Primary source – any material that is of its own time rather than something reflective written later. The 1969 UCLA student newspaper article about the first ARPANet connection is a primary source, whereas the blog post that shares it and comments on it is a secondary source. Most magazine and newspaper articles are primary sources, because they are usually written quite close to the date of the events they discuss.
Secondary source – any reflective, narrative, or analytical material that uses and discusses primary sources or original data. Most books and scholarly journal articles are secondary sources. Of course, if you are writing a history of science, a scientific article published in 1957 would be a primary source rather than a secondary source.
e-Journal – an inaccurate and misleading term used by many research libraries (despite scads of evidence that they shouldn’t) to describe the full-text online version of any periodical. The online version of the Los Angeles Times is called an e-journal by many libraries, as is the online version of People magazine and the online version of the scholarly journal IEEE Transactions on Information Theory. Search for any periodical title via the e-Journals tab the GMU Libraries’ website to find a particular newspaper, magazine, or journal by its title.
peer review – the volunteer system by which scholars look at one anothers’ work to make sure that it is 1) original, and 2) reasonable. A peer-reviewed publication is (in theory) of higher quality than a non-peer-reviewed publication.
database – most scholarly databases available through library websites are large, searchable lists of related information. Any one database can include hundreds of thousands of records from thousands of magazines, newspapers, or scholarly journals.
pre-print – the final version of a scholarly paper before it has been copyedited, typeset, and published in a journal; the author’s own final draft. Many article authors post these online themselves for free now in addition to (or instead of) publishing them in journals that may require payment.
Open Access – a semi-political movement to make scholarly work (especially but not exclusively scholarly work that is funded by the government with taxpayer dollars) freely available online rather than “paywalled.” Open Access week is October 21-27, 2013, and GMU will hold many events for it: http://infoguides.gmu.edu/content.php?pid=295386&sid=3950037
Proxy server – A proxy server is a server (a computer) that will “stand in” for another server; you use it to access one network while you are using another. If you use GMU’s proxy server while you are (say) at home or at a Starbucks, you can get access to the information sources GMU pays for. Instructions for using GMU’s proxy server.
ProQuest Research Library – Scroll down in the Ps to find this full-text database, which “provides one-stop access to more than 4,000 periodicals from one of the broadest, most inclusive general reference databases ProQuest has to offer. Search from a highly-respected, diversified mix of scholarly journals, trade publications, and magazines covering over 150 academic disciplines.”
America: History and Life – Scroll down to this database in the History database list on GMU’s library website. Searches both citations and full text, and “provides English language abstracts of scholarly literature (journal articles, articles in collections, dissertations, book and media reviews) on the history and culture of the U.S. and Canada.” Goes back only to 1964.
JSTOR – a large general database of scholarly journals (JSTOR stands for “Journal Storage”). Note that recent articles from the last two to five years are *not* in JSTOR; only articles older than that can be found here. Some journal issues as old 1880s can be found here.
Google Scholar – a good general search engine for scholarly articles.
Microsoft Academic Search – Similar to Google Scholar, but better for Computer Science.
arxiv.org – an open access repository of scholarly papers in Physics, Math, and other sciences, including Computer Science.
Pick any database in the list of those GMU has access to and try to find out the following:
- What’s in the database? In other words, what are you searching for when you search it? Magazine articles, patents, chemical forumlas?
- What can you get: citations only, full-text only, or a combination?
- How big is the database? How many records does it have and/or how many periodical titles are included?
- What dates does the database cover?
- What special interface features does the database have (or lack)? Can you limit to peer-reviewed articles? Can you see how many times an article has been cited? Are there other features?