Academic Search Premier: Writers' Studio

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Welcome and Learning Objectives

[Template welcome image]

 Learning Outcomes: 

You will be able to:

  • explain in general why Academic Search Premier is a good starting index for research
  • explain in general what Academic Search Premier covers
  • locate Academic Search Premier from the ASU Libraries' Home Page
  • identify and use keywords relevant to your research
  • effectively use the search connectors AND and OR to combine your keywords and refine your search
  • limit your search results by source type
  • define and identify popular articles and sources
  • identify different kinds of popular articles and their functions, e.g. news items, editorials, investigative reports, essays, etc.
  • evaluate popular sources for credibility and reliability
  • find and retrieve the full text of articles using "GetIt@asu"

How to use this tutorial:

Use the arrows on the progress bar below to move forward and backwards.

An Introduction to Popular Articles and Sources

Our Focus: Popular Sources

In this tutorial our focus is on using Academic Search Premier to identify and locate popular sources and articles useful to novice researchers and writers.  

Reading and writing from popular sources is the first step in using evidence in your writing to inform and support your ideas and positions.

The type of sources you choose, whether popular or scholarly, depends on the intended audience, genre, and purpose of your project. For instance, if you are writing to inform an audience of non-experts, you might prefer to use more popular sources.  On the other hand, if you are writing to experts in a field, you would use more scholarly sources.  However, even when using popular sources, it is important to verify their reliability.  

Academic writing and scholarly sources, while very important, are covered in another tutorial.  

Just keep in mind that writing and reasoning using sources is an important academic and critical thinking skill.  Your writing is more credible and convincing if your sources are credible.

Using Academic Search Premier

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First, What is Academic Search Premier?

Academic Search Premier is an index to and collection of articles published in newspapers, magazines, and journals.

It is a good starting place for almost any research project because it covers almost every subject imaginable and contains a wide range of sources.

Let's open Academic Search Premier to begin.

On the ASU Libraries' Home Page right in the middle find the box "Frequently Used Resources."

Frequently Used Resources Image

Click on the link for Academic Search Premier to open it.  

Now you are in Academic Search Premier and ready to search.  

Using Academic Search Premier

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Let's say you're interested in researching bacteria and health for a writing assignment. Your preliminary research question might be:

Is bacteria important for human health?

This is a pretty broad research question which you will need to narrow down.  But it is a good starting question and once you start reviewing sources you find, you will discover different ways to narrow it.  

Your first step is to identify the keywords to use in your search.  

Keyword searches are important because library research databases do NOT operate like Google!

The Keywords you select should ONLY describe the key concepts in your topic. 

At this point, strip down your question to the two or three critical terms or phrases that describe your question.  

Which combination of keywords below do you think will work best in your search?

Searching and Using Search Connectors

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Now let's try our basic keyword search:

Type bacteria in the first search box, health in the second and human in the third.

You notice that the search interface has separated our keywords and linked them with an AND as highlighted on the left.  

Unlike Google searches, library databases need "search connectors" between keywords. The search connectors tell the database how to perform the search.

AND is the most useful search connector.  

But before we go on, tell us what you think happens when the AND connector is used to separate the keywords:

Now click on the "Search" button in orange on the right.

Searching and Using Search Connectors

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You should retrieve over fifteen thousand entries. This is way too many articles to sort through!  What can we do to get our search down to a manageable level?

We need to think of another keyword to add, a concept or idea we are missing that will help you narrow your search and refine your research question.  

Our research question is:

Is bacteria important for human health?

How about focusing on the health benefits of bacteria, if there are any?

Using the + circle after the last search box allows us to add a fourth search box.  Enter benefit into the new box.

ASP Search: benefits

Searching and Using Search Connectors

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This search drops your entries by a huge amount and is much more manageable.  Maybe your research question can now be:

How is bacteria important for improving human health?


What are the benefits of bacteria to improving human health?

But for now, let's examine the results of our search, because if you remember we are focusing on popular sources.  

Limiting to Popular Sources

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What are popular sources? You may be familiar with the different kinds of popular sources there are already. Newspapers, news magazines, and popular general interest magazines are the most common types.

To review a sample magazine, look at this issue of Health magazine online. Compare this issue with the criteria for identifying popular articles below.  

