General Research Sources

Introduction Printed Sources Web Sources Opinion Data Search Tutorials


   To prepare position papers, you must do research. You can do research in the library or over the internet. As a starting point for library research, consult the bibliography we have prepared on the issues addressed in this class. If you would like to learn a bit more about finding published materials, please try the Bobst tutorials on finding articles and finding books. The remainder of this page concerns research over the internet.
   Internet research tools take varied forms. The most valuable for us are two types: tools for finding printed materials (some let you read the materials over the internet, others provide only the citations), and tools for finding internet (or web) documents. Both are valuable, but it is easier to find authoritative, convincing work through the printed material than through material published directly over the internet (see Evaluating Information). To be effective, both require that you understand how the search process works. Whenever you begin to use a new search tool, you should take the time to read carefully its help descriptions on how to do searches.
   The last section below lists general guides to research on the internet. Anyone with limited internet research experience should start with these. Pay particular attention to the skills needed to design effective research queries and the techniques for deciding the value and dependability of information you find. Even if you have considerable experience, you would be wise to take a look at these guides, because you are likely to learn something useful.
   (To ensure that you use the full range of research possibilities, each paper must cite minimums of five printed sources, five internet sources, and ten sources overall. Normally, a paper's citations will exceed these limits, and a strong paper will likely exceed them by quite a lot. Note that materials originally published in printed journals are considered printed sources even if they are found and read over the internet, so they contribute to the minimums for both printed and internet sources.)

General Search Tools for Printed Documents:

   Note: NYU purchases campus-wide licenses to many databases used for research. In general, if you want to access any of these databases from off campus, the links will automatically pop up a window requesting your NYU NetID and password, than grant you access.  If for any reason this does not occur, you can click here and follow the instructions to make your remote connection appear to be through NYU
   Many databases now use the SFX or OpenURL links with NYU so that you can easily receive information about the availability of an article online (or in the library). Whenever you see an icon NYU/SFX, you can click it to find out how you can get the article. For more information, see the NYU Bobst information on SFX.
Proquest via Bobst Library Databases -- A database for searching a fairly wide range of periodicals, including newspapers, popular magazines, and academic journals. Some of these have the full text available "on line," while others have only the abstracts. This site has a tremendous amount of valuable material--if you cannot find anything, you probably need to improve your query. It is a good idea to read carefully through the entire help guide; context relevant help is available throughout. Usually, you will want to check the box to "limit results" to "scholarly journals, including peer-reviewed;" this will avoid you having to wade through all the articles in newspapers and popular magazines. Note that you can (and usually should) use boolean logic to focus your searches and that you can search the full text of materials. The strength of this database comes from the wide coverage and excellent search tools. The principle weakness is that it does not (at the time of this writing) give SFX links to discover full text sources if it does not offer the full text.
Wilson Web via Bobst Library Databases -- Wilson Web is a wide-ranging database like ProQuest and most of the same comments apply. You usually should not restrict searches to "peer reviewed" because they will erroneously omit many scholarly journals they have misidentified. The coverage and search facilities of Wilson Web are a bit weaker than ProQuest, but they have the considerable advantage of providing SFX links for all articles.
JSTOR via The Bobst Library at NYU: Databases -- JSTOR contains the full-text, completely searchable, archives of many scholarly journals. The archives stretch back to each journal's origin and up to several years from the present. This is a terrific place to find relevant scholarly research. Its main limitations are that it still omits some important publications and, by policy, it omits work published in the past few years. Be sure to look at the search hints.
Bobst Library at NYU: Social Sciences Databases -- The full range of social science databases available by various means through Bobst. The large number of databases available will be a bit daunting to most people, so you may want to seek help from a librarian.

