Many of today's graduate students struggle to conceive of a time when research did not occur online, and many of them therefore look for online sources for graduate research as they begin to formulate a thesis topic early in their program. The good news is that the Internet, while not the only source for graduate research, does have quite a few compelling databases that will make it easier to search journals, scholarly articles, news, books, and more. These databases are often not free, but graduate students can likely use their existing academic credentials to gain access to most of the popular paid databases that currently exist.
Academic Search Elite
Academic Search Elite should probably be the default destination for graduate students who are conducting preliminary research into a chosen topic. The service, provided by EBSCO, is the single largest academic research database in the United States. The service searches through more than 50 years of newspaper articles, magazine publications, scholarly journals, scholarly articles, books, speeches, and numerous other clippings. Students can narrow their search down to find exactly the type of research that fits their needs. Results can be constrained by publication type, author, publication date, subject matter, specialized tags, and rated usefulness by peers across the graduate and doctoral spectrum.
For all the breadth of EBSCO's Academic Search Elite, the service is sometimes criticized by students as being a bit too broad and a bit too hard to use when finding the perfect source for research needs. Credo Reference, on the other hand, almost always receives rave reviews for its limited sources, wide variety of available materials, and its simplistic search results that are far easier to understand and utilize quickly. The Credo Reference service searches massive national libraries and publishers, like the Library of Congress and the Edinburgh University Press. Results are straightforward. Some results allow students to read the full piece of information returned, while others will assist in arranging a library loan or visitation for the material.
Some of the best research contributions come from public records and statistics, which help graduate students perceive and cite major trends nationally or internationally. That's where Fold3 comes in. The service, originally founded nearly a decade ago as Footnote.com, offers everything from military service records and census data to National Records archives and much more. Fold3 seems to grow in size with each passing year, offering an increasingly large collection of records gleaned from state, federal, and international governments.
Speaking of records and trends, the Census website itself is an excellent place to conduct preliminary research. Graduate students with a background in statistics will be able to dig deep into Census findings, looking for trends that help them confirm a thesis or advance into a new phase of their research. The Census website is generally free to use, unlike the database services mentioned earlier, and offers easy sorting of information by demographic characteristic or geographic location.
Graduate Students Have Excellent Online Sources Available
The Internet may not be the only research tool employed by today's graduate students, but it's certainly the most familiar. The good news for researchers is that the Internet hosts a large number of expansive databases, each with their own sources, advantages, and considerations. Just remember, when considering the numerous online sources for graduate research, it's important to pick a healthy variety of sources that focus on records, demographics, and scholarly materials.