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Begin by reading a couple of articles or a book in the area that interests you. You may want to start with a multidisciplinary database such as Expanded Academic Index or Proquest (listed in Finding Articles) to get a sense of the issues surrounding a topic.
How do you find scholarly articles? Books? Reports? Sometimes Google or Google Scholar are good places to start. Sometimes it's best to use library databases. Library databases are more likely to yield reliable, authoritative sources that have already been vetted. Since most scholarly journals aren't freely available on the web, you are more likely to be able to link to full text if you use a library database.
Here are some examples of sources for particular types of information:
Scholarly articles from academic journals-->Vassar's subscription databases
Books-->Vassar's online catalog, ConnectNY; some databases, e.g. Philosopher's Index (then locate in VC catalog)
Current news on U.S. healthcare-->Newspapers, magazines, some academic journals-->Multidisciplinary databases, LexisNexis, New York Times
Not sure how to tell a scholarly journal from a popular magazine? Read this article from the library at the University of Wisconsin:
Make a list of keywords and phrases that describe your topic.
to this list as you read in background sources. Terminology is very important.
The words you use to search in indexes and databases (or Google) may determine whether
you are successful in finding information.
Set Up a Search.
Basic search techniques are the same in many databases. Most databases let you use Boolean operators
(AND, OR, NOT) to combine search terms. Usually search boxes and
operators are provided so you don't need to set up a search using
parentheses as in the example below. Most databases will also allow you
to "truncate" words (use an asterisk in place of a number of letters)
to find plurals and variant forms and spellings.