Click through for help with your research questions.
Review any materials (handouts, syllabus descriptions, notes from class) that help explain the assignment.
Consider the length. This lets you know how in-depth your work should be. If it is short, for example, you will most likely have to do less research and not have to dig as deeply into your topic.
Consider the amount and type of sources. Often professors will specify how much research you need to do and what kind of research it should be. If you need at least seven scholarly sources, for example, you can assume you are doing a pretty in-depth research project.
Consider any topic suggestions. Sometimes professors will provide examples of good topics for the assignment. These are helpful to look over to get a good idea of what kinds of topics are appropriate for the assignment.
If you cannot find some of the above details on your assignment or still don't understand them, talk to your professor. They are the person who created the assignment and will be able to give you the best idea of what they want to see in it.
If you do not have a focused enough topic yet, break down the topic into smaller sub-topics: the different people who are involved, the different disciplines it falls under, the different angles from which you could approach the topic, etc.
Drawing a concept map can be really helpful for focusing your topic. It lets you see the different parts of your topic at once and determine which parts interest you the most for your assignment.
For instructions on how to make and use a concept map, view the video below:
Encyclopedias are often the best resources for finding background information. They provide brief, broad overviews of a topic and can provide you with potential sources for your assignment. Check the bibliographies of encyclopedia articles to find in-depth sources on your topic.
See the encyclopedia and dictionaries research guide to get started with online reference resources.
For online encyclopedias, Gale Virtual Reference Library and Oxford Reference are the most comprehensive options. You can search your topic and the results will link you to individual entries in different encyclopedias that will help you gain background information on your topic.
For print encyclopedias and dictionaries, search the library catalog in MUSCAT Plus and narrow your results by item location to the reference collection. All reference books are located on the first floor and cannot be checked out of the library--they are for in-library use only. However, you can use the scanners on the main and ground floors to email yourself the pages you need.
While starting your research with Internet searches is not usually advisable for your major research, it can be helpful when doing background research. You have to be cautious of the information that you find, however, as anyone can post information online without having to cite their sources.
Wikipedia is a great example. This can be a good resource for learning about your topic and starting your research, but anyone can edit articles on Wikipedia. Wikipedia can be helpful for finding potential sources. The references section at the end of each article will often lead you to sources that you can cite for your paper if they are relevant to your topic.
It can be hard to find information if you start with a topic that is too narrow or obscure. It is best to start your research with broader searches that give you an idea of what sources are out there for your general topic before moving too far into specifics. You may need to change your topic, or at least the way that you're looking at your topic, in order to get enough information.
It is not always advisable to search for in-depth, scholarly sources right away. If you go straight to article databases with little understanding of what is out there on your general topic, it might be hard to find relevant sources. Encylopedias, which we have both in print and online at Musselman, are great for getting background information on a topic. Books are a good source too, as they often cover a broader scope of a topic than articles.
If you are still having trouble with finding information for a topic, reach out to librarians at the research help desk (hours on the right), or contact your professor. They have a good understanding of what can be found on certain topics and which topics are feasible.
Most language departments have subject guides that will point you to the best resources for finding items in that language.
Some databases, like MUSCAT Plus, have an option to limit all of your search results to a certain language. You can do this in the advanced search option or find the language section on the left side of the search results page once you've submitted your search.
If you are looking for books in another language, use the advanced search option in MUSCAT Plus to limit to a certain language.
Before you search for the source, you need to know what you're looking for. Here are the citation structures for common source types.
Book: Author. Title of book. Publishing information.
Book chapter: Author. "Title of article." Title of book. Editor (if a compiled work). Publishing information. Page numbers.
Journal article: Author. "Title of article." Title of journal. Volume and issue number. Page numbers.
Once you have a good idea of your source type, you have to choose the right place to search for it.
Articles: Search MUSCAT Plus by article title or by journal title using the Find a Journal search option. MUSCAT Plus searches across many (but, not all) of our article databases. Once you find the article record in MUSCAT Plus, you can retrieve the full text or request the item using the GettIt button.
if you cannot find the source in the appropriate library databases, use the information you have from your citation to request the item manually through ILL. Log in and request the item by source type. Fill in all of the information you can, but note that some fields are required to process the request.
These subjects also appear on individual entries, but if you click on these subject terms, it searches the entire database for any item categorized with this subject, whereas choosing subjects from the side of your results list searches for these subjects within the keywords you have chosen.
The "Subjects" section is found on book entries in MUSCAT Plus. When you click on a subject, you will see all the books categorized with that tag on their entries. This lets you find books that are related to your topic that you may not have found with just keyword searches.
