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English 101

  1.   What is a Research Guide?

A list of recommended tools (e.g. databases) used to discover information on a topic. Research guides also contain tips on how to  use different tools. Liaison librarians create research guides for their assigned University programs

  1. What to do before the library visit
  2. Background information sources
  3. Using the online library catalog
  4. Scholarly journal articles
  5. Using databases
  6. Google search
  7. Library assistance


Before the Library Visit

Background Information

At the early stages of the research process, perform preliminary research to learn about your topic. To refine your focus and gain contextual understanding to frame your research, so you can develop a complex, interesting research question.

Background information also introduces special vocabulary that researchers use to describe your topic - incorporate this vocabulary in your writing and when searching for scholarly sources.

Subject encyclopedias, news items, and scholarly books are useful sources for getting started. Subject encyclopedias and other reference works - e.g. handbooks, dictionaries, directories - are useful throughout the research process for finding facts as needed.

Subject encyclopedias

  • a database of over 600 reference books covering various disciplines.

  • AccessScience — ELECTRONIC  7100+ articles, hundreds of Research Updates in all areas of science and technology updated daily. Weekly updates of breakthroughs and discoveries in science and technology, a science dictionary, and links to related websites
  • Oxford Reference Online  — ELECTRONIC Approximately 200 dictionaries, language reference works, and subject reference works. No more than 5 users can access the tool at the same time


Scholarly monographs (books)

  • Online Library Catalog — ELECTRONIC Search the Libraries collection of over 500,000 print books and 150,000 electronic books
  • Google Books — ELECTRONIC Collection of millions of digitized books and magazines. If the work is out of copyright, or the publisher has given permission, you'll be able to see a preview of the book, and in some cases the entire text. Google Books allows you to search for words and phrases within books, making it a valuable search tool

Using the library catalog: quick tips

If the Drexel Libraries does not own a book you want, borrow it from another library through E-Z Borrow. The service is fast, easy, and free.

Search options

Click Books and More on the Libraries homepage to search the catalog. Use the drop-down menu and choose a search option:

Keyword : This is the default search; it lets you search on any topic you're interested in. Use the operators AND & OR to combine more than one keyword

Title : Quickly check if the Libraries has a particular book you want

Author : Find books the Libraries holds that are written by a particular person. If you want a book about a particular person, search for them as a subject.  In either case, put the last name first: Washington, George

LC Subject : These are the "official" subject headings from the Library of Congress assigned to items in the catalog. If you don't know the appropriate subject heading, start with a keyword search. Then read the subject headings in the record of a source that relates to your topic.

Scholarly journal articles

Use a library database to search for scholarly research articles to help develop your thesis - the answer to your research question. The Libraries subscribe to over 500 databases. Start with a mulitdisciplinary database that covers a broad range of subjects.

Which subject database to use depends on your research question. Read the description of subject databases to determine if sources  in the database are relevant to your research. For example, if researching an aspect of college students' communication behaviors on social-networking sites, try using a subject database for communication.

Multidisciplinary databases

  • Summon — ELECTRONIC Tool that allows you to search many of the Libraries subscribed databases and resources, including items in the catalog
  • ProQuest Research Library — ELECTRONIC Delivers more than 4,000 full-text publications from over 3,000 publishing partners in the areas of Business, Science, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Academic Onefile — ELECTRONIC Search across over 11000 periodicals, and over 4300 fulltext titles

Subject databases

  • Communication & Mass Media Complete — ELECTRONIC Search numerous journals in communication, mass media, and other closely-related fields of study
  • Sociological Abstracts — ELECTRONIC indexes and abstracts the literature in sociology (and related disciplines) from an international selection of journals, serials, conference papers, books, and dissertations
  • Education Research Complete —  ELECTRONIC Largest and most complete collection of full text education journals

View the list of all databases by subject

Using databases: quick tips

Use Interlibrary loan for articles not owned by the Libraries, either electronically or in print (similar to EZ-Borrow for books). Requires a one-time registration setup. The service is fast, easy, and free.

Search terms : Do not enter full sentences in the database search box. As a rule of thumb, use 2 to 4 terms to search a database. Combine terms with Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT.  Use quotation marks to surround exact phrases: "Star Trek"

Filters : For greater control, use a database's advanced search options: Limit by publication type (e.g. scholarly journals), source format (e.g. research articles), date of publication (e.g. less than 5 years old).

Finding full text : If the text of an article is not available in one database, click the GET IT! button in the database to check if it's available in another. If the article is not available electronically, search the library catalog for the journal in print - search by journal title, not the title of the specific article.

Learn more about the purpose and characteristics of scholarly sources

Using Google

  • Google Scholar — WWW Special search engine for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from broad areas of research. Clicking on a source title listed in Google Scholar results will not always lead you to free full text access to the source. Click the GetIt@Drexel link near the source record to access the full text through one of the Libraries' subscription resources. From off-campus, add Drexel University in the Library Links in Google Scholar Preferences.

Library assistance

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