Tools for Research (by task)

Selecting the Right Tool(s) from the Research Toolbox

Note:  A list of school logins for most databases are in the Resources folder of the Dragons Research group. For JSTOR, create a personal account using the instructions found in the same folder. 

Need help citing a source in APA, MLA, or Chicago?

  • Noodle Tools: citation helper for APA, MLA, and Chicago style citations; options for outline and note cards; NOTE: Carefully assess the source on your screen to determine exactly what type of source it is (e.g., news article, journal article, research report, etc.) – your ability to identify the source type correctly is an essential first step in creating an accurate citation
  • Chicago Manual of Style Online (on-campus access only)
  • APA guide (OA) from Purdue University’s OWL (Online Writing Lab)
  • MLA guide (OA) from Purdue University’s OWL (Online Writing Lab)
  • Chicago guide (OA) from Purdue University’s OWL (Online Writing Lab)


What is your research goal OR what type of source are you looking for?

Tip: What do you wonder about your topic? Jot down your questions, then investigate them through reading. As you read, seek to understand your topic, expand your vocabulary about it, and identify subtopics and/or arguments. Pause periodically to reflect on what you understand and what you wonder, then strategize about what to do next.

Begin to understand a topic – Reference sources
 (e.g., topic overviews, case overviews, biographies, etc.)

  • PowerSearch (all-in-one search of Gale eBooks, General OneFile, Opposing Viewpoints, US History, and World History): reference articles appear under Books; on the lower right, you may narrow results by Document Type (e.g., topic overviews, case overviews, biographies)
  • Explora: reference content includes topic overviews, encyclopedia articles, and introductions, prefaces, or chapters within some e-books; on the left menu, you may narrow results by Source Type
  • Oxford Handbooks Online – handbooks provide scholarly-level insight into a topic, so you generally want to read some general reference sources first before searching for a handbook article
  • Salem Press Reference: small reference set covering American Decades, the environment, immigration, and migration

The following databases are part of PowerSearch; however, by searching them directly, you may find relevant results faster.

  • US History in Context: focused on U.S. History; for an overview of a topic, focus on results in the reference and biographies groupings, including topic overviews and case overviews; in PowerSearch, most reference articles from USHIC are in the group of search results labeled Books
  • World History in Context: focused on World History; for an overview of a topic, focus on results in the reference and biographies groupings, including topic overviews and case overviews; in PowerSearch, most reference articles from WHIC are in the group of search results labeled Books
  • Gale eBooks: use one word or phrase to search; articles are included in PowerSearch, but in this direct interface you may search within a specific subset of reference books

Consider many sides of a policy issue – Contrasting viewpoints 

  • Issues Researcher: designed for finding an array of viewpoints about U.S. public policy issues
  • Explora: if your search results includes sources in Source Type = Trade Publications (see left menu), they may provide an industry/profession perspective on the topic (e.g., perspective on fracking from the energy industry); Explora also includes several magazines with a political bias (e.g., The Nation and The National Review) or other slant
  • PowerSearch: when narrowing News or Magazine results, look for Document Type of editorials, columns, or commentary; when narrowing Book results, look for viewpoint essays or reports
  • – see trending news from the left, right, and center, browse for an issue, or use “Balanced Search” to find news about a particular topic; results link to original articles
  • – read contrasting viewpoints about a variety of policy issues; most viewpoints are abbreviated from the original source (which is noted at top of viewpoint); use Google to find the original source; if the original source is not open access, try searching for it in Explora or PowerSearch

Find recent news about a topic – News or magazine articles

  • PowerSearch: Magazines and news results may be narrowed by Document Type (e.g., feature, columns, editorials); includes many magazines with a particular agenda/bias
  • Explora – Contains several news magazines as well as many magazines with a particular agenda/bias; offers the option to limit results to trade publications, a valuable filter if an industry perspective is important to you
  • Google News (OA) – includes articles and posts from news channels, newspapers, blogs, and other news sources; if you’re signed in to your Google account, you may customize Google News; if you have more than one Google account, you may wish to customize your secondary account to feature current events in a language you’re studying so you can find current event articles in that language quickly (scroll down to “Language and Region” on the left side of the page).

See how a topic was covered in a time before now – Historical news coverage

  • Historical Newspapers –  historical news articles from the New York Times (1851-2014), Guardian & Observer (1791-2003), and Wall Street Journal (1889-2002). To focus your search on historical newspapers, click Databases (4), REMOVE the check in front of Genderwatch, then click USE selected databases.

  • PowerSearch (all-in-one search tool for General OneFile, US History in Context, World History in Context, and Virtual Reference Library): newspaper coverage from now back to the mid-1980’s from local, regional, and national newspapers, news magazines (some with an agenda/bias), and from some news sources outside the United States
  • Explora: news coverage from now back to the mid-1980’s from numerous news magazines, including some with a particular bias/agenda

Analyze how a topic is discussed by scholars – Scholarly journal articles

Tip: BEFORE searching for scholarly sources, develop an understanding of your topic, be familiar with the vocabulary used to discuss it, and have a working list of related topics and subtopics.
  • JSTOR – archive of scholarly journals, as well as pamphlets and open access books; as an archive, JSTOR’s focus is on older content, so the most recent three to five years of journal coverage is not included in JSTOR; however, the coverage may go back as far as the 1800’s if the publication has been in print that long
  • Science Direct – (on-campus access only; LIMIT search to most recent five years) scholarly journals in biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, genetics, psychology, education, & more; to set up off-campus access, scroll to the bottom of the page, click on “Remote access,” then register and verify your GSGIS account
  • Explora – scholarly journals from across many subjects/disciplines, including some current coverage; some journal backfiles may go back as far as the mid-1980’s
  • PowerSearch – scholarly journals from across many subjects/disciplines, including some current coverage; some journal backfiles may go back as far as the mid-1980’s
  • Genderwatch – scholarly journals, dissertations, and other content focused on gender and sexuality issues, including some current coverage

Find data sets to analyze/model – see the Statistics and Data guide

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