Posts Tagged ‘Research’

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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We’re right in the middle of mid-terms and writing projects, so you might find this article of interest.  Lynn Jacobs and Jeremy Hyman, writing for U.S. News and World Report, have compiled an excellent list of 7 Tips for writing a great research paper.

Two highlights of the article are using the Library’s interlibrary loan service and becoming familiar with Boolean searching to target your research efforts. Don’t forget to start with your professor to make sure that you are on the right track. Then stop by and chat with a librarian to find the quality resources you need.

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Project Information Literacy released Lessons Learned: How College Students Seek Information in the Digital Age December 1, with findings from its large-scale student survey administered on six different U.S. campuses during Spring 2009.

The study found that nearly all students used course readings and Google first for course-related research, and Google and Wikipedia for everyday life research. Most used library resources, especially scholarly databases, but far fewer used library services that required interacting with librarians.

Read more from the Project Information Literacy Website. You can also click on the Publications tab at the top of their homepage and find more reports, such as the one mentioned earlier on this blog about how academic research is a painful process for most students.

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As reported on the ACRL Blog, there is a 2009 report that gives first-hand accounts from students about how they move through the research process. One significant finding is that no matter what resources students have at their disposal or how much time they have…research seems to be more difficult to conduct in the digital age than previously. The study was conducted by Project Information Literacy based in the University of Washington’s Information School.

 Other interesting findings:

  1. The majority of students did not start on an assignment (thinking about it, researching or writing) until 2-3 days before it was due.
  2. The ability to choose a topic can be daunting. Many students said “I just don’t know where to begin.”
  3. Students at smaller, teaching focused institutions see their professors as more helpful with research assignments than at large research universities.
  4. Students are overwhelmed by all the choices and have trouble finding what they are looking for – both online and in the library.
  5. Wikipedia is the source students consult first. It helps them grasp the topic and provides context for their research. Library databases? Too much too soon is the general consensus.

 You can read the 18 page full report online. It is in PDF so you can also choose to save a copy to your computer.

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While library resources are extremely valuable for any academic research project, sometimes it helps to use the Internet as a starting point in your search for information. In this Summer 2009 article, Paul Gil provides links to information about the best search engines (beyond Google), and the  best general reference sites. He also provides a wealth of information on and links to research fundamentals such as confirming the credibility of Internet resources and finding reliable sources.

Gil provides  lots of other links to Internet Basics, Web searching, finding academic sites, and searching the invisible web. Read his article at About.com:  http://netforbeginners.about.com/od/searchenginehandbook/a/studentsguide_2.htm

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The answer to almost any question is available within seconds, courtesy of the invention that has altered how we discover knowledge – the search engine.  The real difficulty kicks in when you click down into your search results. At that point, it’s up to you to sort the accurate bits from the misinfo, disinfo, spam, scams, urban legends, and hoaxes.

Howard Reingold writes in the SanFrancisco Chronicle about what he calls “Crap Detection 101.”  The author writes that: “Unless a great many people learn the basics of online crap detection and begin applying their critical faculties en masse and very soon, I fear for the future of the Internet as a useful source of credible news, medical advice, financial information, educational resources, scholarly and scientific research.”

Read his entertaining article filled with practical tips and valuable advice at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/rheingold/detail?entry_id=42805

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