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Identifying and Selecting Research Resources

Table of Contents

Information needs and appropriate sources

In order to determine where to find information for your research papers, you first need to determine what kind of information you need.  In other words, determine what purpose the information will serve in your paper.

Tools to access sources

Once you have decided on the type of information you need to find, you will need to use a variety of tools to access different sources:

WorldCat UMD vs. subscription databases

Both WorldCat and subscription databases will help you find sources, but there are some important differences between the content of the each tool and the means of access to sources found there. (For more information on WorldCat UMD, see the WorldCat guide.)

Choosing databases to search

The UM Libraries subscribe to over 300 databases, so it is not possible or necessary to know about all of them. Some databases cover a wide range of subject areas and types of sources, while others are more specialized. You will become familiar with several databases as you begin to research in a particular area of interest.

Because of the way that databases are developed, there may be duplication between them, and you may find the same articles from core journals appearing in general and subject-specific database searches.

General/multidisciplinary databases:

These broad databases cover an extremely wide spectrum of information that often includes both popular and scholarly sources.  Academic Search Premier, which you will search during Library Day, contains information about articles in over 7,000 periodicals, many of which are available in full-text online.

You should begin your research in a general or multidisciplinary database in order to focus your research question and gather background information.

Subject-specific databases:

After you know more about your research topic, you may decide to search for articles in a subject-specific database. These databases are indexes to journals in a specific field; the articles in those journals may be highly technical and use very specialized language. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your familiarity with the field of research.

If you are seeking fairly recent information, you may not find articles in subject-specific databases and specialized scholarly journals. It takes time to conduct original research, analyze results, and have an article accepted for publication.

When you decide to search a subject-specific database, consider the following question:

  • Who cares about the topic you are researching (who would write or read about it?)
  • What academic fields would your topic fall under?

Consider the information needs in the chart below. All of the topics may be covered in general and subject-specific databases, but subject-specific databases enable you to search for articles published in journals used by a specific audience (e.g. psychologists or teachers).