Ex: You search literature AND "civil war" to find a book you want. That book is categorized under the subject: United States--Civil War, 1861-1865--Literature and the war
Clicking on this subject tag in MUSCAT Plus will let you see all the books in this category, some of which may not come up when using literature as a search term.
Often you have to try out different keywords before you get the right results. Brainstorm a lot of potential search terms by using synonyms and thinking about different ways to frame your topic.
A good strategy is to start broad and use fewer keywords, then narrow your search and add more keywords as you have a better idea of what is out there on your topic.
Ex: Your topic is DNA barcoding and food. You can start more broadly looking at "DNA barcoding" AND food to find items that use these two terms.
There are also several ways to narrow down the idea of food. After reading some sources, you may decide to focus on seafood in particular. You could search with more words like sushi, salmon, etc.
Boolean operators refine your search results to make them more relevant to what you want.
AND: both of your keywords must be in every entry
ex: homelessness AND women
OR: at least one of your keywords must be in every entry
ex: global warming OR climate change
NOT: a keyword must not be in any of the entries
ex: Mexico NOT New Mexico
" ": searches for a phrase in the exact order you type it
ex: "United Nations" together in that order not united and nations separately
*: used in place of a letter to search for multiple variations of a word
ex: wom*n for woman and women or Mexic* for Mexico, Mexican and Mexicans
When you click on a subject, you will see all the books categorized with that tag on their entries. This lets you find books that are related to your topic but might not use your exact search terms.
Ex: You search literature AND "civil war" to find a book you want. That book is categorized under the subject: United States--Civil War, 1861-1865--Literature and the war. Clicking on this subject tag will let you see all the books in this category, some of which may not come up when using literature as a search term.
Search our library catalog MUSCAT Plus
Musselman Library has many reference books, all found on our main level. To search only for these books, go to the Advanced Search option in MUSCAT Plus to search "Library Catalog (MUSCAT)" and narrow your results by using the "Item Location" option on the left hand side to limit to "Reference."
Once you have found the right book, write down its call number and look for the book in the Reference Collection on the main level.
Note that reference books cannot be taken out of the library. They are for in-library use only.
Search online encyclopedias
In addition to print resources, Musselman Library subscribes to many online encyclopedias and dictionaries that can be accessed anywhere at any time. For more information on how to find these resources, see our Encyclopedias & Dictionaries guide.
Textbooks in the Musselman Library collection
Generally, Musselman Library does not buy course textbooks.
We may still have your course materials in our collection, however. Search MUSCAT Plus, limiting your search to "Library Catalog (MUSCAT)" to see what is in our collection. While we don’t usually have traditional textbooks, we likely have required readings for your class like novels or scholarly books.
Be mindful, however, of restrictions on borrowing length and the potential needs of other classmates.
Check the course reserves for your class
Sometimes professors put a copy of the course textbook on reserve at our Check Out and Reserves desk. Using the Advanced Search option in MUSCAT Plus, select the "Course Reserves" search option and type either the professor name (ex. Birkner) or course number (ex. HIST 300). Often your professor will link to readings electronically through the course Moodle page.
Consider alternatives to buying your textbook.
If you are concerned about the price of your textbook, please speak with your professor about alternatives. Ask if an earlier edition of the textbook would be sufficient (used copies of earlier editions will be much less expensive than new copies of the current edition). Consider sharing a book with a classmate. Renting textbooks is more affordable than buying them. There are options to explore. See our Textbook Tips guide for more information.
If an entry does not have that symbol, that means that we have to borrow the book from another library. To do this, click through to the individual entry page and click either the "Gett It" or "Request Item" links to request a copy to be sent from another library. This will bring you to MUSCAT Plus to sign into your account in order to place an interlibrary loan request. Once you sign in, click on the "Request via interlibrary loan" link and follow the prompts.
Check all of the information on the request form before submiting the request. Generally, requests take 2-6 days for you to receive the book, so make sure you give yourself enough time before your assignment is due. If you request a single book chapter, it will be 1-2 days. It will arrive as a PDF. If you request a journal article, it usually arrives in under 24 hours. For more information about Interlibrary Loan, see the Interlibrary Loan guide.
Go to the Advanced Search option in MUSCAT Plus and search "Library Catalog (MUSCAT)". In the 'Material Type' drop down, select "Books." After getting your search results, limit to "Available Online" on the left-hand side to narrow your results to ebooks.
To access an ebook, click on the book's title to open the record. Under "View Online" select the full text option available. This will take you to the full text of the book through one of our ebook collections.