General Search Tools for Internet (WWW) Documents:

To find information on the Internet, the best starting point is usually one or more of the general search tools. These search for Internet documents that match the criteria you specify, using an indexed database of web page titles, contents, and the like. The result is a list of links that will connect you to Internet documents and, usually, some information to help you recognize which of these links are worth pursuing. The indexes and search engines vary considerably. Generally, for well-known topics, your first level search is aimed at discovering Internet sites devoted to the issue; they will commonly contain a list of links to other documents on the topic, which will also include further links, and so on. If you are not familiar with these search tools, you would be wise to first consult the tutorial sites listed in the next section.
Google -- Currently the most popular web search engine and a good place to start. It has exceptional breadth of coverage and uses a fairly effective algorithm for ranking the relevance and importance of web pages. Take the time to read the advice for basic and advanced searching and how to interpret results to get the most out of it.
All the Web -- Another outstanding search engine. Claims to have best coverage of recent news.
Yahoo -- Good basic search engine, with many classified, human-selected links (click the "Directory" tab). (The unclassified links are derived from Google and will replicate what you find there..)
Teoma -- Interesting newer search engine that uses some distinctive technology to find useful links, which can be highly effective.
HotBot -- Another well-designed and flexible general search engine, easy to use, flexible output. Findings somewhat reflect "popularity" of sites.
AltaVista -- One of the oldest search engines, still valuable for sophisticated searches by experienced users.
MetaCrawler -- This is a "metasearch" site, meaning that it will conduct the search you request across a number of search engines, including those above. Good for finding basic sites, a bit tricky to control.
SurfWax -- This is a new "metasearch" site for conducting a search request across a number of search engines. It introduces some interesting twists to searches which you might find useful.
Search Links at Search Engine Watch -- If the search engines above are not enough, start here in your search for others.

Opinion Polls and Commentary:

These sites will provide a variety of general results from opinion polls. Specialized polls directed at specific topics are more likely to be found among the sites dedicated to the topic. Even more information is available through printed sources and directly from survey data sets.
National Council on Public Polls -- Not a source of poll results, but an exceptional checklist of the questions one should ask about any poll when trying to gage its validity, accuracy, appropriateness, and possible sources of bias. It is a good idea to read this before looking at any poll data, then reread it occasionally.
Public Agenda Online: Public Policy Research -- A substantial effort to provide nonpartisan information on public policy and public opinion about a series of important social issues, including good discussions of ways that polls can be misleading about each issue.
Washington Post Poll Vault & Political Polls -- Windows (note: two different pages) into a considerable supply of poll data gather by the Washington Post.
Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies -- In their words, "The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is a national, nonprofit institution that conducts research on public policy issues of special concern to African Americans and other communities of color." (Or, a couple years ago "to black Americans and other minorities."
General Social Survey (at ICPSR) -- The "General Social Survey" is a sociological survey that has been given annually or semiannually since 1972. It covers a range of material important to social scientists, repeats many questions over the years, and is considered to be of the highest possible quality. This site provides summaries of many items, lets you search for different kinds of questions, and lets you produce tables in many forms. It takes some work, but allows you to look directly at the data when it is valuable (for example, if you wanted to know the relationship between attitudes on something like capital punishment and religion but could not find it anywhere, you could derive it here).
Odum Institute (North Carolina University) Public Opinion Poll Question Database -- Lets you search for poll results using key words referring to the text of the questions asked.
The Gallup Organization -- Varied poll data, both recent and over time, from the renown opinion research firm.

Introductory Guides to Search Tools:

These sites will show you how to use the search tools available on the internet. They contain a great amount of information on composing searches, how the search engines work, and which is best for different goals.
NYU Bobst World Wide Web Tutorial -- A thoughtful, general introduction to using the web for research, including good information on how to research, how to evaluate information you find, and how to cite your sources.
How to do Boolian searches -- To search databases and the internet successfully, you need to know how to define searches that will capture what you want and not too much else.
Finding Information on the Internet: A TUTORIAL -- Extensive tutorial on finding information through the Internet from the University of California (Berkeley). Thorough.
How to Search the World Wide Web: A Tutorial for Beginners and Non-Experts -- Another wide-ranging tutorial.
Tutorial: Guide to Effective Searching of the Internet -- Still another. While the review of available search engines contained here is a little dated, the general information on searching is still good and this guide has the virtue of being available as a downloadable PDF document.


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