Answered By: askalibrarian askalibrarian
Last Updated: Aug 16, 2016     Views: 11

It is natural to get frustrated throughout the research process. Try not to get discouraged, we will do our very best to help you! I will admit that you have asked a very difficult question with a variety of possibilities: to that end, I would encourage you to call us at the Research Services desk (724) 738-2641 or visit us at the Research Help Desk on the 1st floor of Bailey Library if you need more help with this question. However, if this infeasible, you are welcome to continue asking questions through Ask A Librarian and we will do our very best to answer them. I apologize as this answer is quite long: you've asked some really good questions and I want to help you get un-lost! :) What I'm going to do is try to address your e-mail piece by piece with my suggestions.

I have no idea how to find this.

You're on the right track starting with EBSCO databases and are correct in your idea that EBSCO should be a good source. I would also recommend JSTOR (more on that in a moment), but much of my response will start with EBSCO. 

It seems like nothing will let me access any of the articles...

It sounds as if you've been able to get into EBSCOhost and try some searches already, but if you haven't been able to (for example, because you've encountered access issues while you are off-campus) write back and we can review the access procedures, as that is a separate issue.

In EBSCOhost if you can read an abstract or description of an article, but don't have full-text access, try clicking the Check Availability link associated with that article. If we have full-text access through another database, there will be an "article" link you can click to gain access. If we do not, Step 2 is to search our catalog to see if we have the article in print by searching the library catalog to see if Bailey Library has the issue of the journal it appears in.

Step 3 is to request the article through Interlibrary Loan. If you click that link, and enter your SRU username and password, you can request our Interlibrary Loan personnel retrieve the article for you. This may take several days, but in most cases they will locate a digital copy of the article for your use. It may take several days because we will be requesting the article from a university or college that does subscribe to the material.

We may not be able to provide immediate access, but in most cases we can provide access to almost any material you might find in an EBSCO database or other database Bailey Library provides. If you want articles you can access immediately, make sure you are searching for full-text articles only.

...or search by topic.

To search by topic in an EBSCO database, try an advanced search. On the screen that follows after clicking advanced search, enter keywords for the topic or subject you want to search for, and under the "Select a Field" drop down menu, select "SU Subject Terms". You could refine this search to a more topical selection by using Boolean Operators and additional keywords. 

For example, you might want to review all articles with "letter-by-letter" in the subject. You could follow my advice in the previous paragraph, but let's say you get too many results and your real topic has to do with letter-by-letter reading by adolescents. You could use "letter-by-letter reading" as a subject term, and in the bar below it, make sure it's connected with "AND" and add the term "Adolescents". You might want to make adolescents another subject term, or if you just want articles connected with the subject "letter-by-letter" that mention "adolescents" somewhere in the full text of the article or description of the article, leave "adolescents" as a topic you "Select a field" for. You may want to add additional keywords that could describe adolescents to help ensure you find articles you need: adolescents OR children OR teenagers, for example. This would return articles that have "letter-by-letter" as a subject and mention adolescents OR Children or teenagers". 

Keywords are Critical -

Article Database Searching -

There may be other helpful videos in the Video Tutorials Libguide:

Another option you can try is after performing your initial search and (hopefully) getting some results, using the limiters on the left side of the search page to add terms to your search and reduce the number of articles you have to deal with. For this I'd recommend using the "Subject" tab part way down the left side of the screen. This will tell you other subjects associated with your search. In this case, it might be critical to try it this way because your keywords (whole text) and (letter-by-letter) are good keywords, but also common words that might find there way into articles that have nothing to do with the theories you're actually searching for. Using this method I was able to find out about "letter-by-letter reading". I think that relates directly to your topic, but not really knowing anything about whole text theory or letter-by-letter theory I'm not entirely sure, so please feel free to write back or otherwise contact us if I'm wrong and we can try other possibilities.

I'm totally lost and very frustrated. I thought EBSCO would be a good source, but it says that I don't have access to the articles. Please help me!

If you are not finding anything using EBSCO products, there are several possibilities:

1. The EBSCO database selected (Examples include Academic Search Complete, Education Source, Communication Source) does not index periodicals that address the subject. I searched Academic Search Complete and found nothing. However, when I tried searching all the EBSCO databases at once, (I'll talk about how to do that in a bit!) I found some articles.

