Step 3: Find Information On Your Topic

After you have found books on your topic, have good background information for your research, you will want to obtain more specific information through information resources other than books. Citations to journal and newspaper articles are organized in an electronic format through databases and in a print format through indexes and abstracts. Case Western Reserve University provides you with access to over 175 databases. Some of the databases offer the full-text of journal articles; some provide an abstract and citation only. All of them are listed under the Research Databases section of the online library catalog.

Some databases are general in scope. They cover a wide variety of subject areas and include citations from magazines, newspapers and professional journals. General databases will sometimes lead you to reviews of books relating to your topic. These can help you identify book titles and authors that you may want to use in your research.

Databases can also be very specific in focus. They are designed to help you find journal and book citations in one subject discipline Click here for a list of social science databases available to you at Case Western Reserve University.

Databases are structured and searched in different ways. All of them will allow you to do some kind of keyword searching and many allow you to search by subject or descriptor. Almost all online systems will use Boolean logic for keyword searching. Click here for more information on Boolean logic.Using the help screens available in each of the databases will assist you in your searching.

Most databases that you use in libraries are available to you because of licensing arrangements that have been made with publishers. They are free to you – but not to the University. Access is usually limited to current affiliates of the institution. Some organizations and government agencies, however, have created databases that are available to you regardless of your affiliation with a college, university or public library.

There is always a lag time between when articles appear in print and when they are indexed by databases. Although online databases are usually fairly current it can be useful to browse current journals for articles on your topic. Browsing current issues of journals allows you to look for articles that might not yet be included in online databases.

Click here for a list of journals in the MSASS Harris Library.

Click here for a master list of electronic journals available to Caseaffiliates.

Click here for a list of social science electronic journals available on the web

Some online databases allow you to browse the tables of contents online. These include the OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center (EJC) and the Ingenta database. In the case of the EJC you can also view the abstract or full text of the article. Ingenta allows you to order documents and have them faxed or e-mailed to you – for a fee. These databases are available to Case affiliates through the Research Databases section of the online library catalog.

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Locating statistics

Once you have obtained information from books and journals, you may want to expand your search to include statistical resources. In addition to information from books and journals, you will sometimes need statistics to support your research. Statistics are made available either in print or electronic format by various federal, state, local, and non-governmental sources. They appear in journal articles, in reports, or in statistical handbooks.

Local organizations and agencies also keep statistics on the populations they serve. These are often not available to the public unless there is an obligation to report the information. Finding this information may require contacting someone in the organization. Annual reports of agencies may also provide some of this information.

Increasingly statistics, particularly those that have been collected by government agencies, are available on the web. Click here for a list of statistical sources on the web.

To find statistical sources in books using an online catalog do a keyword search combining terms related to your topic with the word statistics. (For example: alcoholism and statistics, Hispanic and statistics, violence and statistics, etc.). Click here for more information on doing a keyword search.

Or do a subject search using Library of Congress subject headings in one of the following formats. Click here for more information on doing a subject search.

Hispanic Americans – Statistics
Children — Statistics
Older People — United States — Statistics
Social Services — Statistical Methods
United States-Statistics

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Obtaining the resources

Online databases are distributed nationally and are not specific to the holdings of one library. Your local library will probably not have all of the sources that are cited in a database. You will need to find out which library, if any, owns the journal, book or report that is being cited. To do that at Case you will use the online library catalog. Click here for information on finding journal titles in the online catalog.

If you do not find the journal in any of the Case libraries, you may use the Harris Library’s Interlibrary Loan service. Although there is generally no cost associated with this, you do need to allow at least 10 business days until you receive the article. Click here for more information on Interlibrary Loan services.

If you are looking for a book that is not owned at Case (or if all of the campus copies have been checked out or are unavailable), you can order the title through OhioLINK for delivery to one of the campus libraries. Allow five business days for delivery. Click here for more information on OhioLINK borrowing.

If the book is not owned by an OhioLINK library, you can submit an Interlibrary Loan request for the book. Click here for more information on Interlibrary Loan services.

Dissertations are in a category of their own. Click here to go to the OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center.

Obtaining world wide web resources

Finally, the World Wide Web is a source of additional information. The web is the place to go for policy and position papers, reports and fact sheets, statistics and research, and county and city level information. It is particularly useful for policy information and community initiatives. Agencies of the U.S. government, in particular, provide an excellent starting point for web research. Although some full-text journal articles are available free on the web, many organizations just allow you to view the tables of contents of their publications. Online subscriptions are also available for some publications.

Information on the web may or may not be filtered, monitored or peer-reviewed. Extra care should be taken in evaluating the web site for currency, authorship, bias, and accuracy. Click here for information on how to critically evaluate a website..

Different search engines will yield different results when you do web searching. Click here for a list of search engines. Use the HELP menus on the home pages of the search engines for tips on effective searching. Once you have all of the documents in hand, you will need to evaluate them to determine if you need additional information – or if you need to narrow your focus. Evaluation criteria are covered in the next step (Step 4).

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