Library Research


  • Use RefWorks to keep track of all the sources you use in your research.
  • Use the Quick Start Guide to get started using RefWorks. A Web-based Tutorial is also available.
  • Write-N-Cite: this is a utility that works with MS Word to format citations, bibliographies, and works cited lists automatically from the data in your RefWorks database.

Start your research with basic resources when possible, such as subject encyclopedias, handbooks, and textbooks. Use Keyword searching on Annie, the Library Catalog, to find relevant books in the library. Instructions on using keywords to search Annie are provided at the bottom of the Keyword search page.

  • for encyclopedias, search by keyword: word or phrase (enclose "phrases in quotes") and encyclopedias (the plural is used in subject headings and will find an encyclopedia even when the word "encyclopedia" is not in the title of the book)
      (example: "international trade" encyclopedias)
  • for handbooks, search by keyword: word or phrase and handbook
      (example: economic* development* handbook)

Finding Books on Your Topic

Use the Keyword search to find books on your topic. Once you locate a book on your topic, look at the subject headings listed bottom of the Annie Record (Example). You can then find similar books by following the subject links, or use terms or phrases used in the subject heading in another keyword search.

Searching for Articles in Journals, Magazines and Newspapers

Periodicals (journals, magazines and newspapers) come in many different shapes and sizes, and have many different purposes. Generally, in academic research, you will want to use primarily scholarly journals and absolutely no popular magazines. To learn how to tell the different types of periodicals apart, see Types of Sources page.

To locate articles in various periodicals , you should use at least one of the indexing and abstracting services that the library subscribes to.

  • EconLit, the best source for economic research.
  • Scopus, described as the largest citation-and-abstract database in the world, Scopus features broad coverage of scientific, technical, medical, and social sciences literature, as covered in about 14,000 peer-reviewed resources .
  • Academic Search Complete   This is a very good database providing articles on a wide variety of subjects.
  • JSTOR provides access to the full text of articles in over 150 of the most important academic journals. All issues of each journal are included EXCEPT for the most recent 2-to-5 years.
  • library databases arranged by subject.
  • Other Sources:
    • Bibliographies and footnotes
    • Browsing Library Shelves
    • Professors, Experts and Friends
  • Locating the articles
Comprehensive Online Services and Internet Search Engines (not recommended as "one-stop shopping" for "scholarly" research, but often useful as part of a search strategy):
  • Factiva is especially good for local newspapers, trade journals and business publications. This is the best source to search the Wall Street Journal.
  • Lexis/Nexis is especially good for newspapers, trade journals, business publications, law reviews and medical publications.
  • Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research.

Finding the Articles

Current issues of periodicals are located on the main level of Leyburn Library. Older issues are usually bound and shelved on lower level one, but some are maintained on microfilm. Use the "Journals/Newspapers" tab on the library's website to search for the title of the journal (not the title of the article). This will search the W&L Periodical Finder, which contains more than 80,000 periodicals available through our print and online subscription services.

If you still cannot locate the article, you can try looking for it on Google Scholar, or get the article through Interlibrary Loan. Submit an Interlibrary Loan request for the article, and the library will attempt to get a copy of the article for you from another library. There is no charge for this service, but it does take time so don't wait until the last minute.

Gray Literature (or Grey Literature)

  • What is "gray literature"?
    Gray literature is the term that is applied to sources of information that are not commercially published and are not generally available from bookstores, libraries, or traditional bibliographic sources. Gray literature includes:
    • working papers
    • white papers
    • brochures and pamphlets
    • any other "unpublished" work
  • How to find gray literature:

Developing Your Search Strategy

1. Write a topic sentence.
  1. Clarify your topic by writing your topic as a single question or sentence. Forcing yourself to write your topic as a single question will require you to bring it into clearer focus.
  2. Identify the key concepts in the topic sentence. List the terms you used for each concept as column headings across the page.
  3. Do these terms have synonyms or alternate forms? Write any synonyms you can think of under each column heading.
  4. What other factors are important to your search?
    • dates
    • language of source
    • type of source
2. Identify likely databases to search.
Your search strategy will depend on the databases you intend to search. Each database will require a slightly different approach, and learning the features of the databases you use regularly will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your searches. Most databases offer help materials online.
3. Create an initial search strategy.
  • Link synonyms with OR
  • Link concepts together with AND
  • Is it possible to use truncation or wild card characters?
  • Use proximity operators in place of the AND connector when searching full-text databases.
  • Are there any fields in the database that you can use to restrict your search?


Planning Your Search

Below is a form which you can use to develop your search strategy for any topic. This form follows the guidelines outlined above.

1. Topic Sentence:

2. Database(s):

3. Search Terms and Connectors:

Search Concept 1 Connector Search Concept 2 Connector Search Concept 3
4. Search Strategy:

Here is an example of the form above completely filled out.

1. Topic Sentence:

2. Database(s):

3. Search Terms and Connectors:

Search Concept 1 Connector Search Concept 2 Connector Search Concept 3
4. Search Strategy:


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