To understand what has been done and what is needed in your particular area of interest, a review of the literature is needed. This review most often starts at your university library although with the advancements in technology many databases are available entirely online through your university or as a fee-based service through a journal publisher. It is important to have an understanding of the topic that you are searching since you will likely use key words related to your topic. For our study on work experience and grades, we would likely begin our search by using key words or key phrases such as:
Non traditional students
Success in college
Motivation and grades
Age and college success
These phrases help narrow down your search but could also result in articles that are not elated or don’t seem to be related based on the title or the abstract. The results you find may also cue you into other search terms that you hadn’t originally associated with your topic. It may also be wise to include such phrases as ‘meta analysis’ or ‘literature review’ as these articles are most likely to have an extensive works cited section and can usually shorten your search time. While your librarian can help you determine which search engines to use, Table 2.1 lists several important databases that may be good places to start.
Table 2.1: Research Databases
Once you gather the articles you want to look into further, the next step is to gain access to the full text of each article. This can be a simple project at some universities or may be painfully arduous. Some databases contain the full text of the article, which makes it easy to read or print. Others times you can simply make copies of hard copies of the journal on your library shelves. If your library doesn’t carry the article or the journal, you can often request it through a library exchange program or you may need to order it, especially if you are looking for a dissertation, from the publisher at a nominal fee.