Searching for Sources

Finding sources can take time, even when you have planned and prepared beforehand.  We offer a few different strategies for finding sources in the following sections.  

Start from Other Sources

We often find one good article during preliminary research or course reading, which can be the basis for finding additional sources.

  • Search for other articles using the same key words of a good article that you have found.  
  • Study the reference list of a good article. The bibliography (or reference list) may reveal titles, authors, or journals which are important to your topic.
  • Look for additional sources by the same author of a work you found useful; you may have found an expert in the field.
  • Ask your professor or teaching assistant about relevant sources you may not have considered.

Library Guides

Use the Trent Library Guides to search for relevant discipline-specific sources.

  • The Trent University library’s Subject Guides are a great place to start. For each discipline at Trent, there is a guide that lists and links to useful sources, including periodical indexes, databases, websites, books, and reference works.
    • If you were writing a psychology paper, you would use the Psychology Library Guide. The articles tab in the Psychology Library Guide links to several different databases most useful for the discipline, including PsychINFO.
  • Article indexes and databases are searchable, so it is important to refer to your research plan and list of keywords for an effective search. You should also use filters to find peer-reviewed sources or to narrow the dates of publication.
  • Search the library catalogue for print books, e-books, and other forms of media.
  • Learn to use the library with helpful tutorials. Contact librarians for help with your search strategies and any other questions you have about the library and finding information on a topic.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is another powerful tool you can use to search for scholarly articles, books, and other reports on the internet.

  • Narrow your topic before using Google Scholar to ensure that sources are relevant to your topic.
  • Adjust the settings on Google Scholar to link to Trent Library so you can access the full text of articles that are available to Trent students.(Learn how)
  • After getting an article through get it! Trent check to make sure that the chosen source is a peer-reviewed scholarly article.
  • Google Scholar allows you to narrow the date range of your search. This is a valuable tool if you are looking for recent publications.

Website Searches

For assignments where your instructor has indicated that you may use popular or grey literature, be sure to take time to narrow your search, consider the type of sources you are looking for, and evaluate the validity of the source (assess criteria such as author, site sponsor, publication date, etc.).

  • Narrow your topic before using the internet to ensure that sources are relevant to your topic.
  • Use a variety of keywords to expand your search.
  • Cite internet sources that you use in your paper in your references list. Double check all URLs to ensure accuracy of the site address.

More great help sheets from Bata Library, Trent University

Evaluate and Select Sources

Not every source you find on a particular subject will be important or relevant to your topic. You need to evaluate and be selective when choosing your sources.

  1. Evaluate the source by quickly skimming the title, the abstract, and any section headings or figures to assess its usefulness.
  2. Most of your sources should be articles or books that are clearly focused on your subject.
  3. If you use website sources, check for reliability by considering the publisher of the site.
  4. Choose sources that have different perspectives; your paper can consider perspectives that contradict your own, as well as those that support it.
  5. Choose articles that are up-to-date. Some fields require fairly current information, while in other fields this is not so critical.
  6. Check your assignment instructions regarding scholarly sources. For university-level papers most disciplines favour scholarly, peer-reviewed sources.