Meet John Doe: Use smart search tools for real research and fact-finding
By Paul Gorski
I prefer using authoritative sources and or peer-reviewed studies to support theories, claims of fact, and the positions of social and economic reform that I discuss in this column. An authoritative source is one that is reliable, trusted and usually the “source” for the information. Professional peer-review involves experts and researchers reviewing, anonymously, a study to ensure it is relevant. Look beyond Google when doing your research.
Unfortunately, some authoritative search tools and libraries are fee-based. I have listed some useful open-access research databases below, but I have some general recommendations before you start your research.
1) Simple Google or Bing searches are not usually helpful in locating authoritative sources, as their primary links will be to paid advertisers.
2) Wikipedia is not authoritative. People who do not have a working knowledge of the subject matter may enter Wikipedia articles. However, you could start at a Wikipedia document, and review the links at the bottom of the article, which may be authoritative. The key is to find the original source article that was peer-reviewed and/or well-researched.
3) Do not dismiss research articles published by an industry advocate group on a particular industry topic. Be suspect, but do not dismiss them out of hand. Example: a national coal mining lobbying group’s article on the safety of coal mines. The article may actually state documented facts, although the interpretation of the facts may be biased.
4) Use your local library’s search databases. Many public libraries have search engines that will help find titles in the library collection and titles available by inter-library loan.
5) Start your research at the Open Education Database website. This site (http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/research-beyond-google/) lists 56 authoritative, comprehensive research databases.
6) Useful free search engines include the following (free search, full article access may cost):
• Scientific/Medical research — PubMed, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed;
• Directory of Open Access Journals — http://www.doaj.org/;
• Q-Sensei Scholar — http://scholar.qsensei.com/;
• Google Scholar — http://scholar.google.com/ (Google on steroids); and
• U.S. Census data, a wealth of demographic information — http://www.census.gov/.
7) Fee-based research tools include the following:
• JStor — http://www.jstor.org/;
• Project Muse — http://muse.jhu.edu/; and
• Legal research — Lexis Nexis, http://www.lexisnexis.com/.
Happy “smart“ searching. Send me links, or post them here, and any other scholarly, scientific, or otherwise authoritative search tools not listed here.
Paul Gorski (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.
Posted June 26, 2014