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Composition II Research Guide for ENGL 102: Search Strategies

Summer 2018

Improving Your Searching

In Composition I (ENGL 101), you learned about several search strategies that work better with databases such as the Library Catalog and Academic Search Complete. You can review and expand on much of that information in the Basic Strategies for Searching Box on this page. As you become more experienced at research, your needs become more specific, meaning you need to increase your knowledge of how resources work. The Records! video shows how databases are different than the World Wide Web, while other boxes explore how to find disciplinary perspectives and using Google Scholar.

Records! Video

What do your search terms match up against in a keyword search? Why is searching the library catalog or an article database different than searching Google?

Finding Disciplinary Perspectives

Disciplinary perspectives are closely related to the scholarly literature. Disciplines are branches of learning and are distinct, though related, to subjects. Hip-hop as a topic, for example, can be approached through the disciplines of music, literature, psychology, sociology, etc. This page contains some strategies for finding disciplinary perspectives on your topic.

Here are some strategies for finding discipline-related information in books and media.

  • Find relevant LC classification letters/numbers for your topic and browse the shelves under those subject areas. You will find books on hip-hop, for example, classified under ML (music), E (history), GV (dance), PS (literature), KF (law). For an outline of the LC Classification system adapted to the Upstate Library, click here.
  • Find Subject Headings in the full record of books. Note the LC areas associated with the headings.
  • Subject encyclopedias and other discipline-oriented reference works will give general disciplinary perspectives on many topics. While these might not directly address your topic, they may be useful in determining how people in the discipline think about issues related to your topic.
  • You are more likely to get a good disciplinary perspective from a scholarly book than one by a journalist or popular writer. Most books will identify the author's affiliation. Many scholarly books, but not all, are published by academic publishers.

When using a multidisciplinary database such as Academic OneFile or Academic Search Complete, bear the following in mind:

  • You are most likely to find disciplinary perspectives in scholarly journals or academic trade publications. Both types will fall under the broad category of academic journals, though if you limit to "peer-reviewed" journals, you will only get the former.
  • Sort your results by academic journals, then scan the titles of journals to see the subjects and disciplines represented.
  • You can usually find out more information about the journal (what subjects it covers) if you go to the full record (click on the title of the article in the results list) and then click on the title of the journal. This should lead you to a journal page with information about the journal and a way to access records and full text.
  • Check the credentials of the author or authors of the article. Often their area of academic expertise will be identified at the beginning or end of the article or elsewhere in the journal (e.g., a list of contributors).

Some full-text journal collections, such as JSTOR, Project MUSE, and Science Direct allow browsing and searching by discipline. This may be a good next step if you don't find what you need in a multidisciplinary database.

Three subject databases group a number of disciplines into broad fields: Humanities Full Text, Social Sciences Full Text, and General Science Full Text. Like the multidisciplinary databases, these contain a mix of articles from scholarly journals, trade publications, newspapers and magazines.

Other databases are selective collections of materials--reference works, articles from scholarly journals, newspapers,and magazines, multimedia sources, and websites that explore a particular subject area or type of information. These include Biography In Context, US History In Context, and the Literature Resource Center. The sources may draw from a number of disciplines, so use the same strategies you would for a multidisciplinary database.

The big scholarly disciplinary databases (such as MLA Bibliography, PsycINFO, CINAHL and the like) will probably be less useful to you at this stage because they are geared to professionals in the field. While they may contain some useful material, much will be highly specialized and full of disciplinary jargon. In general, these databases are less likely to have full-text articles, though nearly all have abstracts. Nonetheless, it may sometimes be useful to know about them. Go to the Databases Page and select Subject to see a list of databases useful for a particular subject.

Look at the Article Databases tab to access recommended databases for your Composition II assignments.

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Google Scholar an Exception to the Rule?

Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com/) is a web search engine that searches specifically for scholarly literature and academic resources from publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar returns not only scholarly journal articles but also research reports, dissertations and theses, preprints, technical reports, patents, working papers, books, court opinions as well as things such as power point presentations, web pages and many other document types it deems scholarly using a built in algorithm.

Google Scholar is NOT Google, while Google searches the entire public Web, Google Scholar searches a smaller portion of the Web, similar to searching in the Library's catalog and databases.  There is a more scholarly, authoritative focus with Google Scholar distinguishing it from Google. Google scholar is like a federated search allowing you to search in many places at once.  Remember it is not exactly the same as a Library Database, many articles may have links to the Library Databases (if your library is linked in your Google Scholar settings) but it will NOT be all of the same materials.  Think of it as a starting place for more precise searching, more search features, and more content use the Library's Databases.

Google Scholar includes many citations that link directly to publishers' web sites of which most will charge a fee for full access. However, the USC Upstate Library subscribes to many of these publications offering you access without paying the publisher (we already have paid).  In order for Google Scholar to link to these articles in our paid databases you must make sure that the Library links has USC Upstateā€™s library information.   Go to Settings on the Main Google Scholar Choose Library links on the left side of the page.   Type in Upstate and search. Check the box next to University of South Carolina. Choosing Open WorldCat will help you access books from our catalog along with other local catalogs If you are on a campus computer this has already been set up for you.

Google Scholar includes many citations that link directly to publishers' web sites of which most will charge a fee for full access. However, the USC Upstate Library subscribes to many of these publications offering you access without paying the publisher (we already have paid).  In order for Google Scholar to link to these articles in our paid databases you must make sure that the Library links has USC Upstate’s library information. 

  • Go to Settings on the Main Google Scholar
  • Choose Library links on the left side of the page.  
  • Type in Upstate and search.
  • Check the box next to University of South Carolina.
  • Choosing Open WorldCat will help you access books from our catalog along with other local catalogs
    • If you are on a campus computer this has already been set up for you.

infographic for Google Scholar Advanced search

Altho the above video was created by Eastern Michigan University it covers the best parts of Google Scholar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xi26AvoMMDg

https://video.lib.uwf.edu/content/unrestricted/Research_Tutorials/Google_Scholar/video.mp4

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