Whenever you are looking for articles in databases that do not give you full text, look for this icon, or the words "Get It" or "Get It @ Caltech", for help in determining whether we have access to that article. If you need an article from a journal to which we don't subscribe, use our DocuServe InterLibrary Loan Service to request a copy for free.
Research and Databases
Links to literature databases and guides on how to use them more effectively. It is recommended to do the same search in multiple databases and search engines, since they will frequently show different articles.
In most databases and search engines, you can look at articles that cite an article you've found - this is a good way to find other articles of interest.
Speaking the Language
What does "plasma" mean to you?
Types of Articles
Know what you're reading.
A Brief Guide to Boolean Searching
A quick intro and video example.
Find scholarly articles in the sciences, social sciences and humanities. If you're looking for a specific author, search the Author field last name first initial asterisk, so Albert Einstein would be Einstein A*. The Topic field can be used for keywords. To get the actual article, look for the Caltech Connect button.
To add CaltechConnect options to Google Scholar results:
To download a citation for an article:
Click the quotes image under the citation:
This will display a list of common citation formats, as well as options to download the citaiton in BibTeX and RefMan formats.
Database of open-access e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics
ACM Digital Library
Access to all online copies of Association for Computing Machinery journals & magazines and ACM conference proceedings
Online library of publications by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) covering electrical engineering, computing, biotechnology, telecommunications, power and energy, and other technology-related disciplines.
Is there anything that Google can't find? Actually, yes there is.
As a start for searching, Google (and Google Scholar) are pretty great. However, I'm sure you've had the experience of looking for something on Google, only to find a ton of irrelevant things, or not exactly what you are looking for. Google suffers from two basic problems:
There are ways to make Google a little smarter, and they will be discussed in another part of this guide. There are also specific library databases that can help you find relevant articles for your assignments. These databases are a little better than Google in that they are more narrow in scope than Google (for example, searching for "plasma" in a Biology-oriented database is more likely to give results having to do with the blood component rather than the state of matter). They also utilize something called controlled vocabulary which will be discussed in the next section. Finally, using Google (and Google Scholar to an extent) will search all types of web sources, not just scholarly ones. It's important to know how to evaluate what you're looking at, and resources in this course will help you to do just that.
You probably know that there are certain preferred words used to describe different things, usually under different circumstances. This is true of both scientific disciplines and databases. For example, take the word plasma. If you asked a physicist to define it, you'd probably get something different from what a biologist or doctor would say (i.e. a state of matter, versus a component of blood).
So, it's important to become familiar with the way concepts and techniques are described in your field of interest. The best way to do this is to read, read, and read some more! Pay attention to the way ideas and experiments are described in the literature. For example, in medicine, you've probably heard of the term "heart attack". Searching for that in the medical literature might get you some articles, but you'd soon discover (especially if you're using PubMed - more on that later) that the preferred term in the medical community is "myocardial infarction". Similarly, in the chemical community, common names of chemicals (for example, polyacetylene) are being phased out in favor of IUPAC names (polyethyne), but if you want to find older articles as well as newer articles, you need to know both!
Here are two sources to look out for that will help you learn preferred vocabulary:
1. Scholarly articles sometimes (but not always) have a section in the full text labeled Keywords, usually near the Abstract - here's an example - look just past the Abstract.
2. An excellent way to get an idea of preferred wording is to use a literature database such as Web of Science, PubMed, or SciFinder. All these databases show you groupings of preferred vocabulary when you search, although they are called slightly different things in each one. There is more about that elsewhere in this guide.
It should be noted though that Google Scholar, as great as it can be, doesn't offer any help with discovering preferred terminology - it recommends reading secondary sources!
Literature databases usually index several kinds of scholarly writing. It's important to be familiar with them so that you choose the correct type of article for your assignments. Different databases may call them different things; more about that elsewhere in this guide.