While Google and Google Scholar are great starting places when searching for information for a research project, it is important for students to understand these tools are not always sufficient search tools for academic work. This section outlines what scholarly sources are and showcases various scholarly tools available to students.
What is a scholarly or academic source?
Scholarly or academic sources are written or created by scholars or professionals in their field. Most are evaluated by experts in the field before they are published via the peer-review process. Popular sources are not typically written by experts in a field; they are created for the general public for the purpose of sharing information or for entertainment.
When to use scholarly or popular sources:
It is important for students to recognize when it is appropriate to use different sources and not to think that all scholarly sources are 'good' and popular sources are' bad'. Rather, it is more important to understand the purpose of different types of sources and how these sources can lend credibility to one's work.
For example, scholarly sources are core to academic writing as they provide credible evidence to support the author's claims. Professors expect to see students incorporating scholarly sources into their papers. Alternatively, popular or news sources are great sources to use when a student is looking for current events, background information, popular trends, and social media reports (e.g. Twitter).
Finding scholarly sources:
Scholarly books are often great starting points for students as these types of sources generally provide a broad overview of a topic. Students can search the Library's Catalogue to find books, both in print and online. This guide provides tips on searching the catalogue.
Scholarly journal articles can be accessed through the library's various databases. The library subscribes to many different databases, some subject-specific such as Political Science Complete and some multi-disciplinary, such as Academic Search Complete and Web of Science. Students are encouraged to consult the research guide for their course to see recommended databases and other resources in their subject area. Students can consult this guide for assistance with database searching.
USearch is a popular search tool for students to use, especially when starting their research. USearch pulls together various resources (books, journal articles, etc.) from multiple sources and displays them in a single list.
It can be confusing with the various choices for search tools. The site "Which search tool should I use" outlines the various search tools and helps searchers decide where to start and to understand what each of these tools do best.
Assistance with searching:
Students are encouraged to contact their subject librarian with questions regarding recommended places to search for information on their topic, search strategies, etc.
Subject librarians are also available to come into your classroom and facilitate a workshop or a discussion on the various points of the research cycle.