Library

10 August 2016

Academic resources: Navigating the databases


Your assessments take all kinds of different forms - variety is the spice of life, after all! The requirements can sometimes seem a little confusing - especially if one assessment asks you to use ‘academic’ sources, another ‘scholarly’ sources, and a third ‘refereed’ sources. What do all these terms mean? And where can you find such sources? The Library's Romney Adams is here to untangle the terminology, and hone your detective skills...


First of all: ‘Academic’, ‘Scholarly’, and ‘Refereed’ sources all mean the same thing. Remember how I mentioned that variety is the spice of life? These three terms just mean that your lecturer or tutor are after sources that have undergone something called Peer Review. This is a strict editorial process which ensures material published in academic journals is of a high standard, and suitable for others (such as yourself!) to cite and use in your own research and writing. If you'd like to know more about what Peer Review actually involves, check out this short video from North Carolina State University (it features dinosaurs!). When people speak about academic sources, people often think primarily of journal articles. But books can also be academic sources. Many students enjoy the convenience of being able to access and read journal articles online, but academic books can also be a great resource - particularly if you're new to a discipline, or unfamiliar with a certain area of research. However, textbooks are not typically used as evidence (in-text citations) to support arguments in your assessments. Of course, each of Monash’s libraries house thousands of physical books on our shelves, but many are also available as eBooks, which you can read online. Ask at your Library’s Information Point if you're unsure how to use Search to find eBooks, and check out this video to build your skills in being able to determine whether the source you’re using is an academic resource. If you like, you can test your knowledge with this interactive tutorial.
Nothing in life is free, and the same is true for journal articles (well, unless it’s published in an Open Access journal). Have you ever found the perfect article for your assessment in Google Scholar, only to be asked to pay to read it? It's very annoying, but the good news is that as students of Monash, the Library pays the access fees for you!
We subscribe to literally thousands of databases which give you access to academic collections, including journal articles and eBooks. With so many databases to choose from, it can be tricky to know where to start - but don't be overwhelmed! To ease into things, use Library Search, our resource discovery tool which searches our physical and online collections. You should be able to find some great academic resources to get you started, and when you're ready to build on this, you can start searching individual databases. Databases hold discipline-specific resources, and are reviewed and updated by your Subject Librarians and Electronic Access Librarians throughout the year, so you can be sure you'll be searching (and retrieving!) the content that is most useful for you. We love databases so much, that we even blog about them sometimes!
We suggest starting with Search, but it doesn’t retrieve results from every single resource we subscribe to, so make sure you’re researching thoroughly by searching directly in databases too. To determine which databases will be useful for you to use, head to the Library Guide for your discipline (e.g. Biology, History, Commercial Law).



Search and our subscribed databases hold a variety of resources - not all of them are academic, so it is important you build your skills in information evaluation to make sure you’re using the right materials to support your own arguments and claims in your assessments. Review the clip embedded above to get started, or chat to a librarian at your Library’s Research & Learning Point - they’ll be able to put you on the right track! Or, if you want to go more in-depth, check the Library Class Booking System for workshops on effective searching.
Photo 1 from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/startup-planning-notes-mac-book-7357/Photo 2: Screenshot from following video: http://www.monash.edu/library/transforming-libraries/matheson-video




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