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Introduction to BIS Research

General search strategies

  • Choose the right keywords for your search.  If your topic is evangelicals, consider searching not only on that term, but on related terms (e.g. fundamentalists or born-again Christians).  Each term will lead to results that provide a slightly different perspective on the topic.  

  • When you find a good source, use it to find other good sources.  Use the subject terms and keywords associated with an item to find other items on the same topic.  Scholarly books and articles will have bibliographies and footnotes that you can mine for additional resources.

  • Know the difference between academic and non-academic sources, and when it's appropriate to use them.  Most databases allow you to limit results to academic (aka scholarly or peer reviewed) sources.  Non-academic sources (newspapers, magazines, media resources) can also be very helpful, especially in providing facts and context for your final research paper.  Be mindful of the assignment and what you're being asked to provide.

  • If you're not finding what you need, ask a librarian for help.  The library staff may be able to suggest additional sources that are directly related to your paper topic. 

Searching the library catalog

VIRGO, the U.Va. Library’s primary search tool, contains catalog records for books, print journals, DVDs and CDs, maps, government documents, manuscripts and rare materials, and digitized materials.  By default, VIRGO provides these catalog results in the left column, and article results from our subscription journals in the right column. 

The Advanced Catalog search is a good choice for searching for books. After your search results screen displays, use the "facets" provided in the left column of the search result screen to limit your results by author, format, publication period, and more.  

Sample searches:    

  • Choose Advanced Catalog search
  • Search for keyword=  putin russia  and on the Results screen
    • Select Last 3 years from the Publication Era facet to find recent materials; and/or
    • Select Ebook from the Format facet to limit to books are available online

Search results: when you find a VIRGO record for an item relevant to your topic or interest  

  • Click on See More in the VIRGO title record. There may be other useful information, e.g. a Table of Contents, which can help you decide if you want to read the book.
  • Note the Related Subjects hyperlinks in the left column of the VIRGO title record. Click ones that interest you for a list of books and other materials on that same topic.

Popular databases for scholarly articles - general

The interdisciplinary full-text databases listed below are easy to use when you first get started looking for scholarly articles. See database HELP screens for useful search tips and examples.  

Fine-tune your searches using

  • Filters or facets: allow you to narrow your results by source, subject, date range, etc.  
    Wildcards: in many search engines, the asterisk is a truncation symbol that will match all possible endings for a word stem; i.e. histor* will match history, historical, historicism, historiography, etc.
  • Booleans: combine search terms using AND (gender AND identity), OR (indian OR native american) and NOT (Facebook NOT Twitter)

Citation resources

As you synthesize your research and begin to craft your own argument, it's important to keep track of your sources and cite them according to a standard format like Chicago, APA, or MLA (if you're not sure which to use, ask your instructor).  Being careless with your citations can leave you vulnerable to accusations of academic dishonest or plagiarism.  Fortunately, citation tools like the ones listed below can make it easy to track, manage, and cite your sources.

Interlibrary Services (ILS) account setup

Book requests