4 Sources for Conducting Academic Research in the Digital Age
Long gone are the days of being limited to your college’s library for academic research. With the internet came new ways of searching scholarly acceptable sources—from peer-reviewed articles in online academic journals to eBooks and research databases. Even social media platforms, at one time widely shunned by professors, have become useful research sources.
The downside to the incredible amount of scholarly acceptable sources available within a few clicks is the sheer volume of information out there—it can be daunting to know where to start without a few reliable go-to resources up your sleeve. So that’s exactly what we’ve compiled: four suggestions of solid sources to start your academic research online.
NB: Acceptable academic research sources can vary by professor, so it’s a good idea to check your course syllabus and/or consult your instructor before beginning research to ensure you’re adhering to their policies.
- Google Scholar
There are thousands of academic journals online covering a broad array of disciplines. Google Scholar is a great place to start. You can use this free tool to search peer-reviewed articles in academic journals as well as other sources including books, abstracts and court opinions, professional societies, online repositories, universities, and other web sites. Google Scholar even provides a list of where else in the literature a particular article is cited, which is handy for continuing your research by reading related content. It’s important to note, though, that you’ll only be able to access the articles you find via Google Scholar if they are freely available online. In most cases you’ll be able to read the abstract, but to access the full text you may need a subscription to the respective journal, which may be available via your university’s library but not directly from Google Scholar.
- Data Published by Government Agencies
The U.S. Census Bureau website should be an essential part of your research toolkit. In addition to its primary mission of conducting the U.S. Census every 10 years, the Bureau conducts more than 100 surveys of households and businesses across the country annually. These surveys go far beyond population and demographic information; just a sampling of the areas the Census Bureau collects rich data on include employment, housing, crime, consumer expenditures, and health. The Bureau makes its vast wealth of information publicly available and easy to sort, analyze, and visualize with free tools and apps on its website.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is another website you’ll want to bookmark and reference often in your research. The BLS website contains dozens of up-to-date maps, tables, databases, and calculators for finding and sorting hundreds of data sets related to consumer pricing, national and regional employment, labor productivity, and working conditions.
Other agencies that compile and publish statistical data valuable for academic research include:
- Bureau of Justice Statistics (crime-related data)
- Bureau of Transportation Statistics (data related to the country’s transportation systems)
- National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (data on research and development, STEM education, and the science and engineering workforce)
- National Center for Education Statistics (information on the condition of American education)
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office of Policy Development and Research (data related to housing needs, market conditions, and community development issues).
- Research Databases Through Your School Library
University libraries often have subscriptions to research databases such as ProQuest, EBSCO, and LexisNexis Academic. These powerful tools allow students to search and access billions of premium, vetted documents, eBooks, and other resources ranging in topic from news, legal, medical, business, and more—even if these documents would have been behind a paywall if accessed via Google or another search engine. These research databases are extremely useful (and extremely expensive), so be sure to take advantage of free student access through your university library’s subscriptions.
- Social Media
Just 15 years ago, the only ways to source a quote from a subject matter expert was with an in-person interview, a phone call, or an email. But with nearly 3.5 billion people—including world leaders, religious figures, and scientists and scholars at the top of their fields—using social media in 2019, sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can be great resources to find first-hand quotes as well as news and official statements from organizations and government agencies. Tip: use the advanced search features on these sites to help narrow down the results to only the posts most relevant to your research.
If you’re looking to advance your education with an online degree or certificate, UTEP Connect has the programs aligned with the skills employers value most in 2019. Plus, every UTEP Connect online student has full access to the UTEP Library, which has subscriptions to leading academic journals and databases to make conducting research for coursework easy and efficient. We invite you to explore our online programs and see what it will take to make that next step into your profession. If you are interested in learning more about our team and UTEP Connect’s 100% online undergraduate, master’s, and graduate certificate programs, reach out. An enrollment counselor will contact you directly.