OverDrive houses contemporary popular books and novels for you to read at your leisure.
Knouse is a storage facility on campus where the library holds items it does not have room for in the main building. There are journals, books, and films there that are available for student research. To be used, they need to be requested so that a librarian can either scan or retrieve the item for the student.
When you see that a book's location is in Knouse on its MUSCAT Plus entry, you will need to sign into your account (if you have not already) in order to request the item. Once you are signed in, click the "Request" link under the "Find this in the library" section. You will be able to pick up the book at the Checkout Desk within 24 hours (Monday-Friday).
Generally, the authors of scholarly books are going to hold PhDs in their field or are experts in an area of study, and they are often affiliated with a particular university. Look at the author information in the book and see if they seem reputable. You can also search the author online and see if they have a significant Internet presence and find some of the other works they have published.
Generally, the publishers of scholarly books come from prestigious publishers, such as Oxford University Press or University of Chicago Press. If the publisher's name does not stick out to you, you can always search online and see what kind of reputation the company has and what kinds of books they publish.
Most scholarly books will include a list of references at the end of works cited within the book. Normally, scholarly books will have a considerable number of references to other scholarly works.
If other scholars are citing the book, that is indication that the book is probably scholarly. If many scholars are citing it, it is most likely an important book in its field.
To see who has cited a book, search the book title in Google Scholar. In the entry to the book, it will give a rough estimate of how many published authors have cited the book. The number is obviously not exact, as not every book or article is going to be included in Google Scholar, but it does provide a good idea of a book's significance in academia. Also be mindful of the date of publication. If a book came out in the last year or two, there has not been much time for other scholars to respond to the work yet.
If you know the exact article you want, there are a couple ways to search for it.
One way is using the Find a Journal tool to search by journal title, not article title, so you need to know in which journal your article was published. This searches all the journals Musselman Library subscribes to for specific date ranges. Once you have found the journal you want, click on its title and check for full text availability from a source that includes the year your article was published. You then need to find the exact issue your article is in and locate it within the issue. This will link you to the full text.
Another way is to search our library databases for the article using the title, author or any other information you have. MUSCAT Plus is the most comprehensive option, as this pulls together many of the databases we subscribe to, as well as our own catalog. There are some databases that are not included in MUSCAT Plus, however. If the article shows up in your search, you will either be able to retrieve the full text or request it through interlibrary loan (ILL).
If you cannot find the article through the means above, you can still access your article, but you have to manually request the item in ILL rather than using the Gett It button. First log into ILL. Under 'New Request' on the left sidebar, click article. Include as much information as you can. Some pieces of information are required.
For every course subject at Gettysburg, there are research guides with resources and tips for doing research in those disciplines. They are always a good place to start when doing research, and the links they provide to different databases are often going to be the most useful for your research. If you attended a library session for your class, a librarian has also created a tab on the subject guide for your class that will include resources specifically tailored to your assignments.
MUSCAT Plus is a tool that searches many of the databases Musselman Library subscribes to, as well as our own catalog. MUSCAT Plus is an effective tool for seeing almost all of the resources available in the library on your topic, and it is especially good to use when you have a subject that spans several disciplines. For example, if you're doing research for an education class, materials from a psychology database may be just as relevant.
MUSCAT Plus has its drawbacks, however. You need to sign in if you want to see a complete list of search results. Also, it often yields more results than you need because of the large number of databases it searches, and this can be difficult to sift through. You need to use effective keywords, use Boolean operators and know how to use the restrictions found on the side of many databases. For more information on these search strategies, see the "I want search tips for articles" section below.
Rethink your keywords. When you yield too many results, often this means that your search terms are too broad. In order to narrow your search results, you may want to refocus your keywords to be more specific to your topic (ex. health care instead of health, India instead of South Asia). You can also add on more keywords to make sure all the pieces of your topic are present. Lastly, make sure you are using the appropriate Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT, etc.) to connect keywords.
Use limiters. On the side of most of our article databases, there are limiters that let you refine your results list after you have entered your keywords. You can minimize your results list by choosing specific subject terms, publication date, source types, etc.
Consider where you are searching. Certain databases, like MUSCAT Plus or Academic Search Premier, span across multiple disciplines and will often yield more results than databases focused on one subject area. If your topic is relevant to another discipline but you need sources from only your class's subject area, you could end up with a lot of unnecessary results.
Rethink your keywords. If you are getting few results, your search terms may be too specific. Broaden your keywords to try to yield more results that are still relevant to your topic (ex: Middle East instead of Egypt, politics instead of elections). You may find items that still address the specifics of your topic but cannot be found with your narrow keywords.
