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Michigan State University

LB 133: Follow Science Upstream: Tools for Unpacking Fact Project

Lyman Briggs Librarian

Chana Kraus-Friedberg's picture
Chana Kraus-Friedberg
366 W. Circle Drive
East Lansing, MI 48824

Extreme Cases: Retractions

Sometimes (very infrequently) a scholarly journal or researcher will retract an article, meaning that the article becomes unpublished. It happens when the article is deeply misleading, the research is discovered to be fake, or it's so badly done that the journal no longer wants to be associated with it. Sometimes databases will still store the article, but mark it "retracted." Other databases may remove it completely, so that you can't find it. Retraction Watch Database is a search engine where you can search for retractions. The results will also tell you why the article was retracted. The Retraction Watch organization website also tracks different kinds of scientific misdemeanors.

Some Clues to Look for in Your Popular Source

Find as many of these as you can in your popular source. Then you can enter them into an academic database and hopefully find the scholarly article it's based on. If you don't find it in one database, try another!

  • Article title
  • Journal title
  • Date of publication
  • Names of author(s)
  • Workplaces or affiliations of author(s)
  • Study name--some larger research projects will have names that you can search for. For example, "Man Up Man Down" is the name of an extended project that studies health and stress in African American men in Michigan.

Tips for Using Search Fields

You'll make your search faster and more accurate if you use the dropdown menu next to the search box to tell the database which fields to search. (If you don't see the dropdown menu on the first screen, look for a link that says something like "Advanced" or "Advanced search." The advanced search function will always have it.)

For example, if I tell the General Science database to search for "stein, gertrude" only in the personal author field of the article, I'll only see articles she wrote. screenshot advanced search general science full text database. dropdown menu on right of search box lists select a field (optional), TX All text fields, TI title, AU Author personal, CA author corporate, PD Physical description, SU subject. Green button to right of dropdown menu says "search." Create alert link below green search button.

Otherwise, I may also get articles written about Gertrude Stein, or even just articles that cite her in their bibliographies. If I am looking for articles she wrote, using the author field will save me from having to wade through all those extra results.

Tips for Searching Databases with Keywords

  • Combine two different topics with AND (always capitalize).
  • Put phrases in quotes (for example, "breast cancer").
  • If you're getting a lot of irrelevant material, see if you can make your terms more specific.
  • Click on the "Get it at MSU" button or the PDF link to get full text.
  • Use filters on the left side of the screen to limit your search. Usually there's a date filter that you can use to only see results for the last 5 years.


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