Researching Your Topic

Beyond Google and Wikipedia

Don’t get us wrong: Google (or your favorite search engine or chat-bot) and Wikipedia provide many starting points. Here are a few documents to help you use standard search engines like Google:

Google Tips 

More Google Tips 

Google Search Cheat Sheet 

But often you will want to go farther, to verify the information or to dig deeper into the professional and academic literature.

Specialized Search Engines

Staying with Google for a minute, take a look at Google Scholar, which searches the scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources, from articles and theses to court opinions, from academic publishers to universities and other online repositories. In 2022, Larry Ambs prepared a lecture on search strategies in general and Google Scholar in particular (slides from this lecture) to FCLIR members.

Semantic Scholar is an AI-powered research tool that uses advances in natural language processing to provide short summaries for scholarly papers in all fields of science. It is designed to highlight the most important and influential elements of a paper.

PubMed Central is a full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine.

Retrieving Scholarly Papers

These and other searches will undoubtedly turn up papers published in closed-access journals. But do not despair! There can be many ways to get to them. And this is also where being a member of FCLIR may come in handy.

Google Scholar will often tell you when a paper is available for direct download as a PDF. Even if you can’t get the published, fully peer-reviewed version, you can often get a preprint from one of the dozens of preprint repositories that have been created in the last decade, or from ResearchGate.

JSTOR is a digital library founded in 1994. It provides full-text searches of almost 2,000 journals. Most access is by subscription but some of the site is public domain, and open access content is available free of charge.

The number of open access journals is also growing.

Boston Public Library

Anyone who is a Massachusetts resident can obtain an e-card from the Boston Public Library. This provides access to JSTOR and much, much more.

Five College libraries

Membership in FCLIR provides additional access to the libraries of the Five College Consortium institutions.