Penn State Libraries
Writing an exploratory abstract before starting a written paper can be helpful. But after you define the scope of your topic you will need to figure out what knowledge exists about this topic already. While Google’s standard search engine has become second nature to most of us, we encourage you to explore other methods for retrieval of scientific/technical information. As a Penn State student, you have access to a vast digital library. You may access journal articles and eBooks remotely online. You can even get print materials delivered to your home!
After completing this class, you will be practiced in compiling a comprehensive reference list to support and drive your project development, professional writing, and your own exploration of ideas. We encourage you to get familiar with the access to academic publications provided by the PSU libraries.
To help navigate academic sources, Google Scholar offers an easy to use platform to locate articles and find keywords to use in further searches. Google Scholar makes it easy:
- to search for publications from a specific scholar,
- to search by keyword to find commonly referenced works pertaining to a specific topic, and
- to find new sources by exploring the “Related articles” and “Cited by” features.
Google Scholar also provides multiple ways to filter your searches (click on the ‘hamburger’ icon next to “Google Scholar” at the top of the search page, then pick “Advanced Search” to access these). For more search tips, see Google’s recommendations and a tutorial from the Penn State Libraries.
As you navigate Google Scholar, it is helpful to know about how Google keeps track of metrics pertaining to individual articles and authors. For publications, the “cited by” metric tells you how many other papers have cited this one. A key metric for individual authors is the h-index which measures how many times a scientist’s most cited papers have been cited.
Also note that through the PSU Libraries you have access to Web of Science, which offers similar tools to search academic publications with more control over search parameters but a smaller set of publications to search on (primarily those published in refereed journals and repeating conferences; thus typically missing book chapters, theses and dissertations, and many conferences and workshops).
As you explore articles, websites, and other publications, it is important to keep track of the citations for papers you find useful. This is best done with a citation manager. In addition to keeping track of works you have consulted and notes that you may have made along the way; these citation managers generate bibliographies and works cited pages very easily! There are a couple of free citation managers that we recommend:
Throughout this course, please follow formal citation practices to consistently cite both electronic and print sources. Rules for citation practices can be found online. For this course, we suggest that you use the Chicago style but if you are more familiar with another citation style, feel free to use that but be consistent.
We encourage you to draw from a range of sources from academic articles to topical magazines to company promotional material. As you do so, we expect that you maintain proper citation practices.