Finding your materials, part 8:
When you're ready to do a focused search, use the databases

If you've followed the earlier steps of this reasearch strategy road map, you should have a fairly good idea of some questions you've not yet found the answers to, gaps in your data--or things that you need to verify in the most recent scholarship.

Now is the time to do a search--or series of searches--that is focused and will get you exactly the information you need.

Ask a highly skilled reference librarians to help you to design a search of the databases that larger Libraries tend to subscribe to--a smaller community Library may not have access to these. You'll find that the results of a clearly focused search will usually identify a fairly small group of journal articles--so you won't have to wade through a huge amount of literature to find the information you need.

When you do a well-designed database search toward the END of your project rather than at the beginning it's a much more efficient process. You know exactly what you're looking for and will either find it easily or make the very happy discovery (happy, that is, for a serious scholar) that there's almost no work done on a given topic. If you have an insight or question that no one else seems to have explored--then you've hit the proverbial gold mine: this could be the genesis of your own journal article, or maybe the focus of a thesis or dissertation that you'll develop in graduate school.

© Jan Mainzer