This Week in Reference: Happy Halloween!

Orange and white pumpkinsHappy Halloween from the Research Help Desk! Do you ever feel stuck when beginning your research for a paper or presentation? At a loss of where to look? Which database to search? What even is a database? Here at the Research Help Desk, our librarians are able to guide you in the right direction, suggest an article or book, and help you navigate the many databases that DePaul subscribes to.

Let’s practice on the history of Halloween: A librarian may first send you to one of our Research Guides. These curated subject guides are great starting points in tackling your research, because they offer relevant databases and background sources. In the case of Halloween, a librarian may suggest checking out the History Research Guide and our Primary Sources Guide. From there, they may recommend visiting article databases such as America: History and Life and JSTOR. Don’t forget to check out LibrarySearch for finding books and book chapters as well!

One thing to keep in mind when searching in a database, is avoid full sentences. Instead, you should search using keywords. A simple search like this: Halloween AND History will likely find a good selection of sources. To make it even better, you can add synonyms or related terms to some of the words. For example: Halloween AND (History OR Tradition OR Custom OR Practice OR Ritual). Don’t feel frustrated if you can’t find what you are looking for at the first place you search. Here are some sample search results you can get from each database: America: History & Life,  JSTOR, and LibrarySearch.

Search words in an article database

So, if you are ever hesitant about where to start with your research, please use our Ask a Librarian service or come visit us at the Research Help Desk!

Here are some examples of recent questions we have received over chat:

  • As a faculty member, how can I request a purchase?
  • How do I access the New York Times for free?
  • Can you help me locate an original letter written by Queen Elizabeth I?
  • Hi! I’m looking for books on the geometric period in art.
  • What databases offer resources for mental health?

A typical library chat may look something like this: 

Patron: Hello, I need help finding 6 scholarly sources.

Librarian: Hi! I am happy to help, what is your topic?

Patron: My topic is on student athlete mental health struggles.

Librarian: Ok, and have you started searching anywhere yet?

Patron: Yes, I found 6 sources, but my professor told me that they were not considered scholarly.

Librarian: Ok! First, here is our Research Guide, How to Find Scholarly Sources. 

Librarian: Next, I am going to do a search in two databases, Academic Search Complete and APA PsycInfo. In both, you can limit your results to only see ‘peer-reviewed’ articles. 

Patron: Thank you! I will try searching there.

Librarian: You’re welcome! Here is a quick search I did. Do these results look like something you can use in your research?

Patron: Thank you! I will take a look at these and chat you later if I need more help.

Librarian: You’re welcome! We are online until 10pm tonight!

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