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How to Research

Searching Library Resources

Library Resources               Library resources are resources that Fanshawe Library Learning Commons provides or subscribes to. 

Types of Library Resources

Books & eBooks

Lambton Teaching and Learning Commons provides access to both physical books (searchable through the library catalogue) and subscriptions to eBook databases.

Pros Cons
  • Books and eBooks are excellent at providing an overview of a subject.
  • Content within books and eBooks are often very reliable.
  • The language within books and eBooks is often accessible for the reader.
  • Although books are often reviewed by editors, books and eBooks are not considered to be academic or scholarly resources.
  • The publishing process for books and eBooks is time-consuming, so these resources are not the greatest for current issues.
What are eBooks?

eBooks are books that are published in a digital format and are meant to be readable on computers or other electronic devices (e.g., e-readers, tablets, etc.). The most common file formats of eBooks include PDF, EPUB, and HTML. 

Source: Milwaukee Area Technical College Libraries

Where can I find eBooks?

eBooks can be searched by searching through individual eBook databases. Lambton has subscriptions to the following eBook databases:


Scholarly journals are periodical publications that publish articles focused on a particular academic discipline. The purpose of publishing in a scholarly journal is to preserve knowledge in an effort to improve our understanding of science and society. 

In most cases, articles in scholarly journals are subject to peer-review, a process in which scholarly works are evaluated by professionals in the field. These scholarly journals are most commonly written for and referenced by researchers. 

Pros Cons
  • Since scholarly articles are often peer-reviewed, the quality of information is greater.
  • Articles are not meant for broad audiences, so the language in academic articles tends to be specific and full of jargon.
  • Since the peer-review process takes time, articles may not be the most current.
  • Getting used to reading and understanding academic journal articles takes some time and effort.

Source: Milwaukee Area Technical College Libraries

Image of Open Access logo which is depicted as an orange unlocked combination lock Open Access Journals

  Open access journals are online academic journals that researchers can access free of charge. Often, these journals are peer-reviewed; however, some open access journals select and evaluate articles using an editorial team. Open access resources often extend beyond academic journals and may include: conference papers, theses, monographs, book chapters, and images.


Types of Open Access

There are multiple types of open access; however, we will focus on three:

Gold OA journals are publications in which articles are made free to access immediately upon publication. An example of Gold OA is the International Journal of STEM Education published by Springer Open.

Green OA refers to the process of authors opting to self-archive their academic works in repositories, independent of a publisher. An example of Green OA is Fanshawe's FIRST Repository in which students, staff, and faculty can upload their academic work.

Hybrid OA journals are publications that combine open access with paywalls (closed access). Often, only some individual articles are made open access.


Value of Open Access

Open access publishing is an incredibly legitimate resource used in research all over the world. Some major benefits of open access include:

  • Used in advancing research, improving society, and accelerating discovery. Open access is particularly useful for regions that do not have the financial means to purchase traditional journal publication subscriptions.
  • Under a Creative Commons license, authors own the rights to their work. In contrast, the publisher often owns the rights to articles in traditional publications.
  • The online format of open access publications allows articles to be published at a faster rate than traditional journals. This is particularly important in the sciences when research results or clinical trials need to be published in a timely manner.


Magazines are often broken down into two popular categories: trade and popular magazines. Students may find magazines useful as they provide an easy-to-read overview of a subject, including current events.

Trade Magazines are written by professionals in the field for other professionals and students in the field of study. Several examples of trade magazines include Publishers Weekly, Game Developer, and Billboard.

Popular magazines are written by paid journalists for a broad audience. Several examples of popular magazines include National Geographic and Vogue.

Pros Cons
  • Great introductory sources of information that are easy to read and understand.
  • Provides information and reporting on current events.
  • Trade magazines provide information that is specific to working in the industry.
  • Articles have not been peer-reviewed and are not considered an academic resource.
  • Difficult to find where the author has found their information as reference lists and citations are often not included.
  • Authors are not subject-matter experts and may contain bias.

Source: Milwaukee Area Technical College Libraries

Library Search Tools

What is a Library Catalogue?

The purpose of a library catalogue is to assist students in searching the library's physical collection. Included within the library catalogue are:

  • Books
  • Journals and magazines
  • Videos and board games


Teaching & Learning Commons' Library Catalogue

To access the library catalogue, select the "Online Catalogue" option anywhere on our website.

