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Distance Services - Searching for Information

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Databases A-Z

Voyager Online Catalog

Research Guides

How do I connect to the Library from home (or work)?

Connect to the Library’s homepage by going to For some resources, such as the article databases, the Logon screen (which looks like this) will appear when you click on the link. Enter your Springfield College email username and password. If you have any trouble connecting please take a look at the Accessing Online Services Section of our Frequently Asked Questions page.

In the case of a few electronic journals you may need an additional password to connect. In most cases these will show up prominently on the screen. If not, contact the Information Desk for assistance.

A few services (ex: Refworks, ebrary) may also require you to create your own free account to use some or all of their features. Look for the “create an individual account” or similar link on the initial page of these services.

How do I find “scholarly information”?

Scholarly information is written by and for scholars in a particular field of study and is usually published in books or journals. Scholarly information rarely appears in magazines and newspapers. Before you can effectively use the Internet as a source of scholarly material, you must be able to recognize scholarly and non-scholarly (also known as popular) information.

For more information on the differences between scholarly and popular information give the Starting Smart module of the Searchpath tutorial a try. Also take a look at our Scholarly Journals vs Popular Magazines handout on our online Handout Rack.

Some of the Library’s databases contain all or mostly scholarly information, some mostly popular material, and some both. In those that have both, there are ways to limit results to the scholarly material.

What kinds of information sources are there and which one(s) should I use?

There are many sources of information. Some of the most common ones are:
  • Books

  • Magazines

  • Newspapers

  • Journals

  • Web Sites
Each of these is discussed briefly in the Starting Smart module of the Searchpath tutorial.

Where should I search for information?

There are several different ways you can decide where to start searching for information:

  • Look over the descriptions of the different databases at the Library’s Databases A-Z pages .

  • Look at the Subject Guide to Databases to help you decide what databases are in your subject area.

  • Look at the Research Guides to get suggestions for what databases and websites to start with.

  • Contact the Information Desk to discuss the best ways to find information on your topic with the Library staff.
What are some ways to search?

There are two main types of searches, keyword searching and subject searching.

Keyword searching is the default search in most databases and in most web search engines (like Google). You are doing a keyword search when you type in a word (or words) and you find items that have that word (or words) in it. It’s useful when you need to find something quickly and are not necessarily concerned with finding everything or the most relevant items on your topic. It is a “quick and dirty” search that is a good way to get started before moving on to more focused searching.

Keyword searching does have limitations. It only looks for the words you specify, so you need to brainstorm other words or phrases the author might have used for the same topic. For example a search for “teens” will not find items that use the word “teenagers,” “adolescents,” “juveniles,” etc. Also, the search will find every record where the word appears, even if it is only mentioned in passing or used in a different context.

For a major research project, you may need to switch to Subject Searching. Subject searching will help you focus specifically on your topic and find all the relevant articles, not just those that happen to contain certain words. In most databases you would start by using the Thesaurus (in some databases, it is called Subject Headings, MeSH, or another term) and browse for appropriate subject headings that relate to your topic.

Can I limit my search to Full-Text?

Yes, but you need to ask yourself, “Is it useful for me to limit to full text right now?” Finding an article in full text is convenient, but you may not be getting the most appropriate articles for your project.

In some cases, you may be required to find a certain number of journal articles for a paper. It may not be essential that you find the best or most focused information, just that you find some materials related to your topic in some way. This would be a good time to limit to full text.

Often, however, it is important to find the best information that discusses your topic. Since not all information is available in full text, if you limit your search to full text you could miss important, perhaps critical, information. Therefore in most cases you should not limit to full-text. It is much more important to find good information than to find easy information.

If you do decide to limit to full text, you can do so in most databases by using a checkbox under the search boxes, or by checking the option on the Refine Search screen.
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