Univ 106: Library Research“Major Research Tools” Review I Spring 2010
A Note About Research Tools If you are accustomed to just using websites in your research, it’s time to think bigger! Great research requires a variety of information sources to be fully informed. Your professors in BSU courses will be looking to see that you cite books and articles, in addition to website sources. If you’ve had trouble finding academic research sources in the past, you’ve been doing it wrong. We’ve focused this semester on how to do it right. This review will help you refresh your memory on the major tools and strategies at your disposal.
I. Book Searching Whether printed or published electronically, books are a critical source of information that you should not overlook.
Why Use Books In Your Research? Books are one of the most reliable and authoritative sources of information for your research, in large part because they go through extensive review before publication. Books are typically reviewed by editors, fact-checkers, and proofreaders before they are published. Books are the most detailed sources of information, and they provide the most in-depth coverage of any research topic. In the cycle of information, books are generally published last after an event because they require the most time to create.
Quick Book Search Starting at http://library.boisestate.edu
Advanced Book Search Starting at http://boisestate.worldcat.org/advancedsearch
Use Boolean Searching to Combine Terms Combine terms with “and” to require all results to match both terms. More terms = Fewer results Bicycle and commuting = 8 results Combine terms with “or” and you will get results with either term. More terms = More results Bicycle or commuting = 164 results Combine terms with “not” and you can eliminate a word from results. Bicycle not commuting = 127 results
II. Article Searching Articles may be published in newspapers, magazines , or academic journals, and their quality ranges from popular opinion pieces to deeply researched essays.
Why Use Articles In Your Research? Articles are a top information source for specific topics, and for more timely information. Scholarly articles are published in research journals. Like books, they are a very reliable and authoritative source of information for your research because they reflect extensive research and review. Popular articles, such as those published in trade magazines and newspapers, are a timely and reliable information source, but are less authoritative than scholarly articles. In the cycle of information, articles are generally published soon after an event, depending on how much research and review they require.
A Note About Academic Databases Academic article databases are on the Web, but they are invisible to Google and other Web search engines because they require payment to access. They exist in what we call “the invisible Web.” The library pays for access to academic databases. Google does not, and therefore Google cannot “see” these articles to search them for you. Articles you find in databases may be online, but they are NOT website sources. They are digital reproductions of official journal, magazine, or newspaper articles.
Quick Search – Articles in an Academic Database
Find It in a Database Here are a few sample results from our article database, Academic Search Premier:
Choosing the Right Database For Your Research Topic There are TONS of different academic databases you can use to search for articles and other materials. Research does not always provide instant gratification! For the same search you may find great results in one database, and nothing in another. Expect to search several different databases, not just one. Try some of the library’s top databases, as identified on the right-hand side of the homepage. Follow the “Articles, Databases” link and you’ll be able to pull up a list of databases by subject.
Like Google? It is much better to search for academic articles using one of the libraries academic databases, covered in the last few slides. But if you’re determined to use a Web search engine, be smart about it. Use Google Scholar and set BSU in Scholar’s preferences so that you’ll have access to our full text academic articles.
III. Web Searching Be careful! You’re now leaving the safe, reliable resources of the library and moving into uncharted territory. You will find some excellent resources, and some dangerous ones.
Why Use Websites In Your Research? The benefits are obvious: websites are timely, easily accessible, and provide all sorts of information that may never make it into books or articles. Caution: Web searching requires increased skepticism and caution from you! Be a smart consumer of online information. In the cycle of information, websites are instantaneous. They may be published during or after an event, and provide immediate updates and response to unfolding topics.
Be More Targeted Using Advanced Search Features
Is it Reliable? Apply the CRAAP Test Currency: The timeliness of the information. When was the information published or posted? Has the information been revised or updated? Is the information current or out-of date for your topic? Are the links functional? Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs. Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question? Who is the intended audience? Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)? Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use? Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper? Authority: The source of the information. Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor? Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given? What are the author's credentials or oganizational affiliations? What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic? Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address? Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net
CRAAP Test continued Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the informational content. Where does the information come from? Is the information supported by evidence? Has the information been reviewed or refereed? Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge? Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion? Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors? Purpose: The reason the information exists. What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade? Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear? Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda? Does the point of view appear objective and impartial? Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases? From “Evaluating Information – Applying the CRAAP Test”
Read the Fine Print on Any Website Is it an article, website, blog, or something else entirely? Figure out what it is before you cite it. Always look for an “About” link to get more information about the author or organization behind the site. Check for copyright and “last updated” dates, usually at the bottom of the page, to see how recent the site is.
IV. Additional Tools There’s all kinds of other stuff out there you can take advantage of. Here are some top choices from the library and beyond.
Brainstorming Tools Subject headings and “descriptors” in the library catalog and databases, which you’ll find in the listing for every book and article, can help you come up with the best terms to search for your topic. Bubbl.us is a helpful tool for brainstorming your research topic keywords to figure out what terms to use in a search. Or you can do the same on paper. Don’t stop until you’ve exhausted your ideas! The more terms you come up with, the better prepared you’ll be to search effectively.
Dictionaries & Encyclopedias Great for introductory information about a topic. Wikipedia – use it but don’t abuse it! It’s a good starting point, but you should know better than to cite it by now. Two better options are… Oxford Reference Online or Gale Virtual Reference Library – Academic dictionaries and encyclopedias available online, paid for by the library. There’s much more on the library’s Reference Resources page.
End of Review I Be sure to come to me with questions! firstname.lastname@example.org 426-1621