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Rhet1302 Searching And Evaluating Resources Spring 2010


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Handout for library instruction class for Rhetoric 1302.

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Rhet1302 Searching And Evaluating Resources Spring 2010

  1. 1. RHET 1302: Searching and Evaluating Resources<br />The Web vs. Databases – What’s the Difference?<br />Why use a database? Why not use Google or Wikipedia for all your needs? The table below will explain why databases are the preferred tools for quality research. under “Find Articles & Databases.”<br />The Web (Google, Wikipedia,, etc.)Databases (Medline, Lexis-Nexis, etc.)AuthorityVaries at best. Difficult to verify. Cannot limit to professional, scholarly literature. Info on the Web is seldom regulated, which means authority is often in doubt. Because anyone can post to the Web for free, there are no gatekeepers to edit for accuracy and credibility.Easy to determine. Most databases have scholarly/peer-reviewed filter or contain only scholarly literature. Authority and trustworthiness are virtually guaranteed, because an editor, professional reviewer, or librarian was involved in selecting the material.# of Hits1000’s, sometimes millions of hits, much of the same information repackaged or duplicated. Duplicates are not filtered out.Dozens to hundreds of hits (sometimes 1000’s but not 100’s of 1000’s) - a more manageable number, and no duplicates or duplicates can be filtered out easily.RelevanceLack of subject focus can result in numerous irrelevant hits – or “junk” – to wade through. Much Web info is opinionated and biased. Unless you are using a subject-specific search engine, expect “everything and the kitchen sink” in the results. Quantity ≠ QualityFocus by subject (business, art, American history) and/or format (journals, books, book reviews), which often means more relevant info and less time wasted dealing with junk. Info comes from legitimate, quality-controlled sources.Search FeaturesVaries by search engine, but often limited. Can limit by document type (.doc, .pdf) or language, but limiting by publication date, format (article, book, etc.), scholarly/peer-reviewed and more is unavailable.Numerous advanced search features, usu. determined by DB’s subject focus, e.g., limiting by pub. date, language, document format, scholarly/peer-reviewed status. The list of features is as long as the number of DB’s available.Access to Published InformationWeb info often lives and dies on the Web and can come from anyone with Internet access. Seldom is the info coming from legitimate published sources: magazines, academic journals, books, etc. When it is, the user usually has to pay to access it.DB’s deal only with published info, that is, info that originally showed up in print: magazine and journal articles, books, etc. They are more stable than the Web. Through the library’s paid access, all of this info is available to you, the user, for free.<br />Using Your Article Citation to Find the Full Text – Don’t Forget the Catalog and Interlibrary Loan<br />“I found a great article, but where’s the full text?” Occasionally, you will run into database entries that contain information (the citation and perhaps a brief summary, called the abstract) on articles you would like to read, but there is no indication for full-text content. The brief guide below will instruct you on how to find the full text for yourself. <br />Here is a screenshot of a citation found in the database Academic Search Complete:<br /> Notice that there is no link for full text, only the dark red “Get It!” box. Follow these steps to get the article:<br />Click on the “Get It!” box to attempt to access online content. While this method works sometimes, it is not failsafe. It is not uncommon for “Get It!” to fail to connect to online content when the library does, in fact, have access to that content. Also, “Get It!” will not tell you if the library has access to the article in paper (hardcopy). While “Get It!” is meant to be a time-saving device, do not rely on it as the final answer on whether the library has access to a particular article. If you do not get the full text, go to the next step.<br />A more reliable method to find out if the library has full-text access is to go to the library catalog ( You will need to know the name of the publication (newspaper, journal, or magazine) for which you are searching; you will not use the article title. If you are having difficulty determining the name of the newspaper or journal from the citation, you can click on the article title link to get a field-by-field breakdown of the citation (article title, author, publication or source name [the journal, magazine, or newspaper title], date, page numbers, etc.). Using the journal or newspaper title, search the library catalog: Note that by limiting to “Journal/Periodical Title,” you will be searching the catalog for newspapers, magazines and journals only and excluding any books which may have the same title. This limiter is very helpful when searching for a common journal title such as Time, Science, Nature, or People. Remember to exclude any initial article from the title (“A”, “An”, or “The”).Once you get into the catalog record for the journal or newspaper, you will notice several important pieces of information: “Location” indicates format (hardcopies are listed as “Journals”) and call number, if applicable. For hardcopies of a journal, you will need the call number to retrieve them from the Journals section on the second floor. For electronic access, click the link beside “Available Full Text.” If no end date is provided, you can assume that access extends to the most current issues.<br />If you have tried the catalog and your search has yielded no results (remember, the “Get It!” button does not search thoroughly enough), you have the option of requesting the article via Interlibrary Loan or ILL (find the link under “Services” on the library homepage). You will be asked for all the information listed in the citation in order to facilitate the fastest processing of your request. In two to three business days (usually sooner), you will be notified by your UT Dallas e-mail that your article is ready to retrieve through your ILL account. ILL is free and fast, but it can only be used to request items the library does not already own. Be sure to check the catalog before you use this service!<br />Lastly, we strongly encourage you to ask for assistance at the Reference Desk if you are still encountering any problems utilizing our resources. Find our contact information, including links to e-mail and IM reference, by going to the Ask-a-Librarian icon located throughout the library’s site. Remember, if you don’t ask for help, we can’t help you!