What is a Database?

A library database "is a searchable electronic index of published, reliable resources" (Berkely College)Subscriptions to these databases are purchased by the library and contain access to primary and secondary sources. Research materials that are commonly found in library databases include:

  • Academic journals
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • eBooks
  • Streaming media


Library Databases at Lambton

Students and faculty can access an A-Z list of research databases that the Lambton College Teaching & Learning Commons subscribes to. This is useful if you know what you are looking for.

For students and faculty who are unsure of where to start looking, many programs have a subject guide where relevant resources are collected.


Primary Sources & Secondary Research

What are Primary Sources?

What is considered a primary source may vary by discipline. Primary sources are original research and/or documentation, which often contain first-hand information.

Examples of primary sources may include the following:

  • Scholarly research articles (original research containing: raw data; experiment results; results of focus groups, surveys, interviews, and observations);
  • Clinical reports, case studies;
  • Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews;
  • Creative works (e.g., music compositions, poetry, photography, etc.).


Primary Sources in the Library

The Teaching & Learning Commons provides students with access to a variety of databases containing primary sources.

Note: When searching for primary sources within library databases, make sure to filter your search to include academic journals, scholarly articles, and primary source documents.

What are Secondary Sources?

Secondary sources describe or discuss information from primary sources.  They can cover the same topic, but add a layer of interpretation and analysis.   

Examples of secondary sources may include the following:

  • Scholarly journal articles (dissertations, literature reviews, analyses, reports);
  • Essays;
  • Reviews;
  • Textbooks and academic books;
  • Biographies, documentaries;
  • Newspapers;
  • Dictionaries, encyclopedias.


Secondary Research in the Library

The Teaching & Learning Commons provides students with access to several databases dedicated to secondary sources. 

Note: You can also search for secondary sources in databases by filtering your search to include periodicals, trade publications, encyclopedia, or review.

The Language of Searching


Boolean is a computer science language used to create true/false statements. This language is commonly used in library databases and search engines to help researchers expand or limit their searches.


AND is used to link one or more search terms together, ensuring that all keywords must be found within retrieved resources.

Example: If you are interested in reading articles about discriminatory practices in education, you may search both terms using the AND operator:

discrimination AND education


NOT is used to narrow your search by excluding one or more search terms, and is useful if you are interested in a specific aspect of a topic or when you want to exclude a type of resource (e.g., book review).

Example: If you are researching the effects of learning disabilities in students, but keep retrieving nursing-related results, you may consider using the following search terms to exclude nursing-related resources: 

learning disability NOT nursing

You may also want to exclude instances of physical disability from your search by using the following terms: 

learning disabilities NOT physical disability


OR is used to broaden your search by telling the database or search engine that you are interested in searching for synonyms.

Example: If you are interested in researching civil rights, but want to search for additional resources on the same subject, link synonyms using the OR operator:

civil rights OR constitutional rights

Note: Do not feel limited by Boolean operators, experiment with including any combination of AND, NOT, and OR when you are searching.


If you are searching for an exact phrase, add quotation (" ") marks around two or more words. These quotation marks ensure the database or search engine retrieves results with your exact phrase.

Example: If you were researching bias in media, you would put quotation marks around your terms to retrieve results with the exact phrase:

"media bias"


Wildcards are used when the user wants to search for all variations of a word. 

Use the dollar symbol ($) to search for multiple endings to words.

Example: toxic$ will search for toxics, toxicant, toxicants, toxicity, etc.

Use the question mark symbol (?) if you are uncertain of a word's spelling or want to find multiple spellings of a word.

Example: wom?n will search for woman, women, and womyn

Note: Library databases and internet search engines tend to use wildcards differently. When searching in a database, make sure to look for a "help" link to find out how individual databases handle wildcards.


By definition, truncation refers to the shortening of a word by removing one or more letters. In databases, users may truncate down to the root word and insert an asterisk (*). Researchers use truncation to retrieve more search results.

Example: If a student was searching for a topic about Canadian job prospects, truncation may be used to expand search results around the word Canada.

Canad* will search for Canada, Canadian, Canadians, etc.

What is a Scholarly Resource?

What is a Scholarly or Academic Resource?

