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Hint: Finding Open Access Articles
Increasingly, scholars are frustrated that their research is available only to people who have access to big libraries, so they either publish their research in journals that are free to anyone to read or they reserve the right to put copies of their research online. Try Googling the author and title of an article you need and add filetype:pdf - you might get lucky and find a free copy online.
For research in biology and biomedical sciences, the National Institutes of Health provides two nifty options. PubMed is a huge database of medical research articles. After you do a search, you can choose to limit your results to free full text articles.
Or you can go to PubMed Central, an archive of over 1,000 life science journals and articles based on research funded by the NIH to find lots of articles in biology and medicine.
As you decide which sources to look at more closely think about these ideas.
- Is it current enough? Use the year of publication on the call number or in a database to help narrow your options.
- Is it scholarly enough - but not too technical? When looking through articles with abstracts in a database, skim the abstract to see if at least some of the article is understandable. Focus first on the first and last lines of the abstract, then look more closely if it seems interesting. When looking at magazine and newspaper articles, check the length. If it's less than 400 words or one page or less, it may be too insubstantial to be very helpful.
- Is at least part of the source of interest? When you see a book on the shelf that has potential, take it off the shelf and skim the table of contents. Or, if you have a specific enough subject, see if it's covered in the index. You don't have to read a book in its entirety to find the good bits.
Be sure you do some skimming before you print anything off or haul books back to your dorm room. Quite often, a source that seems to be exactly on your topic turns out to be not very helpful after all. You don't want to discover that when you're sitting down to write a paper that's due tomorrow.
Major index to literature in education. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, it provides full citations and abstracts for journal articles, books, curricula, government documents, dissertations, and research reports. ERIC citations date from 1966 to the present, and full text is available for many research reports.
Health Source - Nursing/Academic Edition
This database provides nearly 550 scholarly full text journals focusing on many medical disciplines. It also features the Lexi-PAL Drug Guide, which covers 1,300 generic drug patient education sheets with more than 4,700 brand names. Access is provided by eLibraryMN (ELM).
SPORTDiscus with Full Text
Covers all aspects of sport and fitness. Contains bibliographic references to international practical and research literature in sport, physical fitness, active living, and physical education. Contains over 650,000 records with journal and monograph coverage going back to 1800. Provides full text for more than 440 journals. NOTE: Access is limited to four simultaneous users.
Teacher Reference Center
Provides indexing and abstracts for over 280 teacher and administrator trade journals, periodicals and books to assist professional educators. Coverage includes assessment, curriculum development, literacy standards, and more.
Quite often you will be expected to use "scholarly" or "peer-reviewed" sources. How can you tell whether a source is scholarly? Look for these indicators.
- The author is a scientist or scholar, not a journalist. Usually you can find some note about where the author works, and more often than not it's at a college or university.
- The audience is other researchers, scientists, or scholars, so the language is fairly complex and assumes a level of sophistication.
- If an article, it is fairly long. It's rare for a scholarly article to be one or two pages.
- It includes references to the work of other researchers.
Though many databases let you limit a search to scholarly articles, those limiters aren't foolproof. As an example, they will include book reviews, which are not reporting original research. Take a look at "Anatomy of a Scholarly Article" from North Carolina State University Library.
One of the reasons Gustavus requires at least one Writing in the Disciplines (WRITD) courses is because styles are different for in different majors. Scholarly sources do not all look the same. Scholarly articles in history are usually longer than those in physics journals. Articles in chemistry often have color illustrations and their journals carry advertising, but you won't find many color illustrations or advertisements in literary criticism journals. In sociology and psychology, articles almost always have abstracts, but you rarely see them in art history or religion articles. Though they look different, all fundamentally are the work of scholars reporting their findings to extend what we know about the world.
Materials not available at Gustavus may be borrowed from other libraries and sent here for you to use. Location: Library -- Main Floor.
When you have an article with references, you can see if a particular reference is available by looking the journal's name up at the link below. Then you can use the volume and date information to navigate to the article. If we don't have access to that journal, we usually can get it from another library.
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