- Many topics are examined through the lens of a variety of disciplines
- Often GENERAL databases are a good place to start; they are interdisciplinary.
Where are they writing about my topic ?
Consider the currency of your topic. Different types of publications serve different functions, and have different production timeframes (tutorial snippet on the information timeline, and the content focus of different types of resources).
Is anybody writing about my topic ?
It depends. Information doesn't exist in a void, generated on demand -- someone has to have created it.
If your topic is widely studied, or current news, finding topical materials won't be hard. On the other hand, just because you can imagine a topic, doesn't mean others are writing about/studying it.
- Sometimes finding materials is a matter of deconstructing your topic. Examining its various aspects, finding research on those aspects, and then connecting the dots by proposing your own connections/conclusions
- The more facets there are to a research question, the more specific your topic gets, the more likely the need to extrapolate
- For topics not already written about, new/original research may be required (time consuming, generally undertaken by those with long-term research goals)
The Right Tool for the Job
Choosing the "right" resource means choosing a database that finds you the kind of materials you need.
Encyclopedias: Brief background information on your topic.
Books & articles: You're likely to need the UCB Library catalog (OskiCat) and an article database for your assignment. Which one you use, depends on what you already know and the kind of materials sought.
If you already have a citation for an item or you want to find books on your topic, you can start with the catalog
If you want to isolate articles or essays on a topic, you'll need to use an "article" database
Catalogs|article databases and locating results (detail)
Catalogs list library collections, item locations, and availability. OskiCat is the UCB libraries' catalog.
- database results do not equal what UCB owns - they identify where articles were published (name of publication and associated volume, issue, date info.) - sometimes results link to article content online - use UC-eLinks if a full text option is not provided - sometimes include more than articles (chapters in books, etc.)
Where's the article ?
Most library databases have the UC-eLinks feature. When a result is not available online, it allows you to check the UC-wide collections to see if it is available elsewhere (either online or in print copy).
Click the orange button associated with a result to see its access options.
Encyclopedias are often a good place to begin when you don't know much about a topic. They provide basic background information, the knowledge of which helps when searching for other materials: identify people, events, issues, etc. Entries may also have an associated bibliography that identifies other materials related to a topic.
This free encyclopedia is publicly editable and not a scholarly resource. Because anyone can write or add to an entry, the information may be innacurate or untrue. Through the very structure of its creation, it has dependability issues. Yet, it can still be a useful tool, if used wisely.
Like other encyclopedias, it can be helpful in obtaining background, and entries often list sources for further reading which you can see if UCB has in its collections. Use Wikipedia as a starting point for information you will verify in the course of your research via scholarlysources.
Research is as credible as the work that goes into it! It's important to analyze the information you find, including where it comes from.
While a magazine or journal article database lists results from sources known to be reputable/scholarly, finding material via Google requires additional evaluation on your part.
Book a 30-minute appointment with a librarian who will help refine and focus research inquiries, identify useful online and print sources, and develop search strategies for humanities and social sciences topics (examples of research topics).
Schedule, view, edit or cancel your appointment online (CalNetID required)
How to use this page
These notes contain additional suggestions about how you might proceed to best use the resources outlined in this class guide. They presume familiarity with the general concepts and information addressed in the other tabbed pages of the guide.
A research trajectory
Review information in the My topictab to determine who is likely to be writing about your focus, and where
Review the suggested resources, below, and also the information in the Choosing a Resource tab (to isolate the type of tool you want to use and note important info. about its use)
Visit the library homepage and select a resource whose content matches the kind of materials you are seeking to find. When choosing an article database, select one whose disciplinary focus maps to your topic (i.e. publications in that field are likely to be writing about it).
Or... choose a General (interdisciplinary) database.
Search to see what's been written about your topic (or see what issues others are writing about -- that might help you refine your focus).
see Tips section of this tab for help with searching
Examine promising results.
remember to note the information you'll need if you end up citing them
Suggested resource types
find books on your topic
find the periodicals you've already identified as having articles on your topic
find encyclopedias to get background information
Article databases (by SUBJECT)
to identify article and essay content on your topic
to identify current research
to identify research focused on a specific aspect of a topic
to search for publications from a specific discipline
sociology. education, women's studies, history, etc.
Article databases (GENERAL)
often have popular sources (magazine & news) as well scholarly
Academic Search Complete is one recommended resource
popular and scholarly content (good for popular culture topics)
some results available online
has UC-eLinks feature
Google Scholar is one recommended resource
strength is scholarly journal literature
use UC-eLinks to get full text
you must enable UC-eLinks to display in Google Scholar [set via Options gear > Scholar Preferences > Library links]
JSTOR is one recommended database
full text resource
use advanced search mode (to narrow to specific discipline. and/or limit your search)