Help Overview / FAQ

The following questions and answers may help to provide you with the direction and resources you are seeking. For additional assistance, feel free to ask us; a librarian is here to help. 

Where can I go to get help from a librarian?

You can either visit the research assistance portion of the Information Desk on the entrance level of the library, discover online through Course and Research Help what we have to offer, or ask us and a librarian will get back to you as soon as possible.  

How do I choose a topic?

Your assignment will be your starting point, and the requirements will tell you what types of ideas will make an appropriate topic. You can generate ideas by discussing the assignment with a professor, classmates, and exploring what the library has to offer on the topic through our subject listings. If you are still stuck, ask us; a librarian is here to help.

How do I refine my topic?

You will find information on the following ways to refine your topic search in our research tutorials

  • Narrow – In order to narrow a topic, it is best to think about what you know, and what you don’t know about the topic. What are the aspects that interest you within the overall topic? What is the date range for the topic? These subtopics may help you narrow your searching options.
  • Broaden – Look for parallels and opportunities for broader associations. Are there larger issues at play in your topic? These broader associations may give you an opportunity to expand your research options.
  • Brainstorm – Look for ideas related to your topic to develop relevant connections.
  • Identify Keywords – Before you give up on a specific topic, consider compiling keywords to help you perform better searches. Figure out the language being used in the literature, and start searching that. Use synonyms with “OR” in between to search all possibilities.
  • Explore Background Information – Read about your topic in broad terms through specialized encyclopedias as well as checking out which LibGuides the WPI Library has under our various subject listings.

For further assistance, ask us or request a research consultation; a librarian can help you refine your topic.

What major databases and research tools in my field does the Gordon Library have access to?

Depending on the area of research, you will find specialty databases and journals listed by subject in Databases & Electronic Resources. The databases and journal providers we subscribe to include important resources on subjects taught at WPI, such as Business and Biomedical Engineering. For further assistance, ask us; a librarian will gladly assist you in locating the best databases for your topic. 

How can I evaluate the resources I find?

There are a number of questions you, as a researcher, must ask in evaluating a resource. You need to identify the authority of the resource, the scope of the resource, the currency (or date of publication), purpose (or who the intended audience is), the accuracy, and the usability. The library’s online guide to evaluating sources should prove very helpful. 

Where can I find information on my research topic?

The library subscribes to an incredible amount of paid content that is not accessible via web search engines. By exploring our Databases and Electronic Resources, you will find more than 150 databases to search, by title, subject, and by type of resource. A good starting place is Summon, which searches across a large number of library databases. You can also search library databases individually for the best research on your topic. 

For further assistance with searching our Databases and Electronic Resources, ask us; a librarian is here to help. 

How do I find an article in a specific journal?

You can look up the journal or publication by title within the library’s journal search. Check the dates to determine if the WPI library provides the specific article you need. If you are not finding the dates of coverage at WPI, consider using Interlibrary Loan to obtain the item. 

What is a peer-reviewed article?

Peer-reviewed or refereed articles are critically assessed by scholars in the author’s field or specialty before they are accepted for publication. A peer-reviewed article is written by researchers or professors and published in a peer-review journal only after scholars in that field do a blind review of the articles submitted. This review process helps the editorial board decide what should be published. It also helps ensure the articles are based on sound research practices within a discipline. Some scholarly publications don’t go through peer-review and rely upon knowledgeable editorial boards.

A good example of a peer-reviewed or “refereed journal” is Environment and Urbanization.

See more on evaluating sources, or ask us

How do I determine whether or not an article is peer-reviewed?

First, you need to check if it is an article. Book reviews and editorials appear in peer-reviewed journals but do not go through the same review process. Peer-reviewed articles tend to have a larger number of citations, an abstract, notes indicating the submission and acceptance of an article, formal language, and organization around sections such as methodology, results, and conclusion. If you want to be certain that the journal in which the article appears is peer-reviewed, you can explore the homepage of the journal online. You can limit your searching in Summon to only search for peer-reviewed articles using the left hand navigation.

See more about evaluating sources; if you still need assistance, ask us. A librarian is glad to help. 

How can I search for past WPI projects?

Past projects are available by searching the library website. Find the undergraduate research projects you are looking for from the MQP & IQP reports submitted in print and electronically. Search print versions from 1999 to 2007 and electronic versions from 2004 to the present.  

Ask us for additional information and help. 

I found a really great scholarly paper, right on topic; how do I find others like it?

Find out if anyone has cited that paper since it was published by using Web of Science (search for paper, then click on “Times Cited”) or Google Scholar (search for paper, then click on “Cited by.”). Look for other papers by that author. Investigate the journal; if it has a specialized focus, like Journal of Urban Studies, there may be other papers on your topic area. See our LibGuides for more ideas.

How do I use WPI’s FullText Finder?

FullTextFinder allows the researcher to "link" from within an online citation in a database to either the full-text reference, InterLibrary Loan to request from another library, or WorldCat to see other nearby libraries that own the item.

How do I properly cite sources?

The citing and citation tools page on the website has information about proper citation and links to a guide that includes resources on proper citation format. You can also use one of the two citation management tools the WPI library subscribes to, RefWorks and EndNote Web, to make citing easier. The library offers training sessions for both RefWorks and EndNote Web.

For additional help with citing sources, ask us; we’d be happy to help. 

How do I change my Google scholar preferences to include works available through WPI?

It is best to access Google Scholar is through the library so that your search will include restricted items and those paid for by WPI Library subscriptions. If you search, you will get access to WPI materials as well. 

How do I get articles or books I need that the Gordon Library doesn’t have?

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) is a service through which Gordon Library obtains from other libraries books, articles, conference papers, and media that WPI does not currently own. The service is available to students, faculty, and staff, and there are a variety of ways to place requests.    

I published a paper; how do I find out if it's ever been cited by anyone?

Citation searching can be accomplished through specific databases. In Web of Science a “cited reference search” can be performed. Google Scholar, CiteSeer, IEEE Xplore, JSTOR- Citation Locator, MathSciNet, PsycINFO, ScienceDirect, and SciFinder all also have means of tracking citations. Refer to our Research Impact LibGuide for more information.

How do I connect from databases, eJournals, and eBooks from off campus?

You can access all the resources the library has to offer through the library’s website. We use EZproxy, which will ask for your username and password once you access the item. Proxy server allows WPI community members to access library subscription databases from off campus. Check WPI's proxy server instructions for the steps to set up your web browser. 

Can I use other area libraries in my research?

WPI students, faculty, and staff may borrow directly from over a dozen local libraries by obtaining an Academic & Research Collaborative (ARC) card. Bring your valid WPI ID to the Gordon Library Circulation Desk to get your ARC card. You will have access to a variety of libraries at Clark University, College of the Holy Cross, Assumption College, and many others. Your ARC card is valid through the end of the academic year. 

Can I access WPI resources on a mobile device?

Yes, learn more about your options in the LibGuide on mobile resources; this guide will help you find information on, and gain access to, mobile databases, Cross Platform apps, iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad specific apps, Android specific apps, eBook Readers, and electronic book databases. 

For further information or assistance with any of these issues, ask us; we are here to help.

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