SIX STEPS TO EFFECTIVE LIBRARY RESEARCH The Steps Identify And Develop Your Topic Find Background Information Find Books Find Periodical Articles Evaluate What You Find Cite What You Find How to Find and Develop a Viable Research Topic: Step One State your topic idea as a question. For example if you are interested in finding out about the use of alcoholic beverages by college students, you might pose the question, “What effect does the use of alcoholic beverages have on the health of college students?” Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question. For example, alcoholic beverages and health and college students. How to Find and Develop a Viable Research Topic: Step Two Test your topic. Test the main concepts or keywords on your topic by looking them up in the appropriate background sources or by testing them as search terms in a database. If you are finding too much information and too many sources may indicate that your topic is too broad, narrow your topic by changing your keywords just a little bit. For example, beer and health and college students. Finding too little information may indicate that your topic is too narrow. For example, look for information on students, rather than college students. Finding Background Information Once you have identified the main topic and keywords for you research, find one or more sources of background information to read. These sources will help you understand the broader context of your research and tell you in general terms what you need to know about your topic. The most common background sources are encyclopedias and dictionaries, as well as class textbooks. Finding Books Use OTC’s Catalog to locate books supporting your research topic. Our catalog will locate books in both the Springfield and Richwood Valley Campuses. You can also use the Mobius Catalog to locate over eight million items form around the state of Missouri. This items will be delivered to OTC within 3-4 business days. Finding Periodicals What are periodicals? Periodicals are continuous publications such as journals, newspapers or magazines. Periodicals are issued regularly, this includes daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly. To find an article When you don’t have a citation to a specific article but you want to find articles on a subject, but a specific author/s, or with a known title, you need to use the library’s databases. Databases; what’s that? A library database is an online resource that the library subscribes to, that contains articles and information from print sources such as magazines, newspapers, journals and reference books. There are two different types of databases that the OTC library subscribes to. Article Databases An article database enables you to search through thousands of different magazines, journals and newspapers to find articles on a particular topic. Some articles you find will be full text, others you will find an abstract. You will, depending on what database you are using, need to select the full text option. Reference Databases Reference databases provide reference information (facts, statistics, and background information) from many different print sources. Databases are NOT considered internet sources. How to Evaluate the Information Sources you Find Evaluating the authority, usefulness and reliability of the information you find is a crucial step in the process of library research. Initial Appraisal A) Author What are the author’s credentials, educational background, past works and/or experiences. Has your instructor mentioned this author in their lessons or in passing? Is the author associated with a reputable institution or organization? Who are they, what are their goals? Initial Appraisal B) Date of Publication When was the source published? Is the source current or out of date for you chosen topic? Initial Appraisal Edition or Revision Is this a first edition of this publication or not? Further edition indicated the source has been revised and updated to reflect changes in knowledge, include omissions, etc. Many editions indicate that the source has become a standard in that field of study. Initial Appraisal D) Publisher Note who the publisher is. If the source is published by a university press, it is likely to be scholarly. Although the fact that the publisher is reputable it does not guarantee quality; it does show that the publisher may have high regard for the source being published. Initial Appraisal E) Title of Journal Is this a scholarly or popular journal? This distinction is important because it indicates different levels of complexity in conveying ideas. Since many instructors prefer students to use scholarly journals many of our databases have included this as a search options; for example, look for ‘Scholarly PeerReviewed’. Content Analysis Have made an initial appraisal, you should now examine the body of the source. Read the preface to determine the author’s intentions for the book. Scan the table of contents and the index to get a broad overview of the material it covers. Note whether bibliographies are included. Content Analysis A) Intended Audience What type of audience is the author addressing? Is the publication aimed at a specialized or a general audience? Is this source too elementary, too technical, too advanced, or just right for your needs? Content Analysis B) Objective Reasoning Is the information covered fact, opinion, or propaganda? Facts can usually be verified; opinions, though they may be based on factual information, evolve from the interpretation of facts. Does the information appear to be valid and wellresearched, or is it questionable and unsupported by evidence? Are the ideas are arguments advanced more or less in line with other works you have read on the same topic? Is the author’s point of view objective and impartial? Is the language free of emotion-arousing words and bias? Content Analysis C) Coverage Does the work update other sources, substantiate other materials you have read, or add new information? Does it extensively or marginally cover your topic? Is the material primary of secondary in nature? Primary sources are the raw material of the research process. Secondary sources are based on primary sources. Chose both primary and secondary sources when you have the opportunity. Content Analysis D) Writing Style Is the publication organized logically? Are the main points clearly presented? Do you find the text easy to read, or is it stilted or choppy? Is the author’s argument repetitive. Cite What you Find Using a Standard Format Give credit where credit is due; cite your sources. Citing or documenting the sources used in your research serves two purposes, it gives proper credit to the authors of materials use, and it allows those who are reading your work to duplicate your research and locate the sources that you have listed as references. Knowingly representing the work of others as your own is plagiarism.