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SSI2-127: Hip-Hop Philosophy

What's a secondary source?

In secondary sources, authors analyze and interpret primary source materials. 

Secondary sources can be scholarly or popular.  Scholarly sources (sometimes called "academic" or "peer-reviewed" sources) are written by and for experts and typically include bibliographies and citations.  Popular sources are written for a general, non-expert audience and can be authored by anyone.

Scholarship as Conversation

Database Search Tips

When search databases, keep these techniques in mind.

As you search databases, you will likely find popular sources mixed with scholarly ones. Use the limiter option typically located in the left column to limit your search to journals. Below is an example from Academic Search Premier.

Use quotation marks.

If your search more than one word and you want the words to be found together in that order, use quotation marks.

Try it!

king of pop (without quotes)

"king of pop" (with quotes)

Use AND to add different concepts to your search.

Try it! 

"elvis presley" AND celebrity

Use OR for synonyms or related terms to broaden your search.

Try it! 

"elvis presley" AND (celebrity OR fame)

Truncate it.

Truncation is a way of giving your search tool flexibility to find alternate endings for your search term. In most databases, the *asterisk works as the truncation symbol


controvers* will retrieve controversy, controversies, controversial, etc.

Try it!

"michael jackson" and controvers*

Too Many Results?

Feeling overwhelmed? Try these strategies.

  • Be more specific with your search terms.
  • Add terms and connect with AND
  • Use quotation marks around phrases.
  • Use subject terms instead of keywords.
  • Use the search limiters.
    • Change the search field to abstract or title.
    • Limit to a specific date range, ex. 2000-2017
  • Change the database. Use a subject specific one.
    • Instead of Academic Search Premier, try Music Periodicals Database.


Too Few Results?

What if you can't find enough articles? Try these strategies.

  • Is everything spelled correctly?
  • Is there an alternative term that would work?
    • Instead of persona, use identity
  • Use broader search terms.
  • If you had multiple search terms, try reducing the number of terms. If you had been connecting terms with AND, try using OR instead.
  • Try using  truncation symbol to give the search flexibility
  • Remove search limiters.
  • Try a different database.Make sure the subject and coverage are appropriate for your search.
    • Use a multidisciplinary database like Research Library.
  • Ask a librarian! 

Where's the Fulltext?

There are three methods for obtaining the actual articles you wish to read:

Method 1: In some databases, you will be able to link directly to the fulltext article. Look around, as different databases have different interfaces. Look for a link or buttons that says "Check for Full Text" or Download PDF or similar. If given the choice between a PDF or HTML version of the article, always choose the PDF format. This will give you an exact image, including page numbers, of the article as it appears in the paper journal.

Method 2: If a direct link to full text is not available, then look for a link that checks for fulltext in Primo Search to see if the library subscribes to the journal.

Method 3: Interlibrary Loan

If your searching indicates that the article is not available in any format, then request the article through ILLiad, the interlibrary loan service. ( Most databases include links to ILLiad within each record.) It usually takes about a week or less to receive an electronic copy of the article.

Interlibrary Loan

If your article is not available at Collins Library, you've got another option to getting it. Use Tipasa, our interlibrary loan service.

Once you have an account, either go directly to Tipasa and manually enter the information, or, if you're using a database, look for a shortcut link to automatically fill out the form.

Allow at least a week for the article to come. If your article is delivered in electronic format, you'll receive an email with a link to follow as soon as it's arrived. If it's delivered in paper, you'll receive it right in your campus mailbox.

Where Do I Search?

A good starting point for academic work is one or more of the many database available through the library's website. Databases provide access and content to sources that are generally not available on the open web through a general search engine like Google.

Every database contains only certain types and amounts of information. Which ones you choose depends on your purpose.

Multidisciplinary databases cover a wide variety of subject areas and may include a mix of popular and scholarly sources. They are good resources when you begin your research.  Academic Search Premier is an example of a multidisciplinary database.

Subject databases cover a specific discipline and provide the widest range of access to scholarly sources. They are used for in-depth research. International Index to Music Periodicals Full Text, a music database, is an example of a subject database. Which subject databases you search will be determined by who may be writing about your topic. Looking for articles about punk and feminism? In addition to International Index to Music Periodicals Full Text, search the Gender Studies database.

Multidisciplinary Databases

When starting your research, it's a good idea to search multidisciplinary databases as they help identify what scholars are writing about from different perspectives. 

Just remember, with JSTOR you aren't accessing the most current articles from a journal and you can only do keyword searching.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar searches open access materials as well as items from many publishers, including some of the resources to which Collins Library subscribes. However, Google Scholar only searches a fraction of the published scholarly literature. Use the databases listed on the page as well as others found on the database A-Z list.


  • Use advanced searching to search phrases, authors, publications, and dates.
  • Google Scholar includes many citations that link directly to publishers' web sites of which most will charge a fee for access. However, Collins Library may subscribe to these publications. Search the journal title in Primo.
  • Google Scholar provides forward citation searching, automatically extracting and displaying works cited as separate results.
Google Scholar Search

Subject Databases

These subject databases may be especially useful for your research projects for this class. 

Related Subject Databases

The following are recommended subject specific databases that cover scholarly sources in different fields. For other subject specific databases, go the library subject guides.