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Introduction to Academic Writing: Recommended Databases

Research and library resources for students taking Wr 1 and Wr 2 at Caltech.

CaltechConnect

Whenever you're looking for articles in databases that don't give you full text, look for this icon, or the words "Caltech Connect," for help in determining whether we have access to that article.

If you need an article from a journal to which we don't subscribe, use our DocuServe InterLibrary Loan Service to request a copy for free.

Recommended Databases

Google Scholar Search Engine
Click on the three lines in the top left to bring up an option for the Advanced search options.


Is Google Scholar a Database?

Technically, no - it is a search engine. It only retrieves web links that match the conditions you put in. It does not have a limit on what it searches, and it doesn't provide any additional information about the results the way other databases do.

How can I add CaltechConnect options to Google Scholar results?

  1. Sign into (or create) your Google account and navigate to Scholar settings.
  2. Select "Library links" and search for "California Institute of Technology".
  3. Check the box next to "California Institute of Technology - Caltech Connect" and then click "Save".
  4. You should now see "Caltech Connect" on the right hand side of your search results.

Where is the Advanced Search in Google Scholar?

Click the three lines in the upper part of the screen, then click "Advanced Options":

 --> select "Advanced Search" at the bottom --> 

Compared to other databases like Web of Science, Google Scholar only has limited subset searching - in other words, narrowing down a search you've already done by using additional terms. It only supports narrowing by time frame and sorting options. You really can't modify an existing search - you will need to perform a new search with your new parameters.

The assignments and topics in these classes often involve more general, philosophical, or humanities-based topics. Here are some resources that may help with finding information in these areas.

If you are not finding what you are looking for in the most popular databases and indexes, Caltech subscribes to many more databases that can be found here.

Some recommended databases for different subjects can be found on Subject Library Guides.
If you are researching artificial intelligence, the Computation and Neural Systems and Computer Science guides may have some good databases to search!

Annual Reviews is a good place to search for review articles as well. Note that reviews do not exist for every topic; if you find your topic getting few or no hits, try a broader topic.

Evaluating Resources

Using general web search engines can give you a variety of sources - some may be good as a start to get idea or background information about a topic, even though they are not scholarly research articles. However, it is still important to look for appropriate information. When evaluating a resource (whether it is print or web-based) there are questions you can ask yourself to determine if it is high quality and a good match for your project or paper. These questions fall into the following 5 categories:

Authority
Who created the resource? Are the author, organization, affiliations, and publisher clearly shown? If the page is web-based does it link to information about the organization? Does the author have credintials or expertise in the subject matter? Is the resource from a government agency, university, company, non-profit organization?

Accuracy
Is the information contained in the source properly cited? Is there a bibliography or reference list? Can you verify the information in other sources? Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors? Is the statistical data clearly explained? Are charts and graphs properly represented and cited?

Objectivity
Is the resource free of advertising? Or, if there is advertising, is it clearly seperate from content? Is there any bias? Is the sponsoring organization bias or motivated to report facts from a particular perspective?

Currency
When was the resource created? When was it updated or revised? Is it kept current? When was the information gathered?

Coverage
Is the information complete? Does it cover the subject in depth? Does it match your information needs?

This information is taken from the University of Florida's ENC 3254 Course Guide, with criteria adapted from a worksheet used by the Widener Science Library.