The techniques for finding serial articles to support your research will differ depending on whether you are a resident or a distance learning student, but in both cases you first need to understand the differences between primary and secondary research and between popular and scholarly journals. Which kind of sources will you need to support your research and what kind of journals should you be looking for? Since you are graduate students writing papers in an academic discipline for an academic institution, you will usually need primary research from scholarly journals. These are the types of articles that are usually included in subject-specific indexes and bibliographies.
When you get ready to do a search, it is helpful if you have some strategy in mind – how are you going to look for articles on your topic? No matter the format of a database or the appearance of an electronic database’s search screen, the concepts involved in searching are the same; you are asking the database to look for specific words, sometimes in a specific combination. Most search strategies depend on an understanding of the following three key concepts:
Keyword searching: A keyword search uses words from the title, abstract, author field, subject field, and anywhere else in a record to retrieve items that might be relevant to your search.
Controlled vocabulary searching: This type of search uses terms chosen by the indexer and used in the subject or descriptor fields to describe an article. These terms are usually contained in either a print or online thesaurus accessible to the searcher. A controlled vocabulary search looks only in the subject or descriptor fields; it does not search the abstract or full-text of an article.
Boolean logic: Many electronic databases use this kind of logic as a way to allow searchers to narrow, broaden and limit their searches. Common Boolean operators are AND, OR and NOT. Each operator allows the searcher to do different things. AND narrows a search, OR broadens a search and NOT allows the searcher to exclude terms from the search.
Regardless of your status at the Academy, distance learning or resident, you will need to refer to a periodical index to complete your research. In the field of sports and physical education, the most widely used index is SPORTDiscus, which is available online. According to the Sport Information Resource Centre, SPORTDiscus is:
The world’s largest, most comprehensive database of its kind in convenient, web-accessed database form. SPORTDiscus provides multidisciplinary coverage of sport, fitness and recreation publications. Updated quarterly, SPORTDiscus contains more than 385,000 bibliographic citations to information published in magazines and other periodicals, books, theses and dissertations as well as conference proceedings, research papers and videotapes…These can be easily ordered using our photocopy reprint service, SPORTExpress. SPORTDiscus is produced in cooperation with SilverPlatter Information (SIRC, 1996).
While SPORTDiscus is going to be the most valuable tool you learn to use during your time at the Academy, you should also familiarize yourself with these other indexes.
An important index for research in sport is the Physical Education Index, which the Academy Library has available in paper format as well as online. The Physical Education Index and SPORTDiscus do not necessarily duplicate citations, so if you are just beginning to look for or are having trouble finding information on your topic, it is a good idea to check this index. The Physical Education Index covers the areas of dance, physical therapy, health, recreation, sports, and sports medicine. It includes an index to book reviews, arranged alphabetically by author, after the subject index. The Physical Education Index is searchable, alphabetically, by broad subject area. For example, leadership would be a good subject search in this index. Because of its ease of use the fact that it is indexed by a broad subject category, the Physical Education Index is a good index to refer to if you are having trouble limiting your topic.
The United States Sports Academy owns an important periodical index for students doing research in the management field – ABI-Inform Global. Distributed by UMI, this cd-rom contains citations and abstracts for articles from over 350 journals in management, marketing and business. It is not necessarily sport-related information, but there is information on sports topics in this index. Both master’s and doctoral students should consult ABI for any research in the areas of management and marketing. Like SPORTDiscus, it is searched using keywords describing your topic.
Infotrac is a general interest, full-text database, covering over 1,500 popular and scholarly journals. Infotrac’s coverage is broad; it is not limited to any specific field. Sports are covered in the Infotrac database but not in any depth. This is a very good database to use when you are just beginning to collect information on your topic but are not sure of the focus.
Infotrac is comprised of three separate databases: the Expanded Academic ASAP, the General BusinessFile and the Health Reference Center. These supply citations, abstracts or full-text articles. Another much-used database which also contains many full-text articles is EBSCOhost. Both are available to us at a very much reduced cost through NAAL.
The library can access PubMed (from the National Library of Medicine, includes MEDLINE), CARL (indexing seven million articles from over 17,000 journals–there is a fee), ERIC (the Education Resource Information Center –mostly concerning the field of education), MEDSCAPE (free, but requires you to register) and BioMedNet.