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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 academic, 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 academic and 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.
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."
Click on the link for Academic Search Premier to open it.
Now you are in Academic Search Premier and ready to search.
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?
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.
You should retrieve over ten 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
You will notice another icon as you scroll through the records, one that says, Periodical. For this topic, you have to scroll through a lot of entries before finding one!
This is what a periodical icon looks like:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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
Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs
Authority: the source of the information
Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content
Purpose: the reason the information exists
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.
If you don't see any of those as options, you will see the GetIt@ASU 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.