Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Second Summer Session Underway Up Front

View of Davis Library's Main Entrance around 10:45 PM Tuesday 7.16.13
Since a number of students are working on research projects this summer, we’re continuing with our blog post series on the Research Process.  Today, we’ll be discussing the issue of “How to Find Background Information.”

Once you’ve established a workable topic and tentative thesis statement for your research assignment, you’ll want to begin gathering some background information to help better familiarize you with the subject-matter.  This information can also guide you to more in-depth knowledge on the topic.

The most common background sources are encyclopedias and dictionaries, both of which may be found in print or digital format.  Encyclopedias usually contain articles that give a general overview of a topic.  They can be used to obtain keywords and names that can be searched for more scholarly information on the subject in other information resources or databases.  Dictionaries allow you to define and clarify your topic and the keywords related to it so that both you and the audience for your project are better able to understand the context, meaning and value of your research.

Examples of Subject-Specific Reference Materials
Located on the Main Floor of the Davis Library, is the Reference Collection where you’ll see a number of hard-copy (print format) subject-specific encyclopedias and dictionaries available for in-house use.  These books will often contain articles or entries that are considerably more detailed than what you’d normally find in general encyclopedias or dictionaries—like Britannica or Merriam-Webster.  

Doing an Advanced Search in RioCat, Davis Library’s online catalog, limiting your search location to “Reference-Main” is a good way to filter your results to only those items found in the Reference Collection.  Then, Davis Library also provides online access to a number of reference materials in digital format through its participation in the Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK.)
A direct link to the OhioLINK Electronic Book Center (EBC) can be found under the “Find Books” heading on the Davis Library Home Page found at:   www.rio.edu/library.  With the EBC, you may limit searches to the OhioLINK Scholarly & Reference E-book Collection. 

Also from the Davis Library Home Page, if you click on the link OhioLINK Research Databases listed under the “Find Articles” heading and then click the link Listed by Subject, you’ll find the link Quick Reference listed.  By clicking on this link, you’ll get details on and access to a variety of types of online reference resources.

If you’re working off-campus, OhioLINK does require that you go through an authentication process to get to many of their digital collections.  See the following links for step-by-step directions...
While your instructors will discourage you from using Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, as a reference source for your college research projects, it can be a valuable tool for exploring a topic further and that may also be utilized to find more scholarly information.  

Watch the video tutorial Using Wikipedia for Academic Research below by Michael Baird for Oregon’s Cooperative Library Instruction Project (CLIP) which demonstrates how bibliographies from the articles presented in this online encyclopedia can lead to better sources offering more credible and in-depth knowledge.  

(Please Note:  Wikipedia entries and articles can be published and edited by just about anyone, so their reliability is often questionable and that’s the reason many of your instructors oppose this online resource's use for academic research purposes.  Consulting the bibliographies of other articles, not just those found on Wikipedia, can also help guide you to more detailed and scholarly information too.  Remember critically evaluating information no matter where you find it is important.)

Article sample from Encyclopedia of Bioethics
Now, once you feel comfortable with the background information you’ve gathered, you’ll want to narrow and expand your information searches so that you can “Find Books, Articles and More” to support your topic, which we’ll cover our next installment in this series.

As always, if you have any questions about Davis Library’s services or the Research Process, feel free to… “Ask Us!

No comments:

Post a Comment