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Researching and Writing a Paper: Google Fun

This guide is about how to start, research, write, and format, a paper.

Google Scholar

Helpful Google Scholar Tips:

  • Finding recent papers - Search results are sorted by 'relevance', not by date. [Relevance is determined by looking at all of the words in the full text of each document, where it was published, who it was written by, as well as how often and how recently it has been cited in other scholarly literature.]
    • To find newer articles, look at the left sidebar: click "Since Year" to show only recently published papers, sorted by relevance; click "Sort by date" to show just the new additions, sorted by date (you can click the envelope icon to have new results periodically delivered by email).  'Advanced Search' offers the ability to choose a date range, and many more options (click the three lines in the upper left for access to 'Advanced Search').
  • Locating the full text of an article - Abstracts are freely available for most of the articles Google Scholar finds. Unfortunately many articles are behind 'subscription walls'.
    A few things to try:
    • Click a library link to the right of the search result - "FindIt@RTC"
      [forthcoming, indefinitely 'soon', but before we get the "FindIt@RTC" link working, if you find an article through Google Scholar that is not available 'from' Google Scholar one easy way to search for it is to use the Library's 'OneSearch', which searches most - but not all! - of the books and articles/databases we have purchased or subscribe to.  If you experience even the smallest amount of frustration please consult the library staff!];
    • Try clicking a link labeled [PDF] to the right of the search result;
    • Try clicking "All versions" under the search result and see if you can get the article from one of the alternative sources;
    • Try clicking "Related articles" or "Cited by" under the search result to explore similar articles.
  • Getting better answers: If you're new to the subject you are researching; it may be helpful to use vocabulary from readings assigned in class, a Wikipedia article on the topic will also provide/explain some terminology (and - as always - look up the words you don't know, if you are not familiar with the subject it is hard to guess the meaning of a word from context).
  • Search results too specific for your needs? Look at the "References" sections of the articles. Most articles reference several works that are more general and sometimes also some more specific ones. References are also a good place to look for related vocabulary and ideas.
  • Search results too basic for you? Click "Cited by" in the search results screen to see newer articles that reference the article you were looking at. These newer articles will often be more specific. (Additionally, a paper that is 'too basic' will sometimes cite a more detailed and specific article.)
  • Explore! There's rarely a single answer to a research question. Click "Related articles" or "Cited by" to see closely related work, or search for the author's name and see what else they have written (authors that write a useful article on your topic will often write several articles on several aspects of your topic. Look up what else any co-authors have written too).
  • Search by author? Use the "author:" operator, e.g., author:"R Caudill" or author:"Rebecca Caudill". (Or use the "Return articles authored by" option in Advanced Search.)
  • Search by title? Put the title in quotations: "The origins and psychology of human cooperation".
  • How do I sort by date?
    • You might get better results if you search only recent articles, but still sort them by relevance, not by date. e.g., in the left sidebar of the search results page click "Since 2018", or whatever year you think is best (or click on 'Custom Range').
    • To see the absolutely newest articles first, click "Sort by date" in the sidebar. (If you use this feature a lot, you may also find it useful to setup email alerts to have new results automatically sent to you.)
    • Note: On smaller screens that don't show the sidebar, these options are available in the dropdown menu labelled "Year", right below the search button.
  • How do I search for court opinions? Select the "Case law" option on the homepage or in the side drawer on the search results page.
  • What does the "Related articles" link do? It finds articles similar to your search result. (Google Scholar's concept of 'similar' may not be quite the same as yours, you may need to look at several 'similar' articles before you find something that works for you.)
  • Where is advanced search? Click the three horizontal lines in the upper left, to the left of 'Google Scholar'. The advanced search window lets you search in the author, title, and publication fields, as well as limit your search results by date.
  • How do I search by specific jurisdictions? Select the "Case law" option and do a keyword search over all jurisdictions. Then, click the "Select courts" link in the left sidebar on the search results page. Tip: To quickly search a frequently used selection of courts, bookmark a search results page with the desired selection.
  • (Note: if you are using the regular Google to search for 'non-scholarly but reliable' sources, please remember that the first several links are usually 'sponsored links' - someone wants to sell you something and they paid for that link to be there. Sponsored links are rarely considered reliable sources. Google is also including 'AI'-generated responses in its search results, so expect to encounter some nonsense. Additionally, the 'sponsored links' often include 'essay-writing companies' - do not click on those links, using anything from there is either a violation of the RTC Honor Code, or close enough to being a violation that you should not touch it.)

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