  • Content and Purpose: Presentation of information to inform or entertain. Includes news articles, short reports on new discoveries or research, personal narratives or essays, opinions, investigative reports, and others.
  • Authors: Usually reporters who are not subject specialists. They may not present supporting evidence and if they do, they usually do not footnote or cite their sources.
  • Audience: The general reading public who are interested non-specialists.
  • Language: Easy to understand for most readers. Does not require specialist knowledge.
  • Graphics: Usually LOTS of photos, illustrations, charts, and ADVERTISEMENTS. Splashy and colorful.
  • Accountability: Edited by magazine editors.

Limiting to Popular Sources

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Once you start reviewing the article titles in your search, you will notice titles like, Effects and mechanisms of prolongevity induced by Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 in Caenorhabditis elegans. 

One clue that it isn't a popular magazine article is the specialized language.  This is definitely not a title designed to attract your attention unless you are a researcher in the field. 

For a more obvious clue, look at the icon to the left of the record:  

In the example above, this icon identifies this article as coming from an Academic Journal. This may be a good article for a report, but it will be very advanced and specialized.  

Limiting to Popular Sources

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You will notice another icon as you scroll through the records, one that says, Periodical.  You may have to scroll through a lot of entries before finding one!

This is what a periodical icon looks like:

Periodical Icon 

These are the articles we want! They are popular articles from magazines.  

The other popular sources we want are Newspaper articles.  In this search we have to hunt for them, but look also for this icon to the left of the records:

Newspaper Icon

Limiting to Popular Sources

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But rather than hunting for them, there is a quick way to limit our search results to only those with the "Periodical" and "News" icons.  

Go to the far left column under Refine Results and then to Source Types:

Source Types Image

Check the boxes next to Magazines and Newspapers.  

This will reduce your retrieved entries drastically!  Now you are ready to pick and choose the ones you can work with.


Helpful Hint:

Generally, the most relevant articles are listed first. The number you retrieved may still look like a lot, but usually you will notice the articles start becoming less relevant after the first 30 to 50.  

Evaluating Popular Sources: Types of Popular Articles

As you review your results and select the articles of interest to you, you need to be aware of the content and purpose of each article.  This is the first step in evaluating a source for research purposes.  

Below are six types of popular magazine and newspaper articles based on their content and purpose:

  • News Items and Current Events:  Very common in daily newspapers and news sites. But also in magazines of many kinds.  Basic reporting. Example USA Today
Research Use 
  • Editorials and Opinions: Use with caution!  The purpose of an editorial is to express an opinion, not to report news or facts.  Example Washington Post. 
Research Use
  • Investigative Reports: Often lengthy and in-depth reports on public issues.  Be ready for LOTS of detail. Example AzCentral.
Research Use
  • Reports on Recent Research or Discovery: A new study claims food is not safe to eat!  Example Time Magazine.
Research Use
  • Analysis of News Events or Issues: What does this event mean for the future of whatever is being examined? Example Christian Science Monitor
Research Use

Additional Evaluation Criteria

As a university student (and a smart consumer of information), you need to know if you can trust the information you have found.  

For this we can use our old friend the CRAAP Test.

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • How does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before choosing this one?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author, publisher, source, or sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given and if yes, what are they?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information?
  • How do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? Opinion? Propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Want More About Evaluation of Sources?

Watch this video tutorial!
Evaluating Resources
You may also continue to the next screen in this tutorial.  

Getting the Complete Article

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Once you identify sources that might be useful for your paper, you need to locate the full text of those articles.

In some cases, this will be easy, as you might see one of three types of full text links in the article record:

1. PDF full text: this is a scanned version of the paper journal, and always the best option you can choose.

2. HTML full text: this is a simple text version of the original article that has been re-typed into a webpage for you to read.

3. Linked full text: this link will take you to a PDF version of the article that exists somewhere other than in Academic Search Premier.

Getting the Complete Article

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If you don't see any of those as options, you will see the GetIt@ASU icon.

Get It! Icon

The GetIt@ASU appears when Academic Search Premier does not have the full text for an article. It searches our other databases and journal subscriptions to see if the article is available somewhere else.


Earn your certificate for this learning module by taking the quiz in your class Blackboard site.