Literature Reviews – Finding Citations

My last post talked about how to keep your researched organized.  But before you can do that, you have to have research to organize. How do you find all these wonderful citations? Well, it takes work, skill, and a little luck. There are several different types of resources for this, and like anything, some are good, and some not so good.

It is amazing to me how students today are not taught how to do this.  But, apparently they are not.  A friend of mine, who was an undergraduate music major started instant messaging me in a panic a few years ago.  She had to write a paper on a moderately well known composer.  This assignment required 10 sources, at least 5 of which must be peer reviewed and in print (not online).  She had no clue, vented that the prof was insane, it was impossible, the school library didn’t have anything like that, etc. She was amazed when, in less than 20 minutes I emailed her 15 pdf files, all from peer reviewed journals.  That’s when I first realized the modern student has a problem with research. But the problem doesn’t stop there.

Something that never fails to surprise me is when people turn in papers with Wikipedia as a citation. Never, never, NEVER use it for a citation.  You can use it as a spring board.  You can use it for background information.  But it is NOT, but any stretch of the imagination, “facts.”  If you think so, all you have to do is look at what happened on some “biography” pages during the 2011 Grammy Awards. When I’m grading a paper, I automatically remove points for a Wikipedia citation, even if there are other citations which are legitimate.

Luckily, there are enough places to find good citations where one does not have to stoop to such tactics. If you’re researching public policy issues, sometimes you will have to use primary sources such as media reports, legislation, court cases, etc.  I will cover some of those at some point in the future. For this post, I’ll cover four databases to find academic articles.

The first one is somewhat limited by the fact it is restricted to the State of Georgia.  It is provided by the University System of Georgia to libraries, schools, colleges, and universities within the state.  It is Georgia Library Learning Online, or more commonly, GALILEO. GALILEO mainly provides access to other databases.  Through it, you can access EBSCOhost, ProQuest, and others including the Georgia Archives. This is the only database most people ever use, if they even use it. 

Another one I have found, although it is not peer reviewed, is the Social Science Research Network.  It is more conference papers and working papers.  But, it does provide a wealth of information in areas that have not yet been researched to the level of peer review (aka, my thesis topic). While these citations do not carry the same weight as a journal article, they do provide a citation.  Or, more importantly they provide links to OTHER citations on the same topic.  That is how to make your paper explode in citations.  Find articles similar to your’s, then look who they cited.  Then read those papers.  A lot of it will not apply to your topic, but you can also find quite a few gyms that have a different keyword.

Another quite common (at least people I know) database is J-STOR.  Now, J-STOR requires a subscription, but most institutions have one of one type or another.  Contact your librarian for login directions. Since subscriptions vary by institution, the journals you will be able to access will vary as well. They do have a tutorial section, which can be fount here.

Then, there’s the big one. Those of you who know me, and you’ve probably been able to figure this out just by reading this blog, know I’m pretty obsessed with Google. I use their email, calendar, docssites, blog (blogger is part of Google), and video site. I even use their notebook/netbook.  So, it is no surprise that I also use their academic search engine.  It’s called Scholar Google. They search the other databases I’ve already mentioned, and many others.  They provide both academic and legal information as well. It has proved an invaluable resource for me.   

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