The library card is a passport to wonders and miracles, glimpses into other lives, religions, experiences, the hopes and dreams and strivings of ALL human beings, and it is this passport that opens our eyes and hearts to the world beyond our front doors, that is one of our best hopes against tyranny, xenophobia, hopelessness, despair, anarchy, and ignorance.
- Libby Bray, Author
With a research question in hand, it's now time to find an answer. Yes, you can easily go online, and in a google search you can find an answer to your question. What you often times find on the web, like Wikipedia entries, are sites that give basic answers. When conducting research, you are not looking for basic answers. You want scholarly answers, which are going to give you evidence and in-depth analysis. Authorship is key when conducting research in college. You are looking for expert, educated opinions held in the scholarly fields; the experts are peer reviewed, which means that their research underwent a rigious review of other scholars in the field. This research will have both data and evidence you as the reader can verify. Strong scholarly writings also engage other viewpoints in the scholarship. Simply put, Wikipedia doesn't cut it. Certainly there are appropriate online sources: Google Scholar and .edu websites will sometimes have sources you can use to answer your research question. Depending on the assignment and class, your research should include the following:
1. Scholarly articles.
3. Primary Sources; first-hand accounts.
4. Case studies.
To get these sources, you will have to, yet again, go to the Library/Learning Commons. The Reference Librarians are your friends in this process. They will help you learn the databases you will need to access in order to obtain the above scholarly sources. Every database has an algorithm, and reference librarians familiar with the algorithms are experts in using search terms to give you the best possible results. They will empower you with this skill so that you can become more self-directed.
The Library Catalog, EBSCO, JSTOR, PubMed, and Worldcat are the basic databases you want to get familiar with straight away. Depending on the field and institution, there will be more specialized databases. You will find that when you transfer to University, there are entire libraries dedicated to different fields of study. Databases house scholarly books and articles that will help you in your quest for educated answers to your question. What's great about Worldcat is that if our institution doesn't have a book or an article you are looking for, you can get it through interlibrary loan. IMPORTANT NOTE: it will take usually three weeks for a source to come through interlibrary loan; be proactive. For most freshman classes, six sources tends to be the average, but don't be surprised if your instructor asks you for more.
Why you need databases for research.
Search engines only show what people make accessible while databases will let you search what is not freely on the web. This College student explains the benefits of using library databases for research over searching the web.
More than a pro tip, gutting a Book is a survival tool for research. There are so many books and articles out there in these databases that trying to read every single one is overwhelming. Have you ever spent hours reading a book that did not even coincide with your research? When you are culling sources, you will find that often times there are several sources that could benefit your research. Before reading them, gut them.
1. Read the Preface, Introduction, and Conclusion.
2. Identify the thesis of the book: this will be the author's argument or purpose for writing the work.
3. Starting with the first chapter, read the first and last paragraph in its entirety. Here, you are identifying the focus of the chapter, and considering how the author will present their argument.
4. Read the topic sentence and concluding sentence of each paragraph inbetween the first and last paragraphs. Topic sentences may be one to three sentences long; read until you have a clear indication of what that paragrpah is about (don't read the entire paragraph). You will want to read the paragraph if the topic sentnece and concluding sentences alert you to evidence or examples that may relate to your research.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each chapter. Why? You may find a chapter within a book that relates to your research: it may be chapter 13. You need to gut the entire book.
6. PRO TIP: In writing their books and articles, authors have already done research. Be sure to visit their bibliographies to find additional sources, especially if you find that book that relates to your research topic.
7. Other considerations: read Book Reviews. Book Reviews should not be cited in your final bibliography, but a good book review will share different perspectives and arguments that will make you research more dynamic. A good research paper should consider different points of view.
Read short articles, but you can gut longer articles. What makes gutting articles tough is that the focus of an article is usually specific, to the point that the examples and evidence used are crticial to understanding the nature of the argument being forwarded. Articles tend to be full of substance, and less narrative, unlike book. Articles are usually published in journals for specialists and research students alike.
1. Read the abstract: get a sense of what the article will present.
2. Read the first section of the article, and the last section; find the thesis.
3. Read the topic sentences and concluding sentences, but skim the article.
4. Remember to check the bibliography for additional sources.
All books and articles that pass for valid sources related to your research should be added to your working bibliography. You will then need to READ these works for your research.