A personal introduction to academic librarians and using library resources for academic research and learning.
The point of most college research paper assignments is NOT to report a collection of facts, quotes and other bits of information on a topic that you happened across in your reading:
RATHER, the point is to raise a question about a topic, and to use what you learn about the topic to answer that question.
As you move from a broad topic to a narrowed topic, to a research question and to a refined thesis statement you will be able to more easily search for useful expert sources and to write a better paper.
For your assignment, you have been given a general area for topic selection, a music artist or group; and direction for the questions to be raising, their influence on society. It's likely that you know quite a bit about your artists, but maybe not so much about their influences. You will need a little information to proceed. Go ahead and try a simple search in Academic Search Complete (see below), and review the results list.
Search statement: Social influence "[music artists]" Replace [music artists] with the name of yours, and keep the quotes.
I did this for the Dixie Chicks and for Michael Stipe, the lead singer of R.E.M. I learned that the Dixie Chicks not only caused great controversy when, as country musicians, they criticized President Bush, they have also raised issues of feminism and equal treatment of women in their music. Stipe has supported some environmental causes and has been a substantial donor and fundraiser for homeless and hunger programs in New York.
These bits of information give me fuel for shaping my research question, and also give me leads on finding sources.
Knowledge does not live in objects like books and articles, but in the minds of the authors of those objects. You will need to think about who has the knowledge you seek, and then look for the places where those experts publish, and where those publications are indexed.
Below are indexes or tools that cover lots of fields of knowledge, brief tutorials on finding sources in those tools, and a link to guides to published knowledge for each of the major programs on campus.
Using these tools is a matter of
The databases, such as Academic Search Complete, index mainly articles in magazines, newspapers and scholarly journals, and often focus on particular subject areas.The library catalog indexes books and media that we own, and can easily be used to search other libraries, too. Library catalogs and databases provide materials that are NOT fully and easily available through internet search engines.
This interdisciplinary scholarly collection offers information in nearly every area of academic study, including: sciences, social sciences, arts & literature, ethnic studies, and many more. Full-text for over 6,100 titles (5,100 peer-reviewed); indexing and abstracting for 10,600 titles; complete historical coverage and citation searching for select titles.
As you review your search results you can begin to assess the authority, credibility and purpose of each source as you select it. You will continue to evaluate each source as you read it and use it in your own work.
If you think of your reading and writing with sources as a kind of conversation, then you will want to address your sources and acknowledge what they have given you to help with answering your questions. Scholars do this through citations, often using specific sets of rules, such as MLA Style, for particular fields of study. This is part of how members of the different communities communicate what they learn in their research to each other and advance knowledge in their field.
Librarians can help you many of the mechanics of citation practice. We also have these resources available:
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