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Example: Beginning Your Research

Using the topic of Matt Groening and the Simpsons, let's find information that provides academic viewpoints related to the cultural significance of this artist and his work.

1. Start with the OPAC, the Library catalog, to find books.

Because this database is relatively small, try a key word search to see the broadest range of what's available.

Simpsons - OPAC header

 

 

You'll get 25 items, a reasonable number to look through. Look carefully at each title. Some are comics written by Matt Groening, some DVDs, some are electronic books. There are one or two items that may provide an academic treatment of the subject.

Leaving Springfield :The Simpsons and the Possibilities of Oppositional Culture is around #10 on the list. Click on the title which is a link to the full record for this book. You'll find clues about its scope. Notice that the publisher is Wayne State University. Read the Table of Contents. From chapter titles, you'll easily see that this is likely a scholarly or academic source.

 

  Simpsons - Complete Guide (cover)

 

 

Simpsons- Leaving Springfield (cover)

 

2. Next, try the databases.

Click on the link to EBSCO Art Source.

Databases

 

 

Enter your search term in the search box.

This database is much bigger than the OPAC. A keyword search on the Simpsons will result in more than 1800 results.

ebsco simpsons

3. Look carefully at the first 40 results or so.

Many are "false hits" for this topic. That means that they aren't about Matt Groening's Simpsons. They are about other people named Simpson.

Notice that you can check the boxes for Full Text and Scholarly/Peer Reviewed and hit update. That will limit the number of hits to about 164. But there are still way too many false hits.

So, add another term to the search box, like "tv."

You will then see only 3 results. MUCH better!

 



 

 

Simpsons - EBSCO result


If you click this title, you'll see that it's a link to the complete  ABSTRACT or  summary which says:

Reading the interplay between text, audience, and institutional context, this article critically examines the distinctiveness of The Simpsons. It explores how the animated series uses textual strategies that are interesting to and challenging for both (postmodern) critical theory and processes of interpretation , including existing critical writing on the program.

From this ABSTRACT you can tell that this article contains a critical or theoretical analysis of the Simpsons.

  

4. Compare the results from database with what you find through Google.

Because the web is so enormous, using more terms is wise. Even so, the results are over 1.5 million hits.

Notice that a lot of fan sites come up. Most of these will not be useful for an academic paper.

Wikipedia comes up. Fine for background information, but it's really very superficial and fact-based. Look at the article and compare it with the scholarly articles that were retrieved through the database. Nothing in Wikipedia comes close to that level of writing.

The web is good for getting ideas and basic background information. But, you need more than facts for college level research papers. Books and journal articles with scholarly writing will be necessary.
 

 LIB simpsons google