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Graduate Research: Home

Books, Reference Works, News Sources, and Popular Magazines for Background Reading

Once you choose a topic, start by locating introductory sources that give basic background information about the subject. Finding background information at the beginning of your research is especially important if you are unfamiliar with the subject area, or not sure from what angle to approach your topic. Some of the information that a background search can provide includes:

  • Broad overview of the subject
  • Definitions of the topic
  • Introduction to key issues
  • Names of people who are authorities in the subject field
  • Major dates and events
  • Keywords and subject-specific vocabulary terms that can be used for database searches
  • Bibliographies that lead to additional resources

Books (Use Library CATALOG)
Reference Works
Google Scholar
Open Access Journals
Web sites
News Sources 

If you are looking for a particular book and JSU's Houston Cole Library does not have it, try using our ALLIES system. We share our book (not journal) collection with the University of Alabama, Auburn, and UAB. Click on the ALLIES link in the Library Catalog to search our library "allies." If another library has the book, simply "request" the book on the right hand side of the screen.

Databases- Searching for Journal Articles

Use the Library DATABASES to find scholarly research articles. Search for appropriate databases by subject. Ask a subject-specialist librarian if they are familiar with core journal titles relevant to your topic. Limit your search to "peer-reviewed" journal articles. All of the database have this limitation. Look for the "peer-reviewed" or "scholarly articles" box under "limitations."

Database Search Hints:
1. Use Boolean operators (OR, AND, NOT) to search for similar words. Example: "academic achievement" OR grades OR "academic success" OR "test scores" AND "school uniforms" OR "dress codes"
2. To find original research, try typing the following set of terms in one search box with your topic in another search box
"effects of" OR "study of" OR "comparison of" OR "attitudes of" OR impact of" OR perspectives of"

3. Place quotation marks around phrases ("no child left behind).
4.. If you find an abstract (summary of an article) with the citation in a database and the Library does NOT provide full text to the article, place the title on Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Our interlibrary loan staff member will try to get the article you need from another librarian.

Dissertation Abstracts

Use ProQuest Dissertations and Theses to find out what has already been researched on your topic. Although dissertations are usually only held at the Universitty where they were published, you can either fill out an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) request or access the first 24 pages which are available in the database for most dissertations and theses published after 2000.

Google Scholar

Use Google Scholar to locate relative articles. Some articles are freely accessible on the Web. These are called "open access" journals. Google Scholar, however, is best for locating journal articles writen on your topic. Use the citation to find the journal article in the Library. Use our EBSCO A to Z tool to find out whether the Library provides full text access to the article. If not, place the article on Interlibrary loan.

Education Librarian

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Laurie Heathcock
5th Floor
Houston Cole Library
Jacksonville State University
700 Pelham Rd N
Jacksonville, AL 36265

Library Tutorials/Helpful Videos

Footnote Chasing

Search the reference sections of other papers (e.g., topical bibliographies, meta-analyses) which focus on the topic of interest.

Use EBSCO A to Z to discover whether the Library has a particular journal title. Click on the hyperlinks to access the journal article. If we do not provide access to the journal, fill out an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) form.

Landmark Studies/ Scholars Who Specialize in a Particular Area

While doing research, jot down authors or studies which are frequently mentioned and in more than one source.  You need to make sure your readers know that you are familiar with major studies/ research relevant to your topic. Also, be aware of authors who specialize in a particular area

Key Words/ Terminology

During the research and writing process, keep a log of all terms, keywords, and different angles relevant to your topic. Use these terms to locate research.