In order to determine appropriate search terms that will effectively capture the body of literature on your topic, you must first have a background knowledge of the topic. So the first step is to find some background material. You can use sources like encyclopedias, review articles, and books to gain a better understanding of the topic. See the boxes below for where to find these sources.
The Cornell University Library Catalog allows you to search for materials across the many libraries that make up Cornell University Library.
You can search by keywords, title, author or call number using the drop-down menu to the right of the search box.
The results page will list Cornell holdings and will be sorted by relevance by default. You can sort by year, author and title using the drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner of the search results.
You can search the holdings of libraries worldwide by choosing "Library Worldwide" under the Expand your search menu on the left side. Consider Interlibrary Loan or Borrow Direct for access to non-Cornell holdings.
Review articles are scholarly articles that describe and summarize a body of research or knowledge on a particular topic. These can be useful in getting to know more about a topic and beginning to understand where gaps in the literature exist (i.e., what questions still need to be answered).
Review articles can be found in the many scholarly research databases available through the library. See the "Searching the Literature" section of this guide to learn more about the databases that cover topics such as sociology, psychology and public policy.
To find review articles, do a search in one of these database, for example Web of Science. Most databases will allow you to refine your search by document type. Choose 'Reviews' to narrow your search to review articles only.
Note: Reveiw articles and peer-reviewed articles are not the same! Peer-reveiw refers to scholarly literature that has gone through a rigorous review and revision process prior to publication. This can include review articles, but also empirical studies (which are NOT review articles).
In Web of Science:
Encyclopedias contain useful introductory and overview material on various topics. Try searching general terms on your topic in the following encyclopedia and e-book collections.
CQ's authoritative and balanced coverage includes information articles on American government, politics, history, public policy, and current affairs.
You can search general databases like the ones below or online newspapers or blogs to find popular articles that report on the latest research for topic ideas and background information. However, be aware that many popular sources distort research and it's always best to go to the original source.
Cornell has a partnership with Google and has scanned lots of books which are available to you online.