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Art Imitates Life: The Renaissance: Research Tools

A research guide for Mr. Maher's CP World History Course

Web Search

Why Use Web Searching?

Web results may provide you with current source, that when properly evaluated, will yield useful information. Use some of the links below to get you started. If you have any questions regarding the validity of a source, please use the source evaluation guidelines below. 

Improving Web Searches

Academic (Scholarly) vs. Popular Source 


Popular Sources  Examples include: newspapers and magazines like Washington Post or The Economist. Written by journalists. Journalists are good writers and researchers, but they are not necessarily experts in the topic they are writing about.  Written for a broad audience.  Editors determine what is published  Peer Reviewed  Examples include journals like Nature or The Journal of Sociology. Written by experts  Written for other experts in the discipline and also students.  Articles are evaluated by other experts before they are considered for publication.    Scholarly Sources  Scholarly or academic sources are also written by experts in their field, but they are not necessarily evaluated by other experts before being published.

Evaluating Web Sources


Don't ask whether its a good source, but whether there is a better source available‚Äč

  • Authority: Who is publishing this information? Are they qualified to speak on the subject?
    • Typically a web source will have an author or organization as its publisher. Check the "about us"  or Google their biography section in order to find out the qualifications.
    • Can't find a bio on your author? - Google them! 
    • When looking at their credentials, what about their education or experience makes them qualified for your specific topic?
    • Is it an organization that is providing the information? Do some digging - what about them makes them qualified to publish it? (being a Dr.  or Professor is not enough - what is their doctorate in? What do they teach?)
    • If the author cites or provides outside sources or studies - do they provide you with the source of origin?

Database Search

Why Use Databases?

Databases offer sources that have been curated and evaluated for accuracy. Many of the sources available in databases are made for academic use. Information can be located by simple and advanced searching, as well as browsing by topic.

Improving Database Searches

How Database Searching Works


Research databases provide students with access to academic and reliable materials and is a necessary tool in any research project. Databases use different algorithms than Google does, so use the following tips in order to get better results:
  • Browse the Index: For this specific project, you might want to look for a catalog of important events. Gale offers historical moments categorized by decade. Feel free to explore that information under "Browse Topics" on the top left hand side of the page.
  • Spelling counts: Databases are case sensitive - therefore make sure you capitalize and spell your terms correctly
  • Avoid Stop Words:  unlike Google - databases will count commonly use words and using them will yield you too many results. Avoid a, an, the, in , of, on, are, be, if, into, which. Make sure all your terms are important to your search
  • Phrase Search: When you are typing a phrase into a database, write it in quotations (i.e. "Great Depression") - otherwise it will search it as separate terms
  • Advanced Search
    • Boolean operators: within advanced searching, you may include various operators in order to yield more specific results to complex search terms. The most basic Boolean operators are AND, OR, NOT
      • Renaissance AND sculpture
      • Renaissance NOT Harlem
      • Renaissance OR "Early Modern Age"
      • Other operators are NEAR 5, NEAR 10, NEAR 15. These will search for two keywords that are 5, 10, or 15 words away from each other
    • Within advanced search you may also modify the search fields to narrow  your result by file type, author, date of publication, language, type/subject of journal, and peer-reviewed. The options of fields varies by database. 
  • Truncation Search: in order to expand your keyword search, you may use truncation to include various word endings and spellings (ex. art* = artwork, artistic)