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Physics Seminar (Borgardt): 2. Academic Articles

Information Literacy activity guide for the Fall 2019 Physics Seminar with Prof. Borgardt

1. Topic and Keywords

The first step in successfully researching a topic is to build your SEARCH MAP.

Your search map is a list of keywords and phrases that will help you find the most effective sources for your project.

Start with your assigned topic, and add keywords that narrow the results more specifically to your needs. For example:

  • Narrow your search by date. You do not want any articles over 5 years old.
  • Are you only interested in research generated by the "United States?" Specify the country, region, state, etc.
  • Look up your topic on Research Starter, Wikipedia, or other online reference source. Note any interesting keywords that relate to your interest.

EagleSearch on the library's homepage is a great place to start looking for keywords.

  1. Type in your assigned topic and hit "search"
  2. On the left-side of the page, you are able to refine your results. Scroll down until you see "Subject."
  3. Click on "Subject" and click on "Show More." Here you will find a large number of keywords and phrases that relate to your topic.

Make a note of the most useful keywords on your worksheet.



  • "String Theory and Matrix Theory"
  • "Vacuum State"
  • "Steven Weinberg"
  • "1960 String Theory"
  • "Basic Models of String Theory"
  • "String theory in movies"
  • "Criticism of string theory"

2. How to Find Resources

The library has a large collection of databases to find academic journals. A great place to start is EagleSearch, which looks for articles, books, ebooks, images, streaming media, DVDs, and more in a single powerful search.

Use the "Advance Search" option for EagleSearch to use multiple keywords, and to select the specific source type you are looking for.

For more, searching power, check out the following databases:

3. How to Evaluate

For each of your resources, you are asked to evaluate each source.

Evaluating your sources help you decide if a book, article, website, or other resources is best suited to your research needs.

  • When was the information published? Why is it important to have an older or newer resources in your project?
  • Who is the author, creator, and/or publisher? What are their credentials?
    • Does the author(s) educational background, experience, or affiliation relate to the information in any meaningful way?
  • How accurate is the information presented in the source? Do they reference external evidence (works cited page or bibliography)?
    • Is the source peer-reviewed? Does it matter in your immediate context?
  • What about the article is useful to you? Is there specific data? Is there a statement or perspective that agrees with or challenges your thesis?

Use these supplementary questions to help you complete your worksheets.

4. Guided Discussion (with Your Team)

Before starting discussion in your group, read over the prompts below.

As the "authoritative" researcher for this source type in your team, it will be your job to present the two resources you selected to the group, answer any questions they have about the content, and facilitate further discussion.

  1. First, present your two resources to your group members. Provide an overall summary, and share any questions you had while exploring the sources. (Tip: it will be helpful to your teammates if you email the sources prior to the discussion. As you discuss the materials, have a copy of them available [printed or on a monitor during discussion] for everyone to follow along.)
  2. Lead your team on a discussion using the questions and prompts:

2.a. What is the overall focus of these sources? In what ways are they similar/different? What about these sources are useful to you? What isn't useful?

2.b. In what tone is the topic presented? Is it factual (non-biased, a straight-forward report) or is the author trying to persuade the reader?

2.c. Who do you think the intended audience is for these articles? Why?

2.d. Do you see any gaps in the presented information? What is one question you have after examining the resources?

2.e. (As your other teammates present their own sources to the group)  Do you notice any connections between these sources and the ones mentioned by your team? Do they fill any of the identified gaps?