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A. Finding Sources

Three Types of Resources

❶Abstracts — summarize the primary or secondary sources, Databases — are online indexes that usually include abstracts for each primary or secondary resource, and may also include a digital copy of the resource.

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We also know how and when to refer you for a follow-up appointment with the Reference Assistance and Instruction department. You Get What You Give: Reflections on the Dissertation Writing Retreat May 25, Creating a Culture of Writing: University of Louisville Writing Center. How are the papers I'm asked to write in my major different from those in English , , and courses?

I want to get started writing early, but how do I begin? How do I get started writing a personal statement? I have a lot to say, but how can I organize my thoughts? How can I learn how to write in a new genre for example, personal statement, resume, or literature review? How can I find good sources for my research paper? When you get to the section where your book is located, don't just look at that book. Sometimes you will find great resources that you were unaware of just by looking on the shelf.

Because libraries are generally organized by topic, you can often find some real "gems" this way. Also check the index in the front or the back of the book the one in the back is always more detailed, but not all books have one to be sure that the information you are looking for is in the book. A book can have a great title, but no information. On the other hand, a book that doesn't seem to go along with what you are doing can turn out to have a lot of usable information.

Books are generally a great resource--they often contain a lot of information gathered into one place, and they can give you a more thorough investigation of your topic.

As you are reading a book, journal article, or newspaper article, you should keep the following questions in mind, which will help you understand how useful the book will be to you.

Magazines including Time or Newsweek are called periodicals as they are published periodically weekly, monthly, etc. Most libraries only keep the most current issues of these magazines on the shelf. The rest are bound together in collections, usually by year. These are usually kept in a separate room in the basement, to my experience! Usually, the location is a place called "the stacks," which is where you go to look for periodicals that are older than the current issue.

Remember that you can't take these out of the library. If you find articles that you want to take home, you need to photocopy them. Newspaper articles are sometimes in the bound periodicals, but are more often found on microfiche or microfilm. Make sure to distinguish between general interest magazines and professional journals; this is an important distinction in college-level research. Microfiche or microfilm is a device which can be extremely frustrating. Don't hesitate to ask for help from your nearby reference person.

Microfiche or microfilm comes in two forms--small cards of information fiche , or long film-type strips of information film. Once you insert these into the microfiche or microfilm machine and there are separate machines for each , you will be able to see the text of the article that you are looking for.

Often, you will have to scan through quite a bit of film to find what you are looking for. Microfiche and microfilm are kept in boxes, and sometimes you have to request the date that you are looking for. With persistence, you can find some wonderful resources on microfiche and microfilm. Many libraries today, especially if they are larger libraries, have information available on CDROM or through what are called specialized databases.

Be sure to tell a reference librarian what you are working on, and ask her advice on whether or not there is information available on CDROM or through a specialized database. Government documents are currently available on CDROM and often offer updated information census data, for example.

The reference librarian can tell you which CDs might be the most helpful and can help you sign them out and use them. There are many specialized databases. Some examples are ERIC, the educational database, and Silver Platter, which offers texts of recent articles in particular subjects yep, the whole article is available right through the computer, which is often less time-consuming than looking through the stacks for it The American Psychological Association has the titles of articles on specific subjects psychology, sociology, etc.

Sociofile is another example. Ask your reference librarian to see exactly what is available. One good thing about specialized databases is that you already know the source and orientation of the article. You also know that the source is a valid and reputable one. You will need the reference librarian's help getting into specialized databases--most libraries require that the databases have passwords. Bring your own paper if you plan on doing this type of research! Many libraries allow you to print from the databases, but you must supply your own paper.

Internet research is another popular option these days. You can research from home if you have internet search capabilities, or you usually can research from the library. Most libraries have internet connections on at least a few computers, although sometimes you need to sign up for them in advance. Even if there doesn't seem to be much of a crowd around, be sure to sign up on the sheet so that you don't have someone come along and try to take your spot.

Internet research can be very rewarding, but it also has its drawbacks. Many libraries have set their computers on a particular search engine, or a service that will conduct the research for you. Internet research can be time consuming. You will need to search much the way you would on the library database computers--simply type in key words or authors or titles, and see what the computer comes up with. Then you will have to read through the list of choices that you are given and see if any of them match what you think you are looking for.

There are a lot of resources on the internet that are not going to be valuable to you. Part of your internet research will include evaluating the resources that you find. Personal web pages are NOT a good source to go by--they often have incorrect information on them and can be very misleading.

