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Get It Done Guide to Undergraduate Research

Got a research assignment coming up? We're here to help.

Finding Sources

What are different types of sources?

  What do they look like? Who writes them and where are they published? What can I use them for? Where can I find them?
Scholarly sources A peer-reviewed research article; a book published by an academic press Written by scholars, published in academic journals Use research articles and data to guide your research and inform your argument Academic databases are your best bet. Start with Academic Search Ultimate or Google Scholar. Use the Database Finder to browse our full database collection.
Popular sources Newspaper and magazine articles; podcasts; documentaries Depends on the source; journalists, can be published in newspapers, magazines, websites, etc. Popular sources offer perspectives that are often absent from scholarly research. Opinion pieces can demonstrate personal experience and newspapers often disseminate information before scholarly journals. Popular sources also tend to be easier to read, so they are a great way to build your background knowledge. Popular sources will also cover contemporary or unfolding issues that haven't made it to the scholarly press yet. Ditch the paywall. Use NexisUni or another library databases to access to newspaper and magazine articles 
Government sources Government reports; data sets Government officials or researchers, published on government websites or databases Use government publications and data to guide your research and inform your argument Government websites or government databases, like PubMed or ERIC. Check out our guide to U.S. Government Information at UMD for more info.
Reference sources

Encyclopedias (including Wikipedia); dictionaries

Typically, various authors write entries that are compiled by an editor, typically published in databases or print books Build your background knowledge. Reference sources are not typically cited in your bibliographies, they are used in the very beginning stages of your research. Some reference sources are better than others. Wikipedia is a great tool for exploring a topic, but we don't know who wrote the content or what their credibility looks like. Once you get further into your research, stick to a reputable reference database like CQ Researcher or Opposing Viewpoints. Browse the UMD Libraries' reference database collection

How do I know what source type to use?

  • Pay attention to the requirements for your assignment. If you are required to use 5 scholarly sources, you will need to find academic articles. Typically you can supplement with popular sources, but make sure you are meeting the parameters of your research assignment. 
  • Evaluate everything! Popular sources are extremely important to build a full understanding. They are not "bad" or "less than" scholarly sources. However, we need to keep our eyes open and evaluate each and every source for credibility.
  • What are you hoping to get out of this article? If you are looking for data or research findings, look for scholarly or government sources. If you need to illustrate a personal point of view or examine a current topic, try popular sources.

Scholarly Source Terminology

Article? Journal? Periodical? Database? Use our glossary to break it down.

Scholarly article - A description of the findings of a particular study. Scholarly articles are usually published in academic journals, range 15-30 pages, and are written by one or more scholars. AKA: academic article, scholarly source

Journal - A publication focused around a specific discipline or area of study. Released a several times a year (quarterly, biannually) and contains several research articles. Scholarly articles are published in academic journals.

Periodical - Just a fancy term for a publication that is issued regularly. Academic journals are considered periodicals, but popular sources can also be periodicals, like newspapers or magazines.

Database - A tool that indexes large collections allowing the user to search through countless scholarly articles and the journals where they were published. Databases are not just a library tool, but academic databases index the scholarly journals and their articles so that you can search and find the perfect source for your research.

What's the deal with Keywords?

 Searching in academic databases looks a little different than searching in Google. You can't just type in your full research question. The key is to break up your research question into keywords or phrases (shoot for under 4 words per keyterm). 

DO DON'T
sample search sample search

Tips for Developing Keywords

Brainstorm

  • Open up a blank document or grab a pen and paper and start listing keywords that you know
  • Ask, what are some other ways that you have heard this topic talked about? 
    • For example, if you listed "climate change" as a keyword, you might want to add "global warming"
  • Hit the Thesaurus is you are stuck

Use your Concept Map

  • Take a look at your concept map. Are there any keywords that are missing from your list?
  • If you don't have a concept map, check out our "Choose a Topic" page for more info

Ask a friend

  • We all have different ways of thinking and different experiences. Tell a classmate or one of your friends about your topic and ask if they have any additional ideas for keywords. Chances are their ideas will be different than yours. Two heads are better than one!

Check the Subject Terms

  • Once you find an article that fits with your research, take a look at the subject terms in the database. Sometimes the article will have the keywords listed either near the top or the bottom of the article. Using those same keywords should bring up similar research articles.

 

 
EBSCO (includes Academic Search Ultimate)
ProQuest
Where to find subject terms When you click on an article title, subject terms and author-supplied keywords (if available) are on the article description page. When you click on the article title, navigate to the Abstract/Details tab to see subject terms
What does it look like subject terms in ebsco subject terms in proquest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Academic Search Ultimate

Walkthrough

 

Hot Tips

  • Make sure to use the Permalink when saving the link to your article
  • Academic Search Ultimate is an EBSCO database, think of it as like a family of databases. Searching in all EBSCO databases works the same, so if you know how to use Academic Search Ultimate, you know how to use many of our library databases.
    • To add other EBSCO databases to your search, click the "Choose Databases" link above the search bars. You can select multiple EBSCO databases using the check boxes to search all at once.

Google Scholar

Walkthrough

Hot Tips

  • Add the UMD Library Link to connect your Google Scholar search with UMD Libraries' collection.
  • Google Scholar does not typically have the full-text of articles within the database. Click on the red "Find @ UMD" button to see if your article is in our collection.
  • If we don't have access, try requesting through Interlibrary Loan or contact your librarian for next steps.

Help! I can't access my article.

Paywalls are the worst. We're here for you.

Install the Reload Button and refresh the page reload button

  • Try this first!
  • The Reload Button is a browser bar extension that reloads your article with your UMD login credentials. Just drag and drop into the bookmarks on your browser.

Find @ UMD Find @ UMD

  • If you don't see a full-text option for your article (PDF Full Text, HTML Full Text, etc.), click on the red Find @ UMD button. This will search for that article across our collection to see if we have that in our collection or another database.

Accessing newspaper articles behind paywalls

  • If you run out of free articles or into a paywall with a newspaper (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, etc.), we can check for those articles in our collection. 
  • To check our holdings for a specific newspaper / magazine title, search using the Journal Finder
    • We have access to most popular newspaper articles through databases like NexisUni. Keep in mind that these databases only provide the text of the article, so the formatting might look a little different than it did on the newspaper website.
    • Through the Journal Finder, you'll also see the date ranges for that publication within our collection. If your article is outside those ranges, follow the instructions below to request it from a different library.

Requesting from another library