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Research: Joining the Conversation

Google Scholar Search

Google Scholar Search

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Sources as Seeds worksheet: offers guidance on using one relevant source to find more.  


Thank you to librarian Wade M. Bishop of the Univ. of Toledo for permission to adapt his original guide

What's been Said? What's left to Say?

Other researchers have likely been discussing the general topic you're researching. Explore what research is already out there as you develop and refine your questions.  

This will help you:

  • Not duplicate effort by 'discovering' something that is already known
  • Find out what approaches have already been tried, and learn from their mistakes
  • Determine what the 'open questions' are...and what areas are still unknown
  • Relate your ideas to those of others in your research community
  • Produce research that makes a new and interesting contribution to the field


This page offers strategies to help you start your research and find highly cited works that can help you learn more about your topic and the current scholarly conversations surrounding it. 

How to Start Your Search

General Tips

  • Start locally: Talk with your instructor or advisor. Would they recommend certain readings or individuals to contact? 
  • Get help: Contact a reference librarian or schedule a one-on-one consultation. We can help you formulate a search strategy or refine your research topic. 
  • Look for overviews: General overviews (often called Review Articles or Literature Reviews) summarize recent work in your field. Many library databases allow you to limit results to 'review' articles. For more help on finding reviews, visit the Literature Reviews guide from UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Research Tools 

The Libraries subscribe to both general and discipline-specific databases. For many subjects there may be one best database; for other topics there may be several. These resources are generally useful places to begin. Afterward you may wish to look at more specialized resources.

  • OneSearch@IU (an interdisciplinary database that searches most of the Libraries' databases at once). 
  • IUCAT, the Libraries catalog (includes books, journal titles, and multi-media)  
  • Google Scholar (Google search for only scholarly material)
  • Contact reference librarians for assistance in choosing and searching research tools.

Finding Highly-Cited Works

Highly-cited papers reflect work that has significant influence on scholarly conversations, since they show what papers have been referenced often in other publications. These papers may be older (since the longer a paper has been around, the more chance it has had to be cited), but they often reflect important ideas and approaches that may have changed the direction of the field.

Scopus and Google Scholar allow you to see how often something is cited and where. 

Note: Scopus and Google Scholar are great ways to see connections between sources and authors. However, their "cited by" lists are not fully comprehensive. Scopus also focuses on the natural and social sciences and has less information on humanities sources.  

In Scopus, to sort results by citation frequency find the "Sort on" option at the upper right of the results page and select "Cited by."


When looking at a single information record in Scopus, you can view who has cited the record in the "Cited by" box in the upper right. 

In Google Scholar, results are arranged in an order that takes the number of times cited into account. Click on "Cited by" to see sources that cite a source.