<br />5 Criteria for Evaluating Web Sites (Applicable to Any Media):<br />If you do decide to use the Web for your research, remember that not all Web sites are safe, credible, or truthful sources of information. To determine whether a site’s contents (or any media’s contents – books, newspapers, television, etc.) can be trusted, it is best that that you carefully evaluate the site. See below for questions to ask when determining whether a site (or other media) contains sound information.<br />Audience – To whom is the site directed – children, adults, students; a certain ethnicity, gender or political affiliation? Is it understandable by the layman, or is it highly technical, requiring specialized knowledge?<br />Authority – Is the author of the site listed? Can you determine his/her expertise? Is contact information given – phone number, address, e-mail? With what organization is he/she associated?<br />Bias - Does the language, tone, or treatment of its subject give the site a particular slant or bias? Is the site objective? Is it designed to sway opinion? Organizational affiliation can often indicate bias.<br />Currency – Is the site up-to-date with working links? Are dates given for when it was created and last updated? Is the topic current?<br />Scope – Is the site an in-depth study of the topic going several pages deep, or is it a superficial, single-page look at the subject? Are statistics and sources referenced properly cited? Does the site offer unique information not found anywhere else, e.g., print sources?<br />Peer-Reviewed or Scholarly Journals vs. Magazines: What’s the difference?<br />One of the main reasons researchers turn to databases is to have the ability to search for peer-reviewed articles. The following briefly explains how peer-reviewed articles differ from popular articles.<br />Popular Magazines (Time, People, etc.)Intended for a general audience.Articles written by journalists who may or may not have special training in what they are writing about.Articles do not have footnotes.For Profit.Not Peer-reviewed.Scholarly/Peer Reviewed Journals (JAMA, etc.)Intended for an audience with knowledge in the field.Articles are written by scholars, whose names are listed along with credentials.Articles are footnoted and list sources used.Usually not for profit.Peer-reviewed.<br />How do I find peer-reviewed articles and journals?<br />Use a scholarly database rather than a general database (MEDLINE vs. Regional Business News).When available, limit to scholarly/peer-reviewed journals when you search your database.Check in Ulrichsweb (library database) to see if the journal you want is peer-reviewed.<br />Recommended General Internet Sources<br />Find these resources and more on the library’s Useful Web Sites<br />Infopeople “Best Search Tools” Chart - Weigh the pros and cons of popular Web search engines, meta-search engines, and subject directories. Special search tips also provided.<br />How to Choose a Search Engine or Directory - Use this site to choose the best search engines/directories based on the type of information, search format, or results sought.<br /> HYPERLINK "" - “Government made easy.” Find federal and state government information. A good place to go when you don’t know where to start with government research. <br />Infomine – Scholarly Internet Resource Collections HYPERLINK "" - Browse or search for sites expertly selected by professional academic librarians.<br />Library Not Have What You Need? Get It with Interlibrary Loan and TexShare<br />Because the library does not have the space or the budget to provide everything you may need for your research papers and projects, we offer two services that expand the materials available to you to those of almost every library worldwide!<br />Interlibrary Loan (ILL) - The library can fetch books and journal articles it does not have from other libraries via ILL. Books (excluding textbooks) normally take a business week or longer to retrieve; articles - because they are sent electronically - take between one to three business days. ILL is free and fast, but it requires advanced planning on your part. Keep in mind that the library will only fulfill ILL orders for those books and journal articles we do not already own. Be sure to check the catalog for the item in question before you use ILL. If you have questions about ILL, ask a librarian for help!<br />TexShare Card - In an emergency or a situation in which ILL cannot fulfill your request on time, TexShare can be a lifesaver. With a TexShare card, you can check out materials from participating libraries across the entire state of Texas, which include most public, community college, and university libraries. Go to the link above to apply for the card and read about terms and restrictions. To find out which libraries in the area own an item you need, go to the WorldCat database under “Find Articles & Databases” on the library site or access <br />Citation Style Guides<br />The most popular citation style guides can be found behind the Reference Desk (2nd floor). Other copies may be available in the Main Stacks (4th floor). Check the library catalog for availability<br />Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (The APA Style Manual) BF 76.7.P 83 2010<br />A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations : Chicago Style for Students and Researchers (The Chicago/Turabian Manual) LB 2369.T8 2007<br />MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers PE1478 .M57 2009<br />MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing PN147.G444 2008<br />The Chicago Manual of Style Z 253. C 57 2003 (also available online through the catalog)<br />The Little, Brown Handbook PE 1112.F 64 2010<br />Science and Technical Writing: A Manual of Style T11 .S378 2001 (also available online through the catalog)<br />Online Citation Resources:<br />Go to the Useful Web Sites on the library’s homepage under Resources. On the Useful Web Sites page, go to the “Citations & Style Manuals” category ( There you will find numerous sites to assist you with the APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian and other paper formats.<br />RefWorks Citation Manager – manage citations and automatically generate works cited for your papers. Available from the library’s homepage and at <br />In-Person Writing and Citing Assistance<br />Writing Center, Office of Student Success and Assessment (OSSA) – <br /> located in CN 1.302, 972-883-6707. The lab can proofread, spell-check, and citation-check your paper. Although walk-ins are welcome, students are strongly encouraged to make an appointment in advance.<br />An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action University<br />P.O. Box 830643 Richardson, TX 75083-0643 972-883-2955<br />January 2010<br />