Be sure that your internet information is from a recognized source such as the government, an agency that you are sure is a credible source the Greenpeace web page, for example, or the web page for the National Institute of Health , or a credible news source CBS, NBC, and ABC all have web pages.

A rule of thumb when doing internet research: One good source to help you determine the credibility of online information is available from UCLA: Check out the Content and Evaluation and Sources and Data sections. Taking notes is an important part of doing research. Be sure when you take notes that you write down the source that they are from! One way of keeping track is to make yourself a "master list"--a number list of all of the sources that you have. Then, as you are writing down notes, you can just write down the number of that source.

A good place to write notes down is on note cards. This way you can take the note cards and organize them later according to the way you want to organize your paper. While taking notes, also be sure to write down the page number of the information. You will need this later on when you are writing your paper. Any time that you use information that is not what is considered "common knowledge," you must acknowledge your source. For example, when you paraphrase or quote, you need to indicate to your reader that you got the information from somewhere else.

This scholarly practice allows your reader to follow up that source to get more information. You must create what is called a citation in order to acknowledge someone else's ideas. You use parentheses in your text, and inside the parentheses you put the author's name and the page number there are several different ways of doing this. You should look at your course guide carefully to determine which format you should be using. Check out more specific information on how to document sources.

Using sources to support your ideas is one characteristic of the research paper that sets it apart from personal and creative writing. Sources come in many forms, such as magazine and journal articles, books, newspapers, videos, films, computer discussion groups, surveys, or interviews. The trick is to find and then match appropriate, valid sources to your own ideas. But where do you go to obtain these sources?

For college research papers, you will need to use sources available in academic libraries college or university libraries as opposed to public libraries. Here you will find journals and other texts that go into more depth in a discipline and are therefore more appropriate for college research than those sources written for the general public. Some, though not all, of these sources are now in electronic format, and may be accessible outside of the library using a computer.

Primary sources are original, first-hand documents such as creative works, research studies, diaries and letters, or interviews you conduct. Secondary sources are comments about primary sources such as analyses of creative work or original research, or historical interpretations of diaries and letters.

Three Types of Resources In general, there are three types of resources or sources of information: Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based, including: Secondary sources are those that describe or analyze primary sources, including: Tertiary sources are those used to organize and locate secondary and primary sources.

Abstracts — summarize the primary or secondary sources, Databases — are online indexes that usually include abstracts for each primary or secondary resource, and may also include a digital copy of the resource. Secondary Sources Primary Vs. Scholarly Journal Reports original research or experimentation Articles written by an expert in the field for other experts in the field Articles use specialized jargon of the discipline Articles undergo peer review process before acceptance for publication in order to assure creative content Authors of articles always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies Examples: Trade Journal Discusses practical information in industry Contains news, product information, advertising, and trade articles Contains information on current trends in technology Articles usually written by experts in the field for other experts in the field Articles use specialized jargon of the discipline Useful to people in the trade field and to people seeking orientation to a vocation Examples: Advertising Age Independent Banker People Management General Interest Magazines Provides information in a general manner to a broad audience Articles generally written by a member of the editorial staff or a freelance writer Language of articles geared to any educated audience, no subject expertise assumed Articles are often heavily illustrated, generally with photographs No peer review process Sources are sometimes cited, but more often there are no footnotes or bibliography Examples: Newsweek Popular Science Psychology Today Popular Magazine Articles are short and written in simple language with little depth to the content of these articles The purpose is generally to entertain, not necessarily inform Information published in popular magazines is often second-or third-hand The original source of information contained in articles is obscure Articles are written by staff members or freelance writers Examples:


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The dreaded research paper can leave many wondering where to go for information. With the Internet being so accessible, it might be tempting to type words into Google and use whatever comes up first. You may get lucky and get great sources, or you may get stuck with less credible sites that leave your professor wondering where you got such information.

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Collecting sources for a research paper can sometimes be a daunting task. When beginning your research, it’s often a good idea to begin with common search engines, like Google, and general descriptions like you can find on Wikipedia. Often though these are not the sources .

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– Tell one of these people your research topic and ask them to point you towards useful sources. Chances are that they know more about what’s available about your particular topic than you do. Depending on the size of your school, you may have a subject area librarian for the particular type of research you are doing. What makes a research source good or bad? When conducting research, you should avoid any source that contains opinion or fiction.

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Secondary sources are those that describe or analyze primary sources, including: reference materials – dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and books and articles that interpret, review, or sythesize original research/fieldwork. Learn about all the different source types and when they are appropriate and helpful to you in the research process: encyclopedias, Wikipedia, books, scholarly articles, popular articles and magazines, trade magazines, news, and websites!