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AAS 6010: Research Methods: Finding Empirical Articles (Davis): Finding Empirical Articles

Summer 2020

The GSU Library buildings are currently scheduled to reopen on August 24 (as of July 29).

Access to our print books will continue to be available through curbside pickup (on the Atlanta, Dunwoody, and Clarkston campuses).
Click here for information on arranging for curbside pickup. This service is available to all GSU faculty/staff/students.

Special Collections & Archives will be open as of August 24 to researchers by appointment only; please contact them at for assistance.

We currently cannot provide physical materials (i.e. books) via GIL Express or Interlibrary Loan.

Please note that the Library North entrance/exit is currently closed due to construction. Please use the Library South entrance/exit.

All of our electronic resources remain open!

  • For a list of our online databases, see the Databases by Name list on the library's homepage.
  • You can also sort our databases by subject area using the Databases by Subject dropdown on the library's home page.
  • You can search for electronic books in the library's catalog. The Books tab on this guide has information on how to search for ebooks, and on other electronic-book collections being made available.
  • You can place Interlibrary Loan requests for articles and for book chapters/sections ONLY (which can be requested and delivered electronically). Expect a lag on these requests, and be aware that we may not be able to fulfill book chapter/section requests due to other libraries not being able to provide access to print books. This includes articles and chapters held in GSU's print collections.
  • You can view films through our three streaming services: Kanopy, Films on Demand, and SWANK. (Sadly, the library is not able to provide access to commercial streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, etc.)

And you can still get help!

  • You're here! Check out the resources on this research guide.
  • The blue "Ask Us" button on the right-hand side of this page will take you to our chat reference service, staffed by reference librarians from 9am - 9pm Monday-Thursday and 9am - 5pm Fridays.
  • We have an extensive list of library FAQs which is available for research assistance 24/7. FAQs related to using the library during social distancing are collected here.
  • You can contact me directly via email -- cilck the Email link in the box with my photo in it or email me directly at As always, email is the best way to start with me, but we can also make an appointment to meet via WebEx (rather than in person as previously)
  • I will not be available for in-person instruction or consultations until further notice, but I will be holding online drop-in office hours via WebEx, to be announced when the semester begins.

NEW! GSU Library Video Tutorial: Empirical Articles

Getting the full article

1) First, look for a direct link to the article. Specifically, look for links that say "HTML Full Text" or "PDF Full Text."
2) If you don't see one of these links, look for a button next to article you want. Clicking this button will check for full text availability outside of the database you are currently searching. A new window will open and depending on what full text formats are available through the library, you will be see several link options:
Full Text Online
Means that electronic full text of the article is available from one of GSU Library's full text providers. Click this link to proceed to full text provider's site where you will look for a link to the article. If you are off campus, you will probably be asked for your CampusID/password. Once on the full text provider site, you may need to "drill down" to a specific volume/issue to access full text.
We May Have a Copy in Print
If this link appears as the first option, then no electronic full text is available. However, the library may have a print copy of the article. Clicking this link will search the GSU Library catalog, GIL, to see if the library owns any print volumes of the journal in which the article is published. If so, you will need to check the Recent Issues or Volumes Owned fields to see what volumes/issues are available.
Request This Item Through Interlibrary Loan
If neither electronic nor print access is available at GSU Library, you can click this link to access Illiad, GSU Library's system for requesting articles (and other materials) from other libraries. This service is free for GSU students/employees.
Occasionally, people encounter problems trying to access articles from home using the "Find It @ GSU" button. Sometimes pop-up blockers prevent the "Find It" window from opening, so check your browser settings.

Find Journal Articles

Document Delivery: Now Available for Graduate Students!

If you find a journal article OR book chapter that is available at the GSU Library in print only, you have two options:

  1. You can come to the GSU Library and make a xerox copy or scan the article
  2. Graduate students can now fill out an Interlibrary Loan request for the article, and the article will be made available to you as a PDF, through the ILL system.

To fill out an Interlibrary Loan request, start here. You will need your Library ID (on the back of your PantherCard, starts with a letter).

This offer applies only to journal articles and book chapters. You cannot request this service for a full book.

Tips for Using Databases

Any database's Advanced Search page will have more sophisticated ways of searching that database.

Look for a way to select or sort by Journal Article or Article (as opposed to "Book" or "Dissertation," etc.).

