Find Secondary Sources

Starting a Secondary Source Tracking Database

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Mark Crossfield

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Mark Crossfield

If you know you will be researching the same general topic for years to come, you might want to start a long-term database to track your sources. EndNote, Zotero, and Mendeley are different source database tracking applications that also help with developing bibliographic citations. Once you start building a database of sources in one space, you will not want to switch later; it is critical that you take time up front to select wisely.

Activity

  1. Use the links below to briefly explore the three source database applications.
  2. Write a reflection of which database you might use and why.
  3. Share-out: Post a copy of your reflection as a reply.

EndNote

Zotero

Mendeley

Tracking Sources in a Spreadsheet

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Daniel Dudek-Corrigan

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Daniel Dudek-Corrigan

Once you find more than four or five sources, you can start to lose track of what you have.

Activity

  1. Create a table in a Word, Excel, or Google Doc or Spreadsheet. Include at least five rows and five columns. Use this table as an example (you may also COPY this table to your own document).
  2. At the top of the document, write your focused research topic, question, or thesis.
  3. In the far left column, list last name of the author and the year of publication of each source.
  4. In the columns to the right of each source provide the following information:
    • full bibliographic citation
    • summary of the source
    • brief analysis of how/why the source is useful to answering your research question
    • brief analysis of how/why the source is authoritative and credible
  5. Share-out: In the comments thread below, upload a document with your notes or provide a link to where you have posted your notes elsewhere (make sure they are posted publicly).

Using Wikipedia to Your Advantage

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Matt

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Matt

While Wikipedia is generally not a good source to cite by itself (since there is no single author that you can trace the content back to), it is very good at giving broad overviews of a topic. In this respect, you are more interested in the bibliography at the bottom of the Wikipedia page. These are the sources that the Wikipedia page has borrowed from.

Activity

  1. Go to the Wikipedia page related to your topic.
  2. Quickly scan it to find the sections that are particularly relevant to you.
  3. Find a source from the Wikipedia bibliography about your topic that you can see being useful to your assignment. An ideal article from the bibliography should have an identifiable author, a date of publication, and its own bibliography as well.
  4. Skim through the article and make sure that it is useful to you.
  5. Share-out: Post the URL of the article below and write 50-100 words about why you chose this article and why you think it will be useful for your paper.

Working Backwards 2: Article Scan for Citations

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Stacy Brunner

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Stacy Brunner

Activity

  1. Locate an article that you consider to be a strong resource for your research, one that you have already read.
  2. Skim the body of the article and highlight/circle all of the in-text citations.
  3. Next, determine which sources the author(s) cite the most often. Note: You can either use a simple tally system, or, if you are using a PDF reader/viewer, you may be able to search the document using Ctrl + F (control find), which locates every instance of the name for which you are searching.
  4. Note the top five sources most referenced in the article. Revisit those in-text sections within the document.
  5. Determine whether or not any of the top cited references could potentially be valuable to your research project.
  6. Go to the references section of the article and locate the full bibliographic citation.
  7. Conduct a library search for that source.
  8. Share-out: In the comments section below, post an image of one of the pages where you highlighted/circled the in-text citations.

Working Backwards 1: Bibliography Scans to Find Secondary Sources

Activity 

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Christopher Sessums

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Christopher Sessums

  1. Locate 2-3 articles that you consider to be strong resources for your research.
  2. Scan the “References” or “Works Cited” section at the end of each article.
  3. Highlight the titles of works that seem relevant to your research topic.
  4. Take a photo of one of the highlighted titles or one of the references pages and post it in a document.
  5. Do a Google Scholar Citation Search for at least two of the articles.
  6. Briefly discuss whether or not the resulting finds were useful.
  7. Search the names of the authors for two of the articles. Have they published anything more recently?
  8. Briefly discuss whether you found more recent articles. Were they helpful?
  9. Share-out: Upload your document with the pictures and discussion to the comments thread.

Tracking Keyword Searches

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Mikhail Nole

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Mikhail Nole

Keeping track of keyword searches will help you avoid repeating unproductive searches and help you refine your searches.

Activity

  1. Create a list of keywords, keeping track of keywords you use and of the variations of your keywords
  2. Find 3 specific academic journals (not databases) in your field.
  3. Most databases allow you to search within a journal title. Use all of your keywords to search within the journal title. Skim the results.
  4. After searching 3 journals, briefly describe which keywords provide better results for your topic. Are there specific words you should not use? Why?
  5. Share-out: Copy/paste or upload your list of terms and discussion to the thread below.

Compiling Scholarly Keywords

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Jared Zimmerman

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Jared Zimmerman

As you find articles in the Library databases or Google Scholar, pay attention to the keywords the authors use to describe their work. You can usually find these keywords near the top of the article, around the abstract of the article, or in the footnotes. Keep in mind, however, that not every article will have keywords listed.

If they don’t have keywords listed, read the abstract of the article and choose 2-3 keywords for yourself (if you think the article looks useful to you, of course. If it doesn’t, then find another article).

Activity 

  • Identify key words for five separate academic articles you find. You should also be saving the PDFs (if they are available) of these useful articles as you check them out.
  • You should come away from this initial research with a small compendium of the keywords that scholars in your research area use to categorize their work.
  • Look at the keywords you have collected and synthesize them into 3-4 main words. You should plan on using these keywords to conduct more research.
  • Share-out: Post the 3-4 main keywords that you synthesized below.

Finding Library Databases

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Carlos Reis

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Carlos Reis

Databases available through the university’s library will be your best resources for academic papers. This is because they host thousands of articles from peer-reviewed journals. Articles that have been peer-reviewed means that they have been checked by other scholars, and the data has been validated.

Activity

  1. Go to ODU’s library home page
    • EITHER: Click on Databases A-Z underneath of the Resources section. Select your discipline (or its closest equivalent) from the Browse Databases by Subject.
    • OR: Click Resource Guide by Subject underneath the Help section. Select your discipline (or its closest equivalent) from the list. Look at the resulting databases under the Journals tab.
    • You should always ask your professor for advice about the the best databases to use for the discipline you are researching within.
  2. Do a few searches (use different keywords) within one library database for articles associated with the topic you are researching. Skim the titles of the articles.
  3. Do a few searches (use different key words) within another library database for articles associated with the topic you are researching. Skim the titles of the articles.
  4. On a separate document, write down the names of the databases you searched. Briefly describe the types of articles you found. Which database do you think will be more useful for your research on this project? Why?
  5. Share-out: Copy/paste or upload your description and reflection.

Google Scholar Citation Search

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by redjar

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by redjar

This activity requires that you have already found at least one scholarly source.

Activity

  1. Open your web browser and go to http://scholar.google.com/.
  2. Enter the title information for an article you have already located and one that is particularly relevant and useful to your research topic. Note: You can also search by the name of the author(s).
  3. Once you have located your resource, click on the “Cited by” link located on the lower left side beneath the entry.
  4. After clicking this link, at the top of the next page, you will see the title of your original article and, beneath it, links to all the articles that cite your original sources.
  5. Next, you can do one of at least two things:
    • Skim through the titles and descriptions of the articles that reference your original source to find more sources related to your topic.
    • Click on “Search within citing articles” and then type a keyword in the search box above to locate articles that not only cite your original source, but also reference your keyword. Resource: Use Google Scholar to Find Article Citation Numbers
  6. Share-out: Take a screenshot of your original source after you have located it on Google Scholar. Make sure to include the “Cited by” link in the picture, and then post your image in the thread below.