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Consumer Sciences Research Guide: Finding Articles

Where to Search

Google vs. Google Scholar

Google is a well known search engine that add almost anything it can find on the web in its search results. The disadvantage in using Google in a literature search should be obvious - it gets lots of information of very dubitable quality.

Google Scholar is also well known and heavily used. It should not be ignored but neither should it be your first resource. Google Scholar looks specifically for papers, books, conference presentations, etc. BUT it still does not distinguish between scholarly and not.

Ranking of results - Google uses a very complex algorithm to determine the order of the results it will list. The problem is that only some Google employees know the algorithm. In some informal research, people have found that articles with lots of citations to them do show up at the top of the list but so do articles that very few people have ever cited and that are, therefore, likely to be less important.

Literature Databases vs. Google Scholar

Literature databases such as SocIndex use published criteria to determine the publications it is going to index. The database will often distinguish between types of literature so you can look specifically for peer-reviewed articles or theses and dissertations if that is what you need. The search engines for databases are designed by experts - usually librarians. These database search engines have been designed to help you create sophisticated searches that will help you get to the literature you want and have to look at relatively little irrelevant literature.

Key to a successful literature search

Use multiple databases. Use all the databases that you have access to that might contain information on your topic. You can certainly include Google Scholar in that list, but you must spend more time and effort evaluating your results from Google Scholar than from other databases where there are experts evaluating what goes into the database in the first place.

Types of Articles

Peer-Reviewed journals give the highest quality information while magazines and newspapers offer lesser quality articles. Below are descriptions of each type of publication and the information contained in them.

Journal Articles

Journals are scholarly, reliable information. You still need to evaluate the information, even the best experts make mistakes.

  • Published for scholars, researchers, and experts in the field
  • Authors are named and their expertise is described
  • Articles are long and typically report on research
  • Information sources are attributed and there are often long bibliographies
  • Illustrations included are used to clarify the text

Examples

Reay, Mike. 2010. "Knowledge Distribution, Embodiment, and Insulation." Sociological Theory 28(1):91-107. doi: 10.2307/25746215. (all the examples below come from this article)

  • Author information - Notice the author's address is included to indicate that his is at Swarthmore College
    • Image of author information
  • Note that this article runs from page 91 through 107 so it is 17 pages long.
  • Source information
    • An in-text citation is circled in red
    • Beginning of the bibliography is circled in blue
    • image of in-text citation and bibliography
  • There are no illustrations including tables or charts in this article

Peer Reviewed Journals

Peer reviewed journals are a special class - they are the creme de la creme of information sources.

What does peer review mean?

Articles submitted to a journal.

The journal send the articles out to 1 to 3 experts in the field without identifying the author.

The experts review the article and send it back to the journal with recommendations for improvements or approval.

The article is sent back to the author with the recommendations and a tentative approval or rejection of the article. The reviewers remain anonymous.

If improvements are made and there was a tentative approval, the article is resubmitted and published.

In other words, the information is vetted by experts before it is even published.

Most databases allow you to limit your results by peer-reviewed journals.

Magazine Articles

  • Published for entertainment
  • Authors may be identified but not always
    • They are often journalists and expert in reporting but not in the fields they report on
  • Articles are usually short
  • Sources are not cited
  • Illustrations are included for entertainment and advertising

Example

Keller, A. G. 1916. "Sociology and Science." Nation 102(2653):475-78. (all examples below come from this article)
 

  • Author identified but there is no information on his or her expertise in the area
    • Magazine author info
  • Note that this article is only 4 pages long
  • There is no bibliography
    • image of the end of a magazine article
  • This magazine does not have a lot of illustrations but it is unusual in this regard
    • Think of People Magazine, Car and Driver, Time, or Newsweek for more typical examples

Newspaper Articles

  • Authors may be acknowledged but often not
    • Authors are journalists who are experts in reporting but often not in the topics on which they are reporting
  • Short articles
    • Often just a few column inches
  • Focused on news topics - either events or human interest
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