Try out many different keywords as well. Sometimes authors have very specific terms that they use that then will not show up in your results. Think of synonyms to your keywords or different ways in which you could frame your topic (ex: women's rights instead of feminism, pluralism instead of democracy).
Consider where you are searching. Article databases are often very subject-specific, so make sure you are aware of what database you are searching in and what subject area is its focus. View our subject guides for assistance.
If you are searching within your subject area and still cannot find enough sources, a good suggestion would be to try databases like Academic Search Premier or MUSCAT Plus, which search across multiple disciplines.
Rethink your topic. Your topic itself may be too narrow for you to adequately complete your assignment. You may need to broaden your ideas by thinking of a larger category your topic falls under (ex. economy instead of job market) or expanding the geographic location (South America instead of Chile).
There is a peer reviewed limiter for some article databases that only yields results that are categorized as peer reviewed. This can be helpful when looking for only these articles, but note that it does not guarantee that every article will be peer reviewed. The restriction is based on the journals that the articles are found in, and if over 50% of the articles in the journal are peer reviewed, every article gets the peer reviewed tag.
The peer review process means that other scholars have read and approved of an article before its publication. The peer review process essentially cements an article's status as an accepted scholarly work.
One of the clearest signs of the peer review process is if an article has an accepted date that is separate from its written date, which signifies that the article had to be reviewed after it was written in order to be accepted in the journal.
Not all peer-reviewed articles will give an accepted date, however. You have to look at the article itself to determine whether it is a scholarly work or not.
The term primary source and its meaning may vary by discipline. For studying literature, it may refer to the novel, play, or poem you're analyzing. In the sciences, it will refer to original research published in journal articles. More commonly, we may refer to primary sources in the historical sense, which would include newspapers, letters, diaries, photographs, or similar sources. Refer to the research guides for disciplines to see the best places to begin searching. The History guide lists primary sources by region, time period, or even source type.
In the earlier, "I don't know where to search" section we advised you to sign in when using MUSCAT Plus. This tip is important not only because it will get you more results, but it will also allow you to request items seamlessly. Once you have signed in, click on the article title in the results screen. The item record will open, and there will be an option to "Request via interlibrary loan." Select that option, and you will connect the sign in screen for interlibrary loan.
If you are searching within a library database and cannot find the full text of articles you want, use the Gett It button to request the article through interlibrary loan (ILL). The Gett It button is found on entries where the full text option is not available. Sometimes clicking the Gett It button will take you to the full text right away, but sometimes you will have to process the request through ILL. Use your student username and password to login. This will take you to the request form. Double check the information, then submit request. ILL requests take 24-72 hours for articles Monday-Friday (there is no staff to work through requests on the weekends).
When time is a serious constraint, some databases have a limit for full text only, often found on the left side column of the search results. This will only show you results where the database links directly to HTML or a PDF of the text. This severely limits the amount of sources that you can see, however, and is not advisable if you have the time to wait for an ILL request.
Sometimes you may find sources through Google Scholar or out on the internet that you want the full text for. You should always try to find those sources or request those sources through the library in order to get the full text. You should not pay for sources because you can always request items through ILL.
Google Scholar can be linked to our library database so the full text or the Gett It button appears on the right side of every entry:
You are also able to log in to ILL and fill out a request form using the information you found from an outside site. It's always best to search the article in our databases, however, and use the Gett It button from there if possible. This will ensure that all of the information needed to process the request is present.
The Gett It button is found on entries in our article databases where no full text option is linked through the database. Clicking the Gett It button either sends you to the full text through another database or asks you to request the item through ILL. When using the Gett It button, the request form will be automatically filled out. After double checking the information, you submit your request and will be notified about the retrieval of your article in approximately 24-72 hours Monday-Friday (there is no staff working Saturday and Sunday).
You log in to ILL with your regular student username and password. Your password updates when you change it.
If you do not use the Gett It button and want to manually request an item, you log in to ILL and request the item based on the source type (article, book, book chapter), which will be on the left side of the screen. Offer as much information as possible, but you will notice some fields are mandatory for the request to be put through.
You can check the status of your requests by logging in to ILL. Your outstanding requests, the books/articles you have not received yet, are visible on the home page. If you click 'Electronically received articles,' you can see past requests that have been received, but these are only available for a certain number of days until the article is deleted from the system.
Sometimes you will get emails that your request has been denied. Often this will mean that the full text could be found within the library system. Ask a librarian at the Research Help Desk if you need help finding the article or book.
