Starting Your Research
What do you know?
A great first place to start is to take an inventory of what you know about the topic. You can also make a list of all related subjects or terms. It's a good diea at this point to ask yourself where your knowledge came from. Is it an "old wives' tale" or what you consider to be common knowledge? You'd be surprised how often you will find out that what we often call "common knowledge" isn't accurate at all, especially with health conditions. This is a good time in your research to double-check the facts.
Gather background information/Define key terms
A great place to start for this is Credo Reference. This is a great place to get history, background, definitions, and other information regarding progression, testing, and current research. This is also where you can dispel myths and factcheck what you already know. You can also search for credible websites (see below), the Gale Virtual Reference Library, or the Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia.
Make a list of relavent search terms and related terms and concepts.
This list will help you to do comprehensive database searches, and will help you be able to explain key concepts related to the disease you are researching.
For example, if my topic was "avian flu", my list of terms might be:
- avian influenza
- poultry virus diseases
- influenza h5n1
- respiratory conditions
- public health
- influenza a virus
- influenza vaccines
...and so on.
Now you are ready to head to the databases to find a peer-reviewed research article.
What is a peer-reviewed, scholarly article?
A peer-reviewed article is written by an expert in a given field, and then before it is published, it is reviewed by a panel of other experts. Peer-reviewed articles can discuss orginal research, review other research, or discuss topics related to the field. Scholarly articles are often longer than magazine articles, and they usually contain an abstract, citations, references, the author's credentials, and in-depth discussion of a topic.
To learn more about scholarly vs. popular articles, check out this guide from the Univeristy of Arizona libraries, or watch this short video.
Using the Library Databases
You can access our databases on our Journals & Articles page. You can see the databases either by subject, or a complete A-Z list. The nature if this projet is pretty broad, and you might find that any number of databases might be great places to do research.
Here are some databases that might be particularly useful for this project (but you need not limit your searches to these):
This multidisciplinary database is a great first place to start when you need peer-reviewed articles. It gives you tools to narrow your search down by a variety of factors, including choosing only scholarly/peer reviewed articles.
You can get help with Academic Search Premier by visiting the Ebsco Help Site.
This is another Ebsco product, so it might look familiar. Its functionality is similar to Academic Search Premier, but the results are limited to articles from journals about health and medicine. You can also limit your results to scholarly sources, or include non-acedemic (but still credible!) sources.
Consumer Health Complete
Similar to Health Source Consumer, but the articles will be higher-level language, more specific, and more scholarly. This database is a great place for research studies, or in-depth examination of a narrow topic.
This can be good for two things: either when the disease itself is psychological or neurological, or to find information about how people cope with diseases. For example, you might find factual information about a disease in a different database, but find information about how a disease or the treatment of a disease (say, a terminal illness) impacts the individual's mood or mental state.
This database gives you results from newspapers all around the world, with a concentration of newspapers from the United States. If your topic is covered in the news, maybe because there has been an advance in that area or because it is impacting a certain geographical area, then this will have a lot of great results discussing your assigned disease.
This can be especially good if there is some controversy regarding the disease or the treatment of a disease. For example, there is a lot of controversy around common surgical procedures to treat obesity. This would give you viewpoints on both sides of the issue. For some topics, there are great statistics, viewpoints, academic sources, and other types of information. This can really help you bring some interesting insight into your presentation.
Books are still very relevant. We love our books because they go through a stringent editorial process, and then we select each and every one to complement the cirriculum here at McKendree. Also, you have the option to have books from other colleges and universities in Illinois sent to you for free. This means that you have the ability to have millions of titles sent to you right here at the library.
Finding a Book
First, go to the book catalog. The easiest place to start is with a keyword search. Keep in mind that the catalog does not know context, it only knows what you type in. It is helpful to keep your search terms short and sweet. You can also do a search by Title or Author, if you know exactly what you want. The default search searches only books at Holman Library, but you can easily change it to search the entire I-Share system.
Finding an eBook
eBooks are a great option, and you don't necessarily even need to have a special device to read them. The wonderful thing about eBooks is that they are searchable, so it's easy to zero in on exactly what you need. Check out the eBooks page on the library's website to browse our eBook collections.
Finding and Evaluating Web Sources
Websites can be appropriate for college-level research, but you need to be choosy and evaluate the website to make sure it is quality information. Here's a few things to keep in mind:
- Currency: When is the last time the website was updated? Can you tell how recent the information is? The Web has been around long enough to have a lot of outdated information hanging around. Particularly when you are searching about diseases, you want to make sure you have recent information.
- Authority: Who is responsible for the website or article? What are their credentials? Can you tell what institutions or organizations they are affiliated with? Is there a way to contact them? If you are going to trust the information you find on the Web, you should be able to figure out who published it. Keep on the lookout for pages written by people who are experts in their field, or by credible organizations.
- Purpose: Why does this website exist? Is it to inform, or to sway your opinion? Is it simply to make money, by showing you as many ads as possible? Ask yourself why this website was published, and that can give you a clue to how trustworthy it is.
- Objectivity: Is the website biased, or is it published by an organization with an agenda? Bias can be subtle or obvious. It can be acceptable to use websites that are biased, provided that you realize they are less than objective and also seek other viewpoints.
- Writing Style: The website be free of grammatical and spelling errors, and organized in a way that makes it easy to find information. Look for websites that feature references or citations, so you know where the authors found their information. Websites that are acceptable for college-level research will read like they were written by educated people, who document their sources.
One safe bet is to look for a website with a domain ending in .edu or .gov. Websites whose URL ends in .edu are published by institutions of higher education in the United States. Websites with a .gov address are publshed by a government entity in the United States, and can be great sources of information for statistics, current research, and expert opinion in the area of medicine and health.
Purdue University has created a comprehensive, reliable guide to APA citations. This is a great place to start if you are unfamiliar with this style, or would just like to see examples.
This website is created by the folks at APA, and they have tutorials and other information about using APA style.
Here's another option for examples of APA citations.