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Humanities Guide to Research

Finding Scholarly Articles

Where are articles located?   Step 1: Catalogue. The catalogue is a searchable list of all of the library’s resources. Think of it like Google, but limited to what the library can access (    Step 2: Databases. Listed in the catalogue are databases. Databases contain information including but not limited to abstracts, conference proceedings, journals, and various media. The library spends millions of dollars every year to provide access to databases. Using the catalogue, search for databases by name, and then search for your articles within the database. You can also search by journal name. Off campus? Use your MacID to enter databases.    Step 3: Journals. Academic journals, like magazines, used to arrive every month in the mail. Now, most are available online. Journals usually publish scholarship relating to one particular academic discipline. Typical content includes original research, review articles, and book reviews. Many, but not all, academic journals use the peer review process to determine what they publish.    Step 4: Articles. Many articles will have an abstract that you can read to determine if they are useful. In some databases, look for a PDF button to read the article.    To conclude, a metaphor: Each step described above is, in a way, a container. The catalogue ‘contains’ links to databases, the databases contain the journals (or links to them), and the journals contain the articles.

screenshot image highlighting the database tab on the McMaster Library homepage

Use our Databases tab to find databases by title or by subject.

Screenshot of the search box on the McMaster University Library homepage highlighting the online journals tab

Use our Online Journals tab if you know the name of the journal that contains your article. Type in the name of the journal and then narrow done to the specific volume and issue number.

google scholar logo

If you know the name the name of the article that you are looking for type it into Google Scholar

***Simplify the search process by linking McMaster University Library in order to gain immediate access to articles.

Database Searching

There are so many databases to choose from! This video outlines how to decide which you should use.(2:19)

Transcript (PDF) | Transcript (.docx)

If you are having trouble finding articles remember that research is interdisciplinary. Consider what other subjects may be interested in your topic and check out those databases to find resources.

The goal of a successful search is to retrieve all of the information relevant to a research question without retrieving irrelevant information. This requires creating an effective search string.

1. Identify main concepts from the research question.

2. Brainstorm alternative words and phrases.

3. Create search strings using Boolean Operators.

Boolean Operators and Modifiers

Learn how to use the Boolean Operators AND/OR/NOT to target and refine your search.

Transcript (PDF) | Transcript (.docx)

Learn how to format your search using the Boolean Modifiers quotes " ", asterisk *, and parenthesis ( )

Transcript (PDF) | Transcript (.docx)

Cheat Sheet Boolean. Boolean logic is fundamental to the search functions of Internet search engines like Google and Library databases like JSTOR and Web of Science. As a student, correctly utilizing a few key Boolean Operators and Modifiers will provide better, and more accurate search results. Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT. AND is also implied by a blank space between words e.g. Geriatric AND Driving. Results will contain both the words Geriatric and Driving. OR E.g. Geriatric OR Elderly. Results will contain one or more of the words Elderly or Geriatric. NOT e.g. Elderly NOT "Middle Aged". Results won't contain the search term "Middle Aged." Search modifiers. " " * () Quotation / Speech Marks, e.g. "Middle aged". Results will contain the words Middle and Aged together as an exact phrase. Asterisk. e.g. Driv* Results will contain terms that begin with Driv, e.g. Drive, driver, driving, driven. Parentheses/brackets. E.g. (Geriatric OR Senior) and "Driving Cessation". results will contain "Driving Cessation" and either or both of the words geriatric or senior. Search strings. Boolean operators and modifiers can be used together to form more specific search strings. E.g. A search for journal articles about reasons for driving cessation amongst seniors might look like this: "Driving Cessation" AND (geriatric OR senior OR "Older adults"). Boolean Tips. Use AND to NARROW result. Use OR to produce BROADER results. Use NOT to remove previous results. Some applications don't support the asterisk modifier, instead construct OR statements to search all variations. Record each search string to avoid duplication.

Reading Scholarly Articles

Reading scholarly papers. To start, read the IMRD.    I – Introduction: Creates interest, provides enough information for basic understanding of the article & provides focus    M – Methods: Details the experiments done to answer the question in the Introduction, technical language, & provides a high level of detail   R – Results: Statements of what was found by the experiments   D – Discussion: Provides clear answer to the question posed in the Introduction & explains how the results support the conclusion.     Read the article twice.    1st reading: Re-read the Abstract and the Introduction again. Skim the methods section. Read the results section. Read the discussion section thoroughly. Study the charts, figures and tables.    2nd reading: Skim the entire article – start to finish, maybe several times! Highlight words you don’t know. Underline key points. Make note of questions or ideas.    Read critically: Are the authors attempting to solve the right problem? What are the limitations of the solution/methodology/conclusion? Are the assumptions reasonable? Is the logic clear? Was the correct data gathered? Was their interpretation reasonable?   Read creatively: What are the good ideas in the paper? Are there other applications that the authors hadn’t thought about? Are there improvements to the paper that might make important differences? If this was your launching point, what is the next thing you’d do?

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