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How to do Research in College

Tips and tutorials for searching Library databases and conducting research.

Scholary Sources VS Popular Sources

Scholarly Sources

Picture of the cover of the American Journal of Psychology, which is blue with some yellow lines.

Popular Sources

Picture of the cover of Psychology Today which is a sheep in glasses.

  • Author: Written by experts (scientists, professors, scholars) in a particular field.
  • Audience: Written for other experts in a particular field.
  • Language: Very technical and scholarly. Not easily understood.
  • Citations: Provide complete and formal citations for sources.
  • Review Process: Often reviewed by a panel of scholars in the field being studied. (Peer-Reviewed)
  • Author: Written by professional writers, journalists, or members of the general public.
  • Audience: Written for the general public.
  • Language: Basic and clear. Easily understood.
  • Citations: Provide informal or no citations for sources.
  • Review Process: Reviewed by an editor or self-published with no formal review process.

REMEMBER: Popular DOES NOT equal bad. Check with your professors to find out which popular sources they accept.

The Peer-Review Process

Library Databases for Scholarly Sources

These are the Library Databases where you will likely find SCHOLARLY Sources, like Journals:

Before searching in these databases make sure you have created a research question and that you have broken it down into keywords.

Library Databases for Popular Sources

These are the Library Databases where you will likely find POPULAR sources, like newspapers and magazines.

Using Google Scholar to Find Scholarly Sources

Google Scholar Search

Google Scholar is a discovery tool that helps you find scholarly literature related to your topic.


  • Easy to search
  • Shows you the impact of an article (how many times it has been cited by other published articles). 


  • Not full text (with some exceptions). Unless the article/book is free to the public, you will be asked to pay to view the full text. NEVER PAY FOR AN ARTICLE/BOOK! Ask a librarian for help in locating a full-text copy for you.
  • Has a limited search scope. You can miss out on other available articles on a topic if you only use Google Scholar.

Find Books and DVDs

Find Books and DVDs by searching the Library Catalog.

Find Other Kinds of Scholarly Content

Sometimes other types of scholarly or authoritative content is needed to help defend your paper's thesis.

Try out these resources to find specialized types of content.

How to Identify Research Studies

Academic journals usually have two types of articles:

  • Reviews look at other peoples' research and summarize research in a specific area of study.
  • Research studies report the actual research being conducted by the authors of the article.

Research Studies will often have these distinct sections:

  • Abstract: Brief summary of the article and its contents.
  • Introduction: Provides background and possibly discusses earlier research.
  • Methods: Lays out the methods used to conduct the research.
  • Results: Reports the results of the research. Often includes charts and/or tables.
  • Discussion and/or Conclusion: Discusses the results for the research and talks about other steps that can be taken.
  • Literature Cited or Bibliography: Lists sources cited in the article.

Check to see if the article has a METHODS section and a RESULTS section. If it DOES NOT have these two sections IT IS NOT A RESEARCH STUDY.

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