Please consult our Interlibrary Loan Guide for more information about interlibrary loan at Musselman Library.
Think about what you are trying to argue in your paper, and look at how your sources relate to that argument. You want sources that make your argument stronger. Often they will be sources that support the argument that you are trying to make or that your argument can expand on. Sometimes it is relevant to have sources that refute your argument, however, so you have the opportunity to defend your argument.
Be careful of sources that are on your topic but do not relate to your claims. If the source is merely providing filler, i.e. not moving the argument forward or taking it on an unnecessary tangent, you may not want to use this source.
You should try to have an idea of what a source is arguing before you read the whole item. This will save you time and help you weed out irrelevant sources.
Read the abstract. If your item has an abstract, this is the most important piece for you to use. This will summarize the author's main argument so that you can see how it might relate to your own.
Use other clues if there is no abstract. Carefully read the title of the item, and see if that gives you an idea of what will be argued in the piece. Read the introduction or conclusion to get a better idea of what the article will say before you read the entire source.
Start at the University of Chicago Press for help with Turabian citation style. It gives you information on making footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography for different source types.
You'll notice on the site that they give two different options for footnote or endnote citations: a longer bibliography style and a shorter author-date style. They then provide the citation for the bibliography.
If, for example, you want to cite a newspaper article, you scroll down until you find the source type that most closely matches your own. Follow the format they give you.
It is important to remember that the source type does not have to exactly match your own. The reason that we cite is so that readers can find the sources that we use. Citation styles offer guidelines for you to provide the best possible information for someone to find your article, but they cannot account for all types of sources.
Sometimes you will use a source that does not match perfectly with any of the descriptions you find in citation guides. For example, you may want to cite a letter written by one historical figure to another, but you cannot find that source type in the guide for your citation style.
Find the closest matching citation for your citation style. The most important thing to understand with citations is that you are trying to let your reader know where you found your sources so that they can look them up if they need to. Find the citation that most closely matches your source type and then use that citation as a guideline for how to craft your own. Make sure you put in enough information for someone to find your exact source in the exact place you found it.
Quotations are used when a statement from a source cannot be rephrased. The author may be using particular language that would lose some of its meaning if put into different words. The statement may lose its power or impact when rephrased.
You often provide a citation after the quote in parenthesis. You can also cite the source in an introductory phrase, although sometimes you still need to provide the page number after the quote.
The alternative to quoting a source is to put statements from the source into your own words. This does not mean that you are just changing around a few words or replacing everything with synonyms. You are synthesizing information from the source for your own purposes.
One of the benefits of paraphrasing is that it can be done more efficiently than quoting--you can provide more information with less space. While you must always be clear that you are not manipulating another author's words or leaving out an important element, you can paraphrase longer quotations in the article by breaking it down to the essentials.
You always need to cite the source at the end of your paraphrasing. You still need an in-text citation even if you do not quote the source.
Avoiding plagiarism means giving any ideas that are not your own proper attribution. If you did not come up with the idea or it is not common knowledge (ex: the location of cities, the years of a president's term), you either cite the idea or you do not use the idea.
When it comes to sources that you find while doing research, you must always cite the source every time that you use it, even if you are not quoting directly from the source.
If there are people contributing ideas to your work who are not supposed to, this is plagiarism. Unless you are working on a group assignment where each person is listed as the author of the paper, no other students or people you know should be contributing ideas to your assignment. If there is someone who you are taking ideas from that you would not feel comfortable citing, do not use these ideas.
On many databases, there are several ways for you to store your sources so that you do not lose them.
Permalinks. These are permanent links that will always take you to an item's page on a database. If you copy and paste the page link that's in the address bar when you first find the source, you'll be left with a broken link that won't get you back to your page.
Saving. The save option lets you collect multiple articles from a database and then export or email them to yourself once you have collected all the items you want. This way you don't have to deal with storing each item individually.
Emailing. You can have individual items emailed to yourself with the full-text attached.
We suggest using RefWorks or Zotero because they are both tools that help you store and organize sources and generate citations. RefWorks also offers a Write-n-Cite feature that helps you generate in-text citations.
We suggest one of two different tools: RefWorks or Zotero. They both help you store and organize sources and generate citations, but RefWorks also offers a Write-n-Cite feature that helps you generate in-text citations.
Many databases will have a 'Cite' option on individual item pages that generates citations for the most common citation styles. Always be sure to double check the citation, however. Capitalization, for example, is not always correct in these citations depending on how the title is stored in the database.
There are websites like Citation Machine that will help you generate citations in the correct format, but you have to provide all of the information.