ISS 3930 Qualitative Research Methods

Additional tips

  • Don’t limit yourself to one discipline—check databases in several related areas
  • Consider searching multiple databases at once to see which sources might be the most useful
  • Use Google to locate relevant government sites for reports and statistical data by limiting your search to site:.gov  or site:.fl.us
  • Dissertations can provide good literature reviews as well as focused data
  • If you find a useful source, check Google Scholar for its “cited by” links

Citing references

Once you locate a useful article, you may want to look for articles that have cited that work after it was published.  This may yield additional useful resources for your own research.  You may see citing references in databases or on links to full-text articles.  In addition, Google Scholar and Web of Science are excellent sources for citing references.

Search tips

When searching for articles in the USF Libraries databases, you may find the following tips helpful:

 1.       Article databases are normally focused on a broad discipline—education, psychology, sociology, etc.  Use the “Databases by Subject” link (in the box to the left on this page) to see the variety of resources available to you.  Keep in mind that searching related disciplines can be useful for finding different perspectives. So, if you are looking for articles on the image of young women in advertisements, you might try a women’s studies database, a business database, a social sciences database, or even a psychology database to gain different points of view.

2.      Using an asterisk (*) after a word stem tells the computer to search for all words that begin with those letters so:

                        Advertis*

Will search for advertising, advertisements, etc.  Use some caution however, since you may end up searching for items that you don’t want.  For instance, if you are looking for information on cars, you might search: auto*   This search would pick up autos and automobiles but it would also find automatic, autoimmune, autonomy, autobiography, and a lot more!

3.      If you want to search for a phrase, use quotation marks around the phrase to tell the computer to search for the words next to one another.

                        “young women”

will search for the words as a phrase rather than finding a reference to youth in the title and a mention of women (that might not be young women) elsewhere in the record.

Most databases also allow you to search for one word within a specified distance of another:

                     teaching n3 method*

will search for teaching within 3 words of method or methods so it would retrieve teaching methods, methods of teaching, etc.  This can be an extremely effective searching technique, particularly in full-text databases; however, the way to accomplish this type of search may vary from one database to another:  n/3, n3, near3, etc.  To determine the correct method for the database you are using, check the "help" screen for the database and look for proximity searching...or ask a librarian for assistance.

4.      Although somewhat more detailed that book catalog searches, if searching by keyword or subject, enter only the most important topics into the search box.  For instance, if you are searching for:

                        image of young women in advertisements,

Rather than typing in all of those words, you might just enter:

                        Image* “young women” advertis*

The computer attempts to locate every word you have entered so too many words may result in zero results.  Begin your search using reasonably general search terms and then narrow/focus the search using the “limit” link suggestions on the left side of the search results screen.

5.   Once you find a few relevant articles, try clicking on the title of the article to see the full record.  This will indicate the subject tags that have been assigned to that particular article.  The subject tags may provide additional ideas for your search.  Use the subject tag in the search box and use the pull-down menu next to it to change your search to a “subject” (or descriptor) search. 

6.  Article databases normally allow you to apply a wide variety of limits on the search screen—you may limit the search to peer reviewed articles, limit by publication date, limit to english only articles and, in some cases, even limit your search to certain age groups or to certain research methodologies.  Use these limits to your advantage.

7.  Some databases include a “cited by” or “times cited” feature.  These links may be used to find more recent related articles that cited the original research article.  A high number of “cited by” links also indicates an article which has received a lot of attention in that field of study.