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Archive for April, 2010

Did you know that WSC Library users have [free] access to 2 databases that provide virtual treasure troves of local history online?

First, check out Digital Treasures, a digital library collection of the agricultural and industrial history of Central and Western MA. The collection includes historical images from Athol, Hudson, Lancaster, Northampton, Worcester and more.

Also, Massachusetts History Online [a Gale Cengage database] provides access to almost 250,000 full text articles from over 50 sources that relate directly to Massachusetts history.

From the cover of The Worcester Magazine, August 1910 showing construction of the “new” Union Station. Retrieved from Digital Treasures.

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Just for faculty: this new page has links to important topics of particular concern to faculty such as reserve, circulation and interlibrary loan policies; links to tutorials for explaining peer review or Boolean operators to students; lots more…

Check out the new Faculty page. You can also find it by using the Site Index on the Library Website, or there is a link on the Getting Started page (link on the right side menu of every Library website page).

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Using the Internet for your research? Recent analysis shows that only 7% of results from a Google search are worthy of inclusion in a college-level research project. So you have two concerns when using any general search engine for research: identify the 7% of reliable sites in your results list, and try to find the other 93%! Instead of sifting through millions of irrelevant results, try these tools:

  • Ask.com has many features that make it a good search engine to start finding research-worthy material online. Your results list will provide you with a screen that defines your topic, provides images and graphs, a binoculars icon to preview a site, and a list of related terms to expand or narrow your topic as needed.  For more information, see 10 Reasons Librarians should use Ask Instead of Google.  
  • Yahoo Directory has two features for added research value. Click on any of the broad subject categories in the left side menu, and you’ll get the major subdivisions of the topic, where the search box will now provide a radio button option to search the Web for only that category – making it a subject specialty search engine. Use the radio button for a Directory search which is structured by human experts who have evaluated the quality of the sites listed, and links are most often to entire Websites devoted to your topic, not the usual jumble of random pages returned from a general search.
  • IPL2 – the Jan. 2010 merger of the Internet Public Library [IPL] and Librarians Internet Index [LII] brings you links to thousands of the best Websites for research information. You can search the sections divided by Resources by Subject, Newspapers and Magazines, or Special Collections Created by the IPL2 – or simply enter your topic in the search box. There is also an Ask an IPL2 Librarian – a 24/7 question service: Need help with homework, a work project, or just need a question answered? Ask an ipl2 librarian – it’s that easy. Last year this service answered over 88,000 questions. 
  • Many of the Subject Guides on the WSC Library Website can also help you find discipline-specific information on the Internet.

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This annual celebration of libraries was developed by the American Library Association to promote the variety of free resources available at all types of American libraries.

What better time for us at WSC to focus on the value of academic libraries? Stephen Abram (former Special Libraries President and a VP at Gale/Cengage) has a great post on his Lighthouse blog. He has brought together many links to library value studies and related reposts for all libraries. Visit the post on the value of academic libraries.

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Another in our series highlighting databases less familiar to most WSC Library users.

Communication and Mass Media Complete provides the most robust, quality research solution in areas related to communication and mass media. It is a research and reference resource of unprecedented scope and depth encompassing the breadth of the communication discipline. There is indexing coverage for over 690 journals, 380 of which are full text.  Major areas of coverage are: communications, mass media, popular culture, journalism, television, radio, speech, broadcasting, communication theory and advertising.

CMMC also contains a sophisticated Communication Thesaurus and comprehensive reference browsing (i.e. searchable cited references for peer-reviewed journals covered as “core”). In addition, CMMC features over 5,000 Author Profiles, providing biographical data and bibliographic information, and covering the most prolific, most cited, and most frequently searched for authors in the database.

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These steps outline a simple and effective strategy for finding information for a research paper and documenting the sources you find. Depending on your topic and your familiarity with library resources, you can adapt this outline to suit your needs. Each step below is followed by a brief summary. For more explanation as well as links to resources, see the Libray Webpage Research 101 – Getting Started in Library Research.

  1. Identify and Focus Your Topic. State your topic as a question: what are you trying to prove/disprove? Identify the main concepts and keywords in your question. Learn how Boolean operators can help you narrow or expand your search.
  2. Finding Background Information. Look up your keywords in subject encyclopedias where articles are written by subject experts. Read articles in these specialized encyclopedias to set the context for your research. Discover relevant items in the bibliographies at the end of the articles. Additional background information may be found in your lecture notes, textbooks, and reserve readings.
  3. Use Catalogs to Find Books and Media. Use your keywords for a narrow or complex search topic. Use subject searching for a broad subject.  When you search the Library’s Online Catalog, you can find the circulation status of books and DVDs, and click on links for subject headings to find more material on your topic. When you pull a book from the shelf, note the bibliography for additional sources. All items owned by the WSC Library are listed in the online catalog: books, e-books, journal titles and media.
  4. Find Internet Resources. Move beyond general search engines to find the best materials available on the Web. Sources like the Yahoo Directory, Google Scholar and other human created Web Directories filter out random pages and search instead for quality material that can be used in college level research.
  5. Use Library Databases to Find Periodical Articles. Use periodical indexes and databases to find citations to articles on your topic. Library databases allow you to separate your results list into different catagories such as peer reviewed, popular magazines or newspapers, as well as media sources like Websites and podcasts. Sometimes it helps to start first with inter-disciplinary databases that cover all subjects, such as Gale’s Academic One File or EBSCO’s Academic Search Complete. Next, select a database that best suits your topic by using one of our 20 online subject guides.
  6. Evaluate What You Find. Always examine Websites with a critical eye, especially those you encounter for the first time. Using the Internet for research requires different standards. Use subject guides specially prepared by librarians (step 5, above). Search smarter on your own by using our checklist of five criteria for evaluating websites.
  7. Document your Sources Using a Standard Format. Citing, or documenting the sources used in your research serves two purposes: it gives proper credit to the authors of material that you used, and it allows those who are reading your work to replicate your research and locate the sources you have listed as references. You can format the citations in your bibliography using examples from the Library gateway page on Citation Guides using APA, MLA, Turabian and other standard formats.

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