“Released prisoner at Buchenwald concentration camp, Weimar, Germany, in April 1945 when the United States Army liberated the camp.” Photograph. National Archives. Image from Art Museum Image Gallery.
SOLAR is a database of databases. It searches all our Library resources and even some we don't own. It's a little like the old "feeling lucky" button in Google. But just like Google, or any tool, there is right time to use it. And like Google, the results can be overwhelming. Sometimes using one of our focused, discipline-specific databases can make you luckier.
Remember, when you search contemporary sources around an event, a name might not have been given to that event we think of as common now. If the "Holocaust" has not been named in 1945, you can't find articles on it, no matter how long you search.
Think of the events in this country on January 6th? How is an accepted, common term created?
Are the events of 1861-1865 the U.S. Civil War, or the War of the Northern Aggression?
A bibliography really is your friend. We saw in the book section how you can take a book citation from an encyclopedia's bibliography, look it up in a catalog, and use the associated subject headings to expand your list of books. You can use the same trick with journal articles. And sometimes you can glean other good stuff, too!
Let's say you didn't quite know how to focus your paper topic, so you spent some time with the print Encyclopedia of the Holocaust browsing the list of alphabetical entries from the first volume. You're found yourself puzzled by the concept of Holocaust denial, so you headed to the 5 page article "Holocaust, Denial, of the" and read it. While skimming the bibliography you saw this citation -
Kampe, N. "Normalizing the Holocaust? The Recent Historians' Debate in the Federal Republic of Germany." Holocaust and Genocide Studies 2/1 (1987): 61-80.
Suddenly, you were overcome with a deep & profound insight ... there is a whole journal devoted to Holocaust studies. I bet that would be useful for this class!
Indeed it would. Most databases can offer table of content browsing. So, if you were to hop into the advanced search feature of SOLAR, or many of our other databases, you can search by journal title. This will retrieve a chronological link of articles from a particular journal, with the most current issue presented first. Here are the results for this type of searching for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
A note about browsing: We tend to worship the slick computer search in the modern world. But browsing is a valid way to slow down and gather information. If you were looking for some new cloths would you head to Google and type you size, a color, and the item you were looking for, like pants, and expect that the first result would be what you would buy? Not likely. You would probably head to a store you like, say Old Navy, or get a catalog, and spend some time browsing. You can do the same with research - head to a source you trust, find the general area of interest, and browse around. You may get a great deal this way.
Journals are the backbone of scholarly communication. They are a venue for the most current research in a field, allowing scholars to publish their work, read the work of others, and carry on spirited debates over the merits of ideas and interpretations. Journal articles also allow for the presentation of a topic that might not merit book-length coverage.
If we think of journal articles as scholarly conversations, then it is easier to understand one of the problem students have in reading articles. We are "eavesdropping" on a conversation, and like any conversation you hear between two people you don't know, you might not have the background information to fully understand what is being talked about. Scholars write for other scholars. Because of this, they don't need to explain much of the history of a situation. Another scholar would know it already. A student might need to read an overview of a topic before the details and interpretation in a journal article start to make sense. This is where other formats of information, such as encyclopedias and books, play an important role in the scholarly "environment."