Boolean operators: (AND, OR, NOT) combine search terms to narrow or broaden results
Wildcard: (# or ?) Replaces a character, for example, “ne#t” or “ne?t” finds neat, nest, or next by will not find net.
Truncation: (*) Replaces any number of characters and will find all forms of a word root, for example “therap*” finds therapy, therapies, therapist, therapists, therapeutic, etc.
Keywords are taken from the article and represent the natural language used by the author. Authors or journal editors may provide the keywords. Subject terms are controlled vocabulary terms. An example of a set of controlled vocabulary is from the National Library of Medicine - Medical Subject Headings (MESH).
For some assignments, you will be required to search for scholarly, peer reviewed journals (especially in AP courses and college courses). Scholarly journals are published by a professional society or association. In order for articles to be included in some scholarly journals, they must be reviewed and accepted by an editorial board. These journals are known as juried, refereed or peer reviewed journals. Popular, news, or opinion magazines (for example Time magazine) provide an “average person’s view of an issue”. These magazines do not report results of research projects, have a peer review process or include annotated bibliographies.
Primary sources report the results of original studies and represent the latest information on a topic. Secondary sources can be reviews of several primary sources in a particular research area and are not meant to provide the reader with the same detail as in primary sources. Examples of primary sources: journal articles, dissertations. Secondary sources: review articles (critique several studies, often “review” in the title), chapters in books, handbooks (books about general areas of a specific subject) and annual reviews.
Below are steps to conduct basic research using the model from the Society of College, National and University Libraries. As explained in The Information Literacy User's Guide, the model is called the "Seven Pillars of Information Literacy". If you need clarification on the process, you can refer to the sections in the open access textbook: The Information Literacy User's Guide. The page numbers are listed accordingly with each step.
Step 1: Identify: Understanding your information need
Textbook p. 8
Ask yourself what you already know about the research topic. Identify gaps in knowledge. Use background research to come up with a draft research question or topic phrases.
Step 2: Scope: Knowing what is available
Textbook p. 16
Become familiar with your school and/or public library and the resources available to you. Ask for help from reference librarians. Know where to find the library catalog and databases.
Step 3: Plan: Developing research strategies
Textbook p. 28
Become familiar with library catalog and database features. Use synonyms to expand concepts. Create a Boolean search. Here is the strategy for a successful search: p. 44.
Topic: climate change and policies
"climate change" AND policies
"global warming" AND laws
Step 4: Gather: Finding what you need
Find resources (articles, books, websites or data) for the assignment. Look for academic sources. Do not use Wikipedia as a source.
Step 5: Evaluate: Assessing your research process and findings
Use the CRAAP test as a guide to help you evaluate resources. (See section on the CRAAP method below.)
Step 6: Manage: Organizing information effectively and ethically
Textbook p. 91
Keep track of your sources to avoid unintentional plagiarism. Use index cards to record information about your sources. Use a citation management software like Easybib to help with citing sources.
Step 7: Present: Sharing what you have learned
The list of questions below was developed by the Meriam Library at California State Library. Although some of the questions will apply when evaluating websites, most of the questions are useful when evaluating other sources (books, articles) as well.
THE CRAAP TEST
Currency: the timeliness of the information
Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs
Authority: the source of the information
Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content
Purpose: the reason the information exists
There are many resources available to help you cite. You need to know what citation format is required for the paper (is it MLA, APA, Chicago?) To help you with the format of the citation, you could use a free citation generator tool like EasyBib or look at any of these guides:
The online research guide was created for a project to teach information literacy (with emphasis on library databases) to high school students. In a one-shot library instruction session (1.5 hours), the librarian will show the guide, demonstrate a search in a library database, and have the students work in groups. The expected outcomes are:
The expected outcomes are:
(ACRL Standards 2, 2.1, 2.4, 3, 3.2, 5, 5.3)
The focus of the library instruction session and research guide is searching for information in library databases. Other topics that can be included in another session include: plagiarism, learning how to use information ethically, forming research questions, web searching, evaluating websites, distinguishing between primary and secondary resources, searching for books in a catalog, and differentiating between scholarly and popular information.