2. We need to reconsider our search terms: most academic search engines can be very literal. For example, I tried a search for "letter-by-letter theory" in all EBSCO databases and found nothing. When I searched for "letter-by-letter" I did find some articles- it seems several are indexed using "letter-by-letter" or "letter-by-letter reading" as a subject. 

3. There is no information on the subject out there (highly unlikely, but occasionally possible if we are searching for really really really specialized information: no one may have done a study of our topic or published the information!). In this case, as these are two theories and your professor has asked you to find fifteen to twenty-five articles, odds are there is at least a decent amount of academic information on the subject, but it may not be easy to find.

Now, I'll address each of the reasons we might not be finding any articles in our search, based on the possibilities above.

1. Choosing the Right EBSCO Database - If we're not sure what EBSCO database to try, it may be a good idea to try them all or try several. To do this, from the EBSCO screen, click on "Choose Databases" and then select those databases that sound as though they relate to your subject OR select all databases. I do not often recommend selecting all databases, however in the case of your question, I found it very helpful because I was not initially certain what subject area your topics "Whole Text Theory" and Letter-by-letter theory" fell under. The advantage of this is that if I begin to find articles addressing my topic, I can also see which EBSCO databases have those articles. I could then just search those databases next time to have an easier time sifting through the results or to try to take advantage of some of the specialized features those databases may have. 

Based on my search for your topics, I'd recommend trying Education Source, MLA International Bibliography, PsycINFO, and Biological Abstracts.

Another thing you could try that might help you find the database perfect for your needs (And this includes other databases Bailey Library subscribes to, not just EBSCO ones) is to try our LibGuides. They are accessible through the Bailey Library webpage: select the subject relating most to your major and try the LibGuide's Database suggestions.  

2. Choosing Correct Search Terms - I tried searching for "Whole Text Theory" and Letter-by-letter theory" by subject and found very little. However, I had a lot more success searching for "Letter-by-letter" and then after reviewing the first group of results, using the limiters on the left side of the screen to refine my search further: I scrolled down to subjects on the left side of the screen and refined my subject search by clicking those subjects that had the most articles or sounded the most like they might deal with my topic: for example, I selected reading. This gave me 43 or so articles that dealt with "letter-by-letter reading" as a subject. 


I know that is a lot, but I have a few other suggestions to try.

1. JSTOR - JSTOR (accessible through Bailey Library's articles/databases page and LibGuides) is a little more cumbersome to use than EBSCO, but indexes and provides full text article to a lot of journals we do not have with EBSCO products. If you're not finding what you need using EBSCO, or you just want to add to the information you've found, I recommend trying it.

2. Google Scholar - (accessible at Google Scholar searches academic journals and other material for your search terms. If you are on-campus, Google Scholar will also tell you which articles you can access through Bailey Library's holdings by providing a link to the right of your search results. If you can't access the article in it's full text form through Google Scholar, you can always jot down the title, publication, page numbers, etc. from the information Google Scholar gives you and request it via interlibrary loan.

3. Video Tutorials - This doesn't relate directly to finding your sources, but if anything I mentioned was confusing or you'd like to see it done, we have a series of video tutorials that were recently completed, accessible here:

There may be other helpful videos in the Video Tutorials Libguide:

In particular, I'd recommend:

Keywords are Critical -

Article Database Searching -

Last but not least, and this may apply whether you are a Distance Learning student or not, try the Articles and Databases tab in this LibGuide: it kind of details some of the search problems you might encounter and might present the information better than I have been able to do. There are also pictures of some of the things I mentioned above, like the Article Linker (Check Availability Link) and the advanced searches.


I hope this reply is of help to you. If it isn't, or if it starts you on the right track but you have other questions please let us know by submitting another request through Ask a Librarian, calling us at (724) 738-2641, or stopping in to see us at the Research Services Desk. A Librarian is available for walk-in appointments (No advance notice necessary) from 10:00am-8:00pm Monday through Thursday, 1:00am-4:00pm Friday, and 1:00pm-8:00pm on Saturday.

Good luck, and don't be afraid to ask if you need additional help. If you do write back to us, please let us know what your major is and what subject/class this is for, as this might help me generate additional ideas where you can find info on these theories. I can also introduce you to your subject librarian: they might have a better idea where to find the information as well. Good luck!


Rocco V. Cremonese

Business/Student Engagement Librarian



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