Use the tabs in this box to learn more about locating specific types of resources.
When you're starting your research, you want to know what about a topic is most important, and you want to get to the resources you need. This page is designed to help you do that. We also recommend checking out the How-To Tutorials and STEM Videos sections of this guide.
The how-to tutorials tab covers using Quicksearch, understanding call numbers, finding databases and articles, and using specific tools at the university. The STEM Videos page provides on-demand videos on how to do research in the sciences.
Before you look at the tabs in this box, let's talk about the basics of brainstorming and thinking about a topic.
Your best bet when beginning a new research paper is to start general and get specific as you research and identify new information.
For a short work (think under 10 pages), your research question will need to be more specific than you might think! A good rule is that if a whole book has been written on your topic, then you need to be more specific.
On the flip side, some research topics are gaps — and very few people have written on them. These have the potential of being books. As long as you have enough materials to consult, react to, and cite, you should be fine.
If you would like help on finding resources within a specific discipline, we have subject-specific guides that can help you identify the best information for any research area.
We also recommend watching Lori Bronars' video in the STEM Videos section — she walks through everything from brainstorming a topic to choosing a specific research question, and if you watch that video in tandem with exploring the resources in this tabbed box, you'll be well on your way to having what you need.
Try one of these resources, too:
We have some general reference works (encyclopedias, bibliographies, and dictionaries) for getting background information. Whether you're gathering information on your own or reality-checking AI output from tools like ChatGPT or Bing (note: those tools are experimental and risk hallucinating false information), these are good places to start.
Reference works (encyclopedias, bibliographies, dictionaries) are great for getting background information. Try these reference databases:
Wikipedia (yes, it is OK to use Wikipedia to gather ideas and names in order to start your research)
As you find background material, keep a list of terms and keywords, which will be helpful to when searching for scholarly articles.
Try using a worksheet, or a mind map, to keep track of related terms for your research, like this one:
An article is a piece of writing found in a periodical or serial -- commonly known as magazines, newspapers, and journals. Articles are a way to up-to-date information (based on when material was published).
In order for an article to be considered "scholarly" it is vetted and approved by other scholars in the field (hence peer reviewed). The approval process can take anywhere from 6 months to a year and publishing an article in a peer reviewed journal is often a requirement of tenure for researchers and faculty.
Scholarly articles are found in peer review journals. You can find scholarly articles at Yale Library using:
Articles+ contains about 80% of our online resources — except for some things in specialized databases that don't talk to the service we use. There are two ways to access it.
First, Articles+ is integrated into Quicksearch. When you do a search from the main library website — say, for
planetary formation composition — you come to a results screen that includes several components from Articles+. The Journal & Magazine Articles section and the Dissertations & Theses results preview boxes are both pulling from facets within Articles+. There are additional left-sidebar items like Newspaper Articles that are also pulling from Articles+.
Clicking on any one of these headers will take you to Articles+ with the filter active that limits to the result type in question. There is also a direct way to get to Articles+, and that is by using its database record. You can look it up in the Databases under the Find, Request, and Use top menu item on library.yale.edu or bookmark the link.
If you enter the Articles+ interface from Quicksearch, you can always remove the filters if you want or add some additional item types. Books and book chapters, for example, will elevate results from ebooks that compile articles together from multiple authors. Searching in book reviews can help you decide on whether a scholarly work is worth reading.
The results screen has a few features that are worth taking a closer look at.
First, the Quick Look button will show you the abstract and subjects (assigned by the journal, the authors, or the database that Articles+ is pulling from) for each article. This can be helpful for refining search terms, especially if you know that you want to read this piece. Second, both the Quick Look area and the item in the results have a Full Text Online link.
Serendipitous searching happens when you try out a few search terms and use the results to strategize where to go next. The video below goes through a few more tips on searching in Articles+ from either Quicksearch or on its own.
Dissertations contain cutting-edge research and are the capstone project for a Ph.D. program. They are excellent places to locate information about new research or under-researched topics.
The best way to search for dissertations in general is to use the box in the Quicksearch results. The image below shows an example of what this looks like for a search on
planetary formation composition. Clicking on the header icon or the results count will take you to the Articles+ interface with the Dissertations & Theses filter. There's also a button right below the results.
The best way to search for dissertations that have a specific author is to search either ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global (which has a North American bias) or the university catalog at the institution the person graduated from. Either will help you locate whether or not full text exists, and you can be a bit more precise in those tools than you can be in Articles+.
Let's talk a bit more about the Articles+ Dissertations filter, though.
The screenshot above shows over 10,000 dissertation results. Most of the results in Articles+ are actually relevant, except for a few literature dissertations with creative titles. We used a very general search, and the high result count proves the point about how dissertations are niche — we need to get much more specific to get useful results.
What if we actually wanted to know a bit more about planetary formation and iron cores? A search like
"planetary formation" AND "iron core" will increase our likelihood of success, and Articles+ supports Boolean searching. This dramatically reduces the results — we see immediately something about iron core formation, and there's an interesting-looking dissertation about "superdense exposed exoplanet cores."
Newspapers (and magazines) provide both first-hand accounts and interpretations of events. Depending on how you use a newspaper, it can either be a primary source or a secondary source.
This page will help guide you through finding current newspapers and historical newspapers.
Pro-tip: Though you may be familiar with visiting websites for newspaper content (www.nytimes.com), accessing newspapers through Yale Library will often require using a database. Going through a database will ensure you do not have to pay.
Below are a combination of databases (accessible through Yale) and nonsubscription online resources for science news, like Eos (Earth Sciences).
To learn if Yale subscribes to a specific newspaper or magazine, go to Quicksearch Books+ and search for the title (i.e., "New York Times" or "Wall Street Journal" or "Le Monde"). You can filter to online-only there.
Sites like Wikipedia are useful for finding names and dates, but you can dig deeper into your topic by using sources discovered through governmental, intergovernmental, and non-government organizations, or think tanks (a group of experts providing advice and ideas on specific issues). As with any source, you'll want to evaluate what you find to make sure that it's reliable.
Search engines, like Google, search by keyword. The default search in Quicksearch and Articles+ is also by keyword (or "All Fields"), where you will return results where your keyword is located anywhere in the record or text.
A subject defines a book or an article as a whole, and subject headings link information -- just like how hashtags link conversations in social media (#basslibrary). Using subject headings is a specific and effective way of doing research.
Ways to identify library subject headings:
1. Start with a keyword search in Quicksearch and identify 2 or 3 books that are loosely related to your topic (they don't have to be perfect, just close enough). Open the records and look at the "Subject" field -- voila! Write these subjects down, or click on them (they're hyperlinked!) to uncover other material within that same subject.
2. Some resources will offer the ability to browse subjects, for example:
You can combine your keyword and/or subject searches by using Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT in an Advanced Search. When combined with keywords and/or subjects, boolean operators will help focus your search in the following ways:
In the example above: