Graduate Support in the Virtual Library

Webinar host Dr. Heather Frederick invites the manager of technical services and library instruction, Samantha Sinanan, to our 2022 Doctoral Student Support Webinar Series to discuss which library resources are most important for graduate research and how students can use these resources to help with their dissertations and theses, in addition to helpful reminders for writing and citing in APA style.

Graduate Support in the Virtual Library - a picture of a young woman studying and taking notes.

*Note: The information presented in this webinar is specific to Aspen University and United States University.

Our guest, Samantha Sinanan, is a member of Aspen University’s team of virtual librarians who are passionate about teaching information literacy and research skills that students can carry through their academic careers and beyond. 


  • Library Databases – Best Bets
  • How to Limit Research to Scholarly Journal Articles
  • How to Limit Research to Dissertations and Theses
  • Literature Review Tips
  • Finding Research Instruments
  • Digital Repository 
  • APA Help

To watch the full episode, click here

Library Databases

Note: You must navigate the learning management system to find links to all of Aspen’s licensed library resources. In addition, you must access all databases from within this library page. 

Three databases to highlight as your best bets:

  • ProQuest Central – This is our biggest collection; it is multidisciplinary and includes scholarly journal articles, dissertations, and theses; it covers most academic subject areas.
  • Academic Search Premier – also a multidisciplinary database; covers most academic subject areas and includes scholarly journal articles but not dissertations/theses.
  • CINAHL with Full Text – A nursing and healthcare-specific database with a smaller collection, so use the others in tandem with this one; nursing and healthcare-specific database (includes healthcare-specific limiters to help you tailor your search in a specific way). 

How to Limit Research to Scholarly Journal Articles

Many students approach our team of librarian superstars with questions about how to limit research to scholarly or peer-reviewed journals. Here, Samantha highlights ProQuest Central and suggests to “check” the “Peer Reviewed” box on the advanced search page, which will limit your search results to published and peer-reviewed journals. Be sure to check out the “Source Type” function also, another way to limit your search results. This will allow you to select the type of source you’d like to use. 

Similarly, in EBSCO (and most other databases), there is a “Peer Reviewed” box to “check” as well. Remember this while researching because most databases will have this useful function. In CINAHL, there are additional boxes to “check” that would help break down your search even further; for example: under the “Peer Reviewed” box, you can “check” “Research Article” to fine-tune your search even greater (on the advanced search page in CINAHL). 

How to Limit Research to Dissertations and Theses

*Note: this is just for ProQuest Central because that is the one database that includes dissertations and theses. 

If you need your search to include only dissertations and theses, then navigate to the advanced search page and “uncheck” the “Peer Reviewed” box; otherwise, the database search will not filter out theses and dissertations because they have not been published in peer-reviewed journals. You may end up with an option of many source types; however, you have the option to “check” the “Dissertation and Theses” box to specify your source type. 

Samantha’s Reminder:

Research is an iterative process; it is likely that you won’t find that magical article on the first try, rather, it is an ongoing process of thorough and diverse review. It is likely that your results from your initial search will then inform your subsequent research. 

Graduate Support in the Virtual Library - a picture of a young women studying together.









Literature Review Tips

Many doctoral programs will be doing various literature reviews. Literature reviews allow you to learn about the topic in preparation for your research and review other researchers’ writings on your chosen topic. Think of a literature review as the foundation on which you will build your research. 

Be as comprehensive as possible in your literature review search.

What to include in your literature review:

  • Scholarly articles published in peer-reviewed journals
  • Dissertations and theses

What to exclude from your literature review:

  • Popular magazines
  • Trade Publications
  • Opinion Pieces
  • Editorials 

* For more information, see the Literature Review Guide in the Research Guides section of the library 

Components of a research article 

This is not an exact formula, but it shows how a typical research article should be structured: 

  • Abstract 
  • Research Question or hypothesis 
  • Methodology 
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Reference list

*often, literature reviews are included as well, but not always. 

Components of a dissertation/thesis 

Again, this is not an exact formula, but a solid base to begin with and a good example of what to expect when structuring your dissertation or thesis. The components of a dissertation/thesis are organized similarly to that of a research article, but not quite the same because the purpose is a little different. 

Typically, a dissertation/thesis will have a more robust introduction than that of a research article. Also, there will be a literature review in almost every dissertation or thesis. 

  • Introduction
  • Litera
  • Methodology 
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Reference list

Where to find dissertations and theses outside the library’s resources

*note: you may have to pay a fee to access some articles

Graduate Support in the Virtual Library - a picture of a young women studying together in the library at a computer.









Research Instruments

Many students approach the library desk with many questions about research instruments. It can be a tricky area of research. This is an important step of your research, and many students struggle to find and gain permission to use research instruments. 

A research instrument is any tool, device, or other means by which researchers assess or gather data about study participants – for example, surveys, interviews, questionnaires, etc.

TIP #1: For finding research instruments, look at the methodology section of other research articles or dissertations/theses to see what research instruments were used

TIP #2: If you find a research instrument you’d like to use, you must obtain permission from the owner

Digital Repository 

The digital repository has been building in the Aspen library over several months. It will include a collection of past graduate work that has been completed by Aspen students (not yet available in the USU library).

The digital repository is divided into three sections: 

  1. School of Business and Technology
  2. School of Education
  3. School of Nursing and Healthcare

After finishing your dissertation/thesis, you may want to submit it and have it posted in the library. Reach out to your advisor and they will guide you through the process. 

Graduate Support in the Virtual Library - a picture of a young woman studying with open books and computer.










APA Help

One quick, unfortunate note: your virtual librarians cannot proofread or edit citations, but they can point you to resources that will help you create your citations and organize your reference list. 


  1. There are many citation-generating tools available, use them! But always remember to double-check your results with an accurate example found on the APA website
  2. Sign up for and use a citation-management tool like RefWorks to manage your citations and create reference lists

It is recommended that students take the responsibility to acquire a tangible copy of the APA 7 Style Guide. This is a vital tool that can be very helpful and serve as the source of truth, however, it is not available in digital format for libraries.

These are some of Samantha’s favorite writing and citation tools that are available online: 

Last but not least

Don’t forget, the librarians are here to help you 7 days a week! Don’t be afraid to seek assistance. You can contact the library anytime for assistance here: 

And if you need more research tips, check out this episode: Leverage Your Librarian (and other time-saving tips) with Anna Uribe 

We hope this webinar was helpful to you. Be sure to tune in next week for our next episode, Master the Basic of APA 7, with Andrea Novak. 

If you want to advance your career, consider Aspen University’s online DNP or ED.D doctoral programs with start dates every two weeks and tuition starting at $375 per month!

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