Look for a way to select or sort by "Peer Reviewed" and/or "Scholarly." Sometimes these options are the same ("Scholarly/Peer Reviewed")

Most databases don't have a way to search by whether or not an article uses empirical research.

Interdisciplinary Article Databases

These databases cover a broad range of disciplines. Be sure to select the "scholarly/peer reviewed" option where available (usually on the Advanced Search page).

Race Relations Abstracts will also cover a range of disciplines, though you may also want to try more subject-specific databases for more in-depth disciplinary coverage.

Subject Article Databases

These databases focus on specific social-science disciplines. To search more broadly, try the databases in the "General Articles Databases" box.

You can also use the dropdown "Find by Subject" box in the Articles / Databases tab to identify relevant databases by subject.

Why PsycINFO is Special...

Unlike most other article databases, PsycINFO's Advanced Search page gives you the option of limiting your search to empirically based articles.

In the dropdown box marked "Methodology," select "EMPIRICAL STUDY."

Research Tips

Brainstorm possible search terms for your topic. You may need to simplify long phrases by breaking them up into separate search terms or smaller phrases.

Consult background information. Specialized encyclopedias, dictionaries and guides are a great time saving tool. Many of these are located in the Reference Collection on Library North 2.

These sources provide topical overviews, summarize basic concepts, and are filled with names and events you can use as keywords in your searching. Many encyclopedia articles also include carefully selected bibliographies that will lead you to additional resources.

ANDs, ORs and NOTs. You will need to combine your search terms with connecting terms (called "Boolean operators"), such as AND and OR. Use AND between terms to narrow a search and OR between terms to broaden a search. See the online video →  →  →  → to learn more about how to use Boolean operators.

Remember that African American studies is interdisciplinary. Check out the research guides for related topics, such as

Be flexible as you settle on a final topic. Do a few preliminary searches in the library catalog or article databases before commiting to a topic. Make sure you can locate primary sources. You may find you need to narrow or broaden your focus.

Cite as you go. Even if you're not sure whether you will use a source, it's much easier to note the citation information up front than to decide you need it later!

Searching Tips

Most databases don't have a way to search by whether or not an article uses empirical research. For this assignment, your best bet is to

  • Search the databases for articles on your chosen topic
  • Use the questions from your assignment to determine whether an article is based on empirical research or not.
  • Some keywords to use in searching and/or to look for in the abstract or article
    • quantitative
    • hypothesis
    • method
    • design
    • patterns
    • statistics or statistical
  • Charts, graphs, and tables can also be useful indicators.

Cover Your Bases

Use Boolean operaters (AND, OR, and NOT) to refine searches by combining terms:

  • Searching for ("African-American" OR "black" OR "Negro") will turn up articles including any of those terms.
  • Advanced Search options let you combine terms in multiple boxes: so ("African-American" OR "black" OR "Negro") in one box and "(film OR movies)" will cover a lot of ground.

In most databases, you can often also use a truncation symbol (often "*" or "!") to make sure you get variations of words:

  • "African-American*" will turn up both "African-American" and "African-Americans"; "film*" would turn up both "film" and "films"
  • Check the database's Help menu, or look for a link marked "Search Tips" to identify which truncation symbol that database uses.

OR searches and truncation symbols are also great for multiple spellings or punctuations (ie.: hip hop, hiphop, hip-hop)

(Want to learn more about Boolean operators? Click here for a short video!)

Is Your Topic Historical, Literary, Artistic?

Many humanities scholars do not use empirical methods. If you are looking for empirical articles in one of these subject areas, try including keywords like "quantitative," "hypothesis" etc. in these databases.

For these kinds of topics, it may also be helpful to start with a very broad interdisciplinary database like Academic Search Complete or JSTOR.

It can also be helpful to broaden your topic somewhat and try searching using broader terms in the social sciences databases listed to the left. (For example, try searching on a more generalized topic like "African-American art" in, for example, the Sociological Abstracts database, to see if any useful results come up). 

Below are the major databases for several arts and humanities fields:


If you’re unsure of which subject database to search in, try Academic Search Complete. This database covers a VERY wide range of topics, so:

  • Use Advanced Search
  • Select "Scholarly/Peer Reviewed"
  • Enter as many relevant keywords or subject terms as possible