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SSI2-117: Coming Out! The Gay Liberation Movement: Secondary Sources

Where Do I Search?

Selecting the best or most appropriate finding aid for identifying sources depends almost entirely on the context of your research assignment. There is no single database or web search interface that will work for every research context; instead, you'll need to match your specific research needs to a variety of options.

Library catalog searches (i.e., Primo) can be the better choice when you are seeking in-depth, book-length treatments of a topic.

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. America: History & Life, a history 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 lesbian political activity in the United States? In addition to the America: History & Life, search the Gender Studies database.

Practice: Comparing and Evaluating Search Tools

Choose a broad topic (no more than 2-3 concepts) and conduct a preliminary investigation into the topic using four different search tools: Primo, a multidisciplinary database, a subject database, and Google Scholar. 

Keep track of your results and respond to the following questions:

  • Search terms used
  • How many results did you get?
  • What are the subject terms for the various scholarly articles and books in your results?
  • Scan the first two pages of search results. List some aspects of your topic being discussed.
  • If you wanted to try to find additional relevant results, what other search terms might you try to use?
  • How can you get to the full text of articles?
  • How can you save an article for later or send it to yourself?
  • Are there any tools to help you cite articles?
  • Anything else interesting (or frustrating?) about the database?

Reading a Citation

When reading a citation, break it down into parts. Check out the color-coded example below:

Gilmore, Stephanie, and Elizabeth Kaminski. "A part and apart: Lesbian and straight feminist activists negotiate identity in a second-wave organization." Journal of the History of Sexuality 16, no. 1 (2007): 95-113.

Author(s). "Article Title." Journal Title Volume, Issue number (Year of Publication): page numbers.

Tip: The most common pitfall of reading citations is mixing up the article and journal titles. Remember when searching Primo to find out if we have access to an article: it will be most efficient to search for the journal title.

Recommended Subject Databases

These subject databases may be especially useful for your research projects for this class. Depending on your topic and your angle, you may wish to search additional subject databases.