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Begin Your Research: Getting Started

So what IS a database?

You may have heard the term "database" before, but what does that mean? Watch this short video from NEIU Ronald Williams Library to have a better understanding of databases.

Websites Versus Library Databases as Information Sources

                                 Reasons for Using Library Databases


Library Databases

There are ads

There are no ads

Materials can be written by anyone

Materials are more likely to be written by experts

Information may not be verified

Information has been checked

There is no guarantee info has been updated

Sources are constantly updated

Can feature any kind of writing

Features only writing that has been published elsewhere

Material has various intended purposes (to entertain to persuade, to sell)

Purpose is to provide information

Access is free

Access is limited to library members, and those who pay significant subscription fees

Articles may cost money

Once accessed, full article text is free

It may or may not be clear who the author is

The author is clearly named

(Palmer, E., 2015, p. 22)                                            © 2015 by ASCD. Reproduced with permission

Palmer, E. (2015). Researching In A Digital World. Danvers, MA: ASCD.

Determinine Key Words

Research 101: Building Keywords

Watch this video from Northwestern University before you begin using databases and you'll be better prepared. For more research videos from NU click here.

Search Tools

                                                             Boolean Search Terms





Results contain both terms

childhood obesity AND health risks


Results contain either or both terms

teen OR teenage OR adolescent AND obesity

***Note: Some web browsers have their own search terms.


                                              Search Shortcuts




Quotation marks

Looks for complete phrase exactly as it is typed

“childhood obesity and health risks”


Focuses on specific domain types

site: .edu childhood obesity


Finds similar sites



Finds sites that are linked to this site or have used this site as a reference



Finds information in specific file format

Childhood obesity filetype: ppt

(Palmer, 2015, pp. 28-29)

Evaluating Resources

How do you know if a resource is credible and reliable? Watch this video from Western University to pick up some ideas for evaluating websites and printed materials. For help with your research:

                                                  Evaluating Resources


  • When the resource was published, updated, or revised?
  • Is it out of date for the topic?


(Intended audience)

  • Is information related and pertinent to topic?
  • Is it understandable (Do you need to look up words in order to understand?)
  • Is the information useful or trivial?
  • How much information is presented
  • What is the ratio of information to ads on the website?


  • Who are the authors/editors?
  • Why should you believe them?
  • Are credentials presented?
  • Is work published by scholarly presses, popular presses, or self-published?
  • Does the website sponsor have expertise in the topic?
  • Check who is responsible for a website by searching:
    • Home
    • About Us
    • About
    • FAQ
    • Contact Us
    • Terms of Service
  • What is the website's domain?
    • .com (commercial)
    • .net (Network; available to everyone)
    • .org (available to everyone)
    • .gov (government)
    • .edu (restricted to educational institutions; high probability of reliability
    • .guru, .expert, .guide (stay away from these gimmicks)


  • Does the source match your understanding of the topic?
  • Is the information substantiated in other sources?
  • Is there a bibliography/list of work cited?
  • What types of sources are cited?
  • How many relevant sources are cited?


  • Is the purpose for the article stated?
  • Does author show a bias?
  • If so, how does the bias affect the information presented?
  • Is website linked to commercial sites?
  • Are there broken links (404 Page Not Found)?

(Palmer, 2015, pp. 28-34; University of Ontario, 2012)

Evaluating Resources [Video file]. (2012, January 13). In YouTube. Retrieved August 19, 2016, from  

Palmer, E. (2015). Researching In A Digital World. Danvers, MA: ASCD.

What is a journal and a peer reviewed artlcle?

You are asked to find a peer reviewed article from an academic journal. What does that mean? Watch this video by NEIU Ronald Williams Library for a better understanding of journals and peer reviewed articles.

Background Information

Just the basics

Search below to find basic information about your topic-- definitions, history, etc. This is an excellent review before you look for scholarly articles.

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Scholarly Journal Articles

Search for Scholarly Articles

Search for scholarly articles across subjects


Search Roosevelt's Book Catalog

Newspapers and news magazines

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