Scholarly Research for Dummies, part 3

(Reading this out of order? See Part 1 and Part 2.)

And now… the third and final installment in this series, Extending Your Research.

Getting the Full Text

If you are completely unsuccessful in finding the full text of an article, even after trying the databases in Part 1, your library’s resource, and anywhere else you can think of… there is still hope. Sometimes – sometimes – you can still get the text from somewhere else.

  1. Remember: It is not some sort of debate crime to quote the abstract. If that’s all you can access, don’t be afraid to use it. You may be missing most of the good quotes, but don’t let that prevent you from working with what you’ve got.
  2. Try going to the website of the journal it appears in. Sometimes you can access it directly.
  3. Try to find the full text through direct web searching. Search, in quotes, for exact phrases from the article body, abstract, or even only the title and author (in that order of preference.) Sometimes you can find it in a form or website that academic searches don’t recognize.

    But wait a second – if you don’t have the full text, how do you search for phrases from the main article body? Well, you can sometimes find the article quoted somewhere, or you can be sneaky and copy text from the search results, which will often come from the article body. (If it doesn’t, fiddle with your search terms to try to get some.) If you do a standard Google web search, you can set it to display more text than usual by clicking “Show Options…” at the top of the results and then “More Text”, which can be helpful. (Another interesting fact: Google News searches for archived stories you can’t access will display larger amounts of the article text if you go into the timeline view.)

Finding More Stuff

When working with scholarly articles, there are several ways to extend your research beyond merely looking for more articles directly. Three useful things to try are:

  1. Similar article searches supplied by some search engines. Google Scholar places a small link below each result labeled “Related articles” that can provide some useful results. Other engines work differently.
  2. Browsing articles that cite the paper you read. Again, Google Scholar has a useful tool for this in the form of a link below the search results (“Cited by…”). A big bonus of this is that, obviously, any papers citing it will have newer dates, so this can be very useful if you want to find something more recent. However, be wary of wandering off-topic – just because it cites something you’re interested in doesn’t mean it has anything useful in it.
  3. Browsing articles cited by the paper you read. You can do this by reading through the References section of the paper, at the end, and looking up anything that looks useful. This can be a big help, especially if you want to find out where the paper got a certain fact from, but again, it’s easy to wander off-topic. Furthermore, by nature, anything cited will be older than the paper you read, so make sure it isn’t too out of date.
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