The fastest way to determine if a database is to see if it is recommended by the librarian in your subject area! However you may soon discover that you need to branch out from the main subject area in which you are doing research. In that case you will want to use the Subjects dropdown () on the Find Databases page to find other recommended databases in other subject areas.
All databases in our Find Databases page also have a short description that can help you determine if the database will be useful to you.
For projects in Medieval and Renaissance Studies we recommend the following starting points:
Articles can be as short as one paragraph or as long as 20 pages or more. Knowing how to determine if an article is relevant to your research can significantly cut down on your research time.
Step 1: Read the Subject Terms
Subject Terms, Subjects, Key Terms, Thesaurus, this section has many names, but is generally a list of terms, some of which you may have used to find the article! This list will give you an at-a-glance idea of what the article covers and is the shortest and fastest way to get accurate information on the content of the article. Why not the title? See below this list for why!
Step 2: Read the Abstract
An abstract is a summary of an article, sometimes written by the author, other times by the publisher. These abstracts are rarely more than a paragraph long and give you a more detailed idea of what the article will cover, including methodology, any statistical information, general thesis, and sometimes also some indication of the conclusion or findings. If the contents of the abstract feel over your head or more technical than you need keep in mind the article will probably follow suit.
Step 3: Skim the Article
There's still sometimes no need to deep dive into a chapter until you've determined its relevancy. Try skimming the article by reading the introduction and conclusion as well as the first sentence or two of each paragraph. This doesn't always work! Depending on the topic you may need to skip to step 4...
Step 4: Read Closely
Now is the time to read closely; taking notes is recommended but you may have your own research method you prefer!
Why not use the title to determine if the article is relevant?
Sometimes the title will tell you exactly what an article is about! But sometimes it is, essentially, an ad. Just like any author, article authors would like you to read their work, and so sometimes create fun or cute titles that attract clicks but may not indicate the actual context or content of the article. We recommend reading the title and incorporating it into your research process as best you can!