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Scholarly Research Tutorial: E. Selecting & Finding Resources

Wondering where to start finding sources for a paper? Not sure where to go beyond Google? Start here for a quick tutorial in effective research methods for scholarly papers.

Selecting & Finding Resources

We've talked about different types of information resources -- books, scholarly articles, web sites -- but we haven't really talked about the tools you need to find them. 

When we talk about tools, we really mean "search tools" -- the search engine, search box, or interface that helps you find the information you need.  You already use lots of search tools on a daily basis:

  • Google is a tool that allows you to find web content.
  • is a tool that helps you find things to buy.
  • iTunes is a tool that helps you find music.

When you do research for a paper, you'll mostly use three kinds of search tools:

1. Web-based search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo:

  • You've already used search engines to do research.  This tutorial, plus our Free Web Tutorial, will help you do this even better.
  • One major drawback to using Google: as we already discussed, web pages are not a tidy type of package. You'll likely end up with a huge, messy pile of content
  • Not every result will be useful, and some of it will be very low quality.  It is very important to critically evaluate what you find in a search engine!
  • This doesn't mean there aren't lots of useful things found through search engines, but you have to work harder and it takes more time -- sometimes more time than it's worth -- to figure out if they're suitable for academic work.


2. Library catalogs:

  • The library catalog is where you find books.
  • Catalogs help you find physical objects found in your library: books, DVDs, maps, government documents, and so on.  
  • One exception: USM De Paul Library's catalog has links to e-books, which are only available online. 
  • You can't find articles in a library catalog.
  • Even though library catalogs are on the "free" web, their listings cannot be found through a search engine.


3. Library databases:

  • Library databases are where you find articles and other academic resources (art images, academic streaming videos, or classical music).
  • Your library pays money to access the content found in library databases because it is copyrighted intellectual property owned by someone like the publisher or recording comany.  This is high-quality stuff!
  • Even though you use an internet browser to access these tools, the content CANNOT be found using Google.
  • Because these tools are so powerful (and kind of confusing!), the second module of this tutorial is solely dedicated to exploring databases.


So: which tool goes with which type of information?  And how do I know which to choose?:




End of Module 1