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HUB291(A1) Social Science Research Fundamentals (Spring 2024)

Where to Search?

We have more information available at our finger tips than ever before, but it is easy to feel overwhelmed. How do you begin the research process? And how do you narrow down through thousands of results to find the thing you want?  This guide is intended to provide you with some tips that will help 

Where to Search? And Why? 

The BU Libraries Search (BULS) is a great place to begin your research. It searches across all of our libraries' print and online holdings, many of them licensed subscription databases, although there are many open access resources to be found as well. It also searches our research guides. This search is very broad, but you can control that search and narrow results down to peer-reviewed materials only, by format, subject or year(s).

Many of our subscription library databases focus on a singular field of study, or a particular format. Searching can be much more effective because you are already searching within a curated collection of materials within your field of interest. Most databases allow you to narrow your search to scholarly / peer-reviewed materials only, but you can narrow results down to peer-reviewed materials only, by format, subject or year(s).



Google Scholar is a powerful, broad keyword search, turning up thousands of results. There are limited abilities to narrow these results; it is not possible to limit to scholarly, peer-reviewed titles only. Be particularly careful in evaluating these results. Scholar is good for finding citations, but full-text is hit or miss. It is worth noting that Scholar is stronger in STEM fields compared to the social sciences or humanities. 

For more information about the difference between Google Scholar and Library Databases, see Rice University's blog article here

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Head, African Studies Library

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Beth Restrick
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