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JSTOR - Finding Relevant Articles

  1. Develop Keywords
    1. Define your topic
    2. Pick out core concepts.
    3. Identify synonyms for each concept (if possible).
  2. Access JSTOR (the link in the box above or)
    1. Library Home Page -
    2. Databases
    3. J > JSTOR (On-campus = direct access; off-campus - enter your user ID & passphrase)
  3. Set up the Search
    1. Go to "Advanced Search"
    2. Narrow by: Articles
    3. Journal Filter: Narrow by Discipline and/or Journal: Political Science, Middle Eastern Studies, etc.
  4. Enter your Keywords
    1. At the top of the page, enter the keywords you identified earlier.
    2. Core concepts get connected with AND, synonyms with OR.
    3. Click Search.
  5. Find Relevant Articles
    1. Review your results (NOTE: JSTOR searches for your keywords in the full-text of the article. So some results will NOT be relevant to your topic.)
    2. If any titles look relevant, open the article and skim the first couple of paragraphs. This will allow you to decide whether to keep that article or move on to the next result.
    3. Databases rank results by relevance, like Google, so after you get past the first couple of pages of results, if you don't see anything relevant, then you need to revise your search.
  6. Revise Your Search
    1. Look at your results. If even one was relevant, examine it closely. What keywords and terms do they use? Is there a synonym you didn't think about? If nothing was relevant - rethink your keywords.
    2. Go back to Step Four and MODIFY your search. Use what you learned from your search to help you. Change keywords or add synonyms.
    3. Search again (Step Five).
  7. Evaluate Your Results
    1. Once you have identified a relevant result the last and MOST IMPORTANT step is to EVALUATE the source. Since you searched JSTOR as indicated, this should be a scholarly article, but that doesn't mean it's the best article for your paper. These are the things you need to examine for each source.
      1. Who = Author. Is the author credible? What is their area of expertise? How are they qualified to talk about the topic?
      2. What = Type of Document and Overall Tone. Look at the bibliography, does it list scholarly and primary sources, data, major works in the field? If the sources look suspicious, then the article might be as well.
      3. Where = Source of Information (Where it Appears). Does the journal title seem credible? Have you heard of it before? If not, do a quick Google search to see if the journal is reputable. Most major journals will have a Wikipedia entry (or webpage) which will tell you quickly if it is peer-reviewed, a major journal in the field, etc.
      4. When = Publication Date. When was this article published? And is it still relevant? You may have a credible scholarly article that is not suitable for your paper because it is too old and no longer relevant to the topic.
      5. Why = Author's Purpose for Writing the Article. Is there mention of why the author wrote this article? Did the research have a funding source? If either of these is present and seems biased, then it may not be the best evidence for your paper.
      6. How = Author's Method of Gathering and Analyzing Data. Does the author present data? If so, does it make sense? Do the tables and graphs present the data accurately?