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INT 101 Grant

last modified Oct 01, 2015 01:10 PM

This guide introduces you to conducting research at Mercer University, and contains information and sources to help you complete your research assignment. If you need any further help, please contact Amy Gratz via or at 478-301-5334, or ask a librarian at the Ask Jack desk. 

Brainstorming Your Topic

(Image from Flickr)

Brainstorming image. Original from

When you first start working on an assignment, it can be very helpful to spend a few minutes thinking about your topic and where you want to go with the assignment. For some topics, you might need to start by doing pre-research, where you look for general background information on your topic to learn a little more. This background information then helps you focus your search and choose a topic to write about. Try some of the following strategies if you're not sure where to start:

  • If you don't have a topic in mind, try looking at CQ Researcher or TOPICsearch, or just looking at recent news, to generate ideas
  • Try to imagine what words someone answering your research question might use
  • Look up synonyms and related topics or phrases
  • Try working with a partner – getting a different perspective is often invaluable
  • Identify any common misunderstandings or related topics that you DON’T want in your results


Peer Review in 3 Minutes

Databases vs. Google

Scholarly and Popular Articles

(For more information, see this guide)

Most sources of information fall into one of these two categories. Here's how they're different:

"Scholarly" (aka "academic" or "peer-reviewed") periodicals are usually published by an association, institution, or scholarly press. They contain articles written by scholars, professors, and researchers in a particular discipline, and are intended for other scholars and researchers in the field. Articles published in these journals are sent to other experts in the field to be reviewed prior to publication.

“Popular” periodicals are publications that are intended for the general public, and whose main purpose is usually entertainment. Articles in these publications are generally written by paid journalists or columnists, and reviewed by an editor.

Reasons to use Scholarly Sources:

  • They are generally the most highly valued source of information in academic circles
  • They are written by and reviewed by experts in the field
  • The information they contain critically examines some aspect of the world

Reasons to use Popular Sources:

  • They are easier to understand because they are written for the general public
  • They are more likely to contain information on recent events
  • They can give you an insight into what type of information is available to the general populace on a subject

Databases, Journals, and Articles

Small graphic of the Database-Journal-Article poster created 2014

Databases - Searchable electronic warehouses that contain a wide variety of information sources from multiple publishers. Most material is also available in print format.

Journals - Subscription publications that contain scholarly articles and information on similar topics. Most are peer-reviewed.

Articles - A relatively short, written work in a journal, be it scholarly or popular.


Recommended Resources

Discovery — an EBSCO service allowing you to search multiple databases and the library catalog simultaneously. This service is made available to us through GALILEO, Georgia Library Learning Online, an initiative of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

Databases included in Discovery, but worth searching separately:

ERIC — Covers all aspects of education and educational research, includes both abstracts of published and unpublished sources on thousands of educational topics. 

Education Full Text — Topics include a wide range of contemporary education issues, including government funding, instructional media, multicultural education, religious education, student counseling, competency-based education, and information technology.

Professional Development Collection [education] — A specialized collection of journal articles and pamphlets especially for professional educators that includes professional development titles and journals covering the most current topics in the field of education.

Teacher Reference Center — Topics include: Assessment, Best Practices, Continuing Education, Current Pedagogical Research, Curriculum Development, Elementary Education, Higher Education, Instructional Media, Language Arts, Literacy Standards, School Administration, Science & Mathematics, and Teacher Education.

Databases NOT included in Discovery:

Research Library (ProQuest) — A general database providing access to scholarly journals and general magazines, many of which are available in full text.

Education Journals (ProQuest) — Covers not only the literature on primary, secondary, and higher education but also special education, home schooling, adult education, and hundreds of related topics.

Citing Sources

MLA Style Guide - created and maintained by the Purdue OWL, this guide covers the basics of citing in MLA style.

APA Style Guide - created and maintained by the Purdue OWL, this guide covers the basics of citing in APA style.

Also check your Little Bear Handbook, or you can come and check out the complete style guides at the library's circulation desk.

Ask Jack for more help! Librarians at the Ask Jack desk are happy to help you cite your sources or double-check your work!

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