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Step 5: Finding and Evaluating Scholarly Literature

Finding and evaluating scholarly literature involves looking for the major authors, arguments, analyses, and debates on your research puzzle. Who do others refer to most in their footnotes? Which names keep coming up? What aspects of the subject do scholars find important enough to disagree about? This can be like chasing your tail - "who wrote the best research on my question?" - "If I knew, I wouldn't be asking!"

Views differ on how to start locating scholarly literature on your research question. Some professors advise to start with the library catalog or the web. Others recommend you begin with consultation since it's at the beginning of your project that it is most useful and timesaving to check with someone who is familiar with the subject. This will often be a professor, a TA or a librarian who knows the subject. The university is a community of people spending their lives studying - use it! However, you will need to do some preparatory work before going to meet with a professor for the first time - (see Step 7: Making Faculty Contacts)

In locating resources, be persistent, creative, and adventurous. If a particular book or article is not available at Tufts, use Tisch Library's interlibrary loan services:

  1. For books: search the Boston Library Consortium Catalog. If a Consortium library owns the book, you can request that it be sent here. You'll have it in a few days.

  2. If your material isn't at a BLC Library or you're looking for periodicals: place your request through ILLiad, Tufts libraries new interlibrary loan system. It's fast and very easy to use.
Tips Did you also know that Tisch, in conjunction with the Boston Library Consortium, offers an online reference helpdesk 24/7? Check it out on the Tisch Library homepage under "ASK 24/7": http://www.library.tufts.edu/tisch/

Tisch Library should be your first stop to locate scholarly literature, even when you are abroad. To help you navigate through its system, Tisch has developed the following tutorials and research tools to help you conduct research on international topics:

  1. Finding Books at Tisch and Beyond (pdf)
    Provides information and links to searchable databases to locate books at Tisch and libraries around the country.

  2. Libraries and Archives Around the World (pdf)
    Provides links to resource catalogs from libraries and archives around the world.

  3. Scholarly Research Resources in International Relations (HTML page)
    Provides information on, and links to, scholarly materials (journals, periodicals, databases, citation indexes, archives, abstracts, etc.)

  4. How to Use RefWorks to Save/Cite Sources (pdf)
    Tutorial on using RefWorks, a reference management program, to save and cite scholarly sources.

  5. General Searching Information (pdf)
    Quick tips to improve the success of your searches.


Tips Evaluating scholarly literature is a lot more than just constructing a bibliography. You should read the "core research" on your question with an aggressive mind and ask how you can answer the same research question better!


Research Milestones

Things to do this academic year.



Planner Checklist

Track your research progress.



Research Notepad

Keep track of research jottings.