A scholarly resource is:

  • Written by academics or professionals with expertise in a particular field of study.
  • Written for a scholarly audience (e.g., other academics, students, etc.)
  • May be either primary or secondary research.
  • Written in a language that may be challenging for a broad audience, but easily understood by a scholarly audience.

Source: Des Moines University Library


Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Article Information

Title Titles of scholarly articles are often very specific and long, rather than broad.
Author(s) Authors will be listed with their credentials and often their affiliated organizations (e.g., university, professional organization).
Abstract An abstract is a brief summary of an article's contents.

Body Paragraphs

Introduction An introduction provides background information and the purpose of the article. An introduction will often introduce a hypothesis.
Methods/Methodology Methods describe how a study has been designed and the rationale for study design.
Results The results will describe the findings of a study.
Analysis If an article has an analysis heading, the author(s) will analyze the results of a study.
Discussion A discussion will consider relationships discovered in a study, explain results in relation to similar research, and provides "theoretical implications of the results" (Florida Atlantic University Libraries).
Conclusion A conclusion will summarize an article's findings and how these findings support or contradict a hypothesis.

Optional Information

Charts, graphs, figures, images

Depending on the type of article, the author(s) may include elements to further illustrate the article's findings. These may be charts, graphs, figures, or images.


References References can be found at the end of an article and provide an alphabetical listing (by author last name) of every cited resource.

Citations come in two common formats:

  • Footnotes are located at the bottom of a page and signified with superscript numbers.
  • In-text citations are found within the text of the article and generally follow the format of an author or authors' last name and date. For example, (Smith, 1999).

Source: Florida Atlantic University Libraries

What is Peer Review?

Peer review is an evaluation process "designed to assess the validity, quality and often the originality of articles for publication" (Wiley). Professionals from the field are invited to review (and scrutinize) an author's scholarly work. This process ensures that only high-quality research articles are published. 

The peer review process can take up to 3-4 weeks and consists of multiple (and often reiterative) steps. Wiley explains this process succinctly.

Types of Peer Review

Single Blind

Reviewers know the identities of the author(s), but the author(s) are unaware of the reviewers. This type of review is most common among the sciences.

Pros Cons
  • Provides an honest review of an article without worrying about criticism from the author.
  • Reviewers may be biased towards a well-known author and may not review honestly or accurately.
  • Reviewers may be discriminatory (based on race, nationality, gender, etc.) towards authors.

Reviewers are unaware of the identity of article author(s) and vice versa. This method is most commonly used in the social sciences and humanities.

Pros Cons
  • Article manuscripts that are scrubbed clean of any author-identifying information contain less bias and are judged fairly.
  • Since both the reviewers and authors are unaware of each others' identities, each party is protected against criticism.
  • Cleaning a manuscript of all author information (for anonymity) is difficult and is not always guaranteed.
Open Review

Both reviewers and authors know the identity of one another. Often, journals that use this method of peer review will publish both the article and review(s) together.

Pros Cons
  • Open peer review promotes greater transparency. This greater transparency translates to more accountability, civility, and improves the quality of both the final published article and review.
  • Reviewers may not want their names associated with negative reviews.
  • Some researchers may not feel comfortable openly reviewing an article written by a more senior researcher.

Source: Wiley

How to Identify a Scholarly Article

When determining whether an article is scholarly, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Examine the author(s) of the article.
    • Is the author (or authors) named?
    • Do they possess advanced degrees, such as Masters or Doctorate degrees?
    • What organization(s) is the author/are the authors affiliated with (e.g., university, hospital, etc.)
  2. How is the language in the article used?
    • Is it analytical and meant to create or enhance knowledge? If so, the article may be scholarly.
    • Is the language simple, more persuasive, or meant to report on a particular topic? If so, the article may be popular (e.g., magazine, newspaper).
  3. What is the length of the article? Scholarly articles tend to be much longer with five or more pages.
  4. How is the article structured?
    • Does the article contain an abstract?
    • What headings have the author or authors used?
    • Does it follow a scientific format (e.g., introduction, purpose, methodology, results, findings, discussion, etc.)?
  5. Are there any charts, diagrams, or graphs included in the article?
  6. Has the author or authors included a bibliography page of references cited? 
    • Are there in-text citations or footnotes?

Source: Bow Valley College Library