it to my citation manager, where I can read and annotate it after I finish gathering my sources.

Reliability is harder to measure. There's no easy way to tell whether an article is reliable, but here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Is the article published in a peer-reviewed journal?
  • Was the article written by authors affiliated with reputable institutions?
  • How old is the article?
  • How many other articles have cited this article?

If you aren't sure, feel free to send me an email!

A citation manager is a great way to keep track of sources. Zotero can save your sources, annotate PDFs, and automatically generate bibliographies and in-text citations. Take a look at our Zotero tutorial here!

If you're just looking to generate a bibliography quickly, then you should use Zbib. Zbib is the best online citation generator.

RefWorks is another citation manager that you can use to keep track of your sources and cite them in papers.

Interdisciplinary Databases (The Big Ones)

Recommended Subject Databases

 Subject databases cover a specific discipline and provide the widest range of access to scholarly sources. They are used for in-depth research. These subject databases may be especially useful for your research project for this class. Depending on your topic and your angle, you may wish to search additional subject databases.

Primary Source Databases

Reading a Scholarly Article

During the preview phase, you'll want to concentrate on these key elements:

  • Abstract (if available)
  • First paragraph (sometimes the second paragraph, too):  What does the author want to find out?  What is the research question the author is asking?
  • Evidence:  What are the primary sources the author uses?
  • Scholarly conversation:  What are the other scholarly works (secondary sources) the author uses?
  • Conclusion (typically the last paragraph):  How does the author tie the evidence together to answer the research question? What is the significance of this research?

Once you've selected the article, you can actively read for content, argument, analysis and evaluation. 

Tip: Read the article more than once!  It may help to print out a copy so that you can make notes.