Library Research: Overview
- Identify your research topic. Test the topic by searching the Milne Library catalog and a few databases. You may need to broaden or narrow your topic. See also Tips and examples for writing thesis statements (From Purdue University).
- Background information on a topic can often be found in encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference sources. Reference sources provide background information on a topic, clarify definitions, and often include bibliographies at the end of an article. There are encyclopedias in the reference area on the first floor of Milne Library that cover most topics.
- Find books. Books often treat a topic more comprehensively than journal articles. Books can be a good place to find an overview of a topic. References to additional articles and books can often be found in a bibliography at the end of a chapter.
- Find articles. Since journal articles are often more focused than books, they may provide more specific information than books. References to additional articles and books can often be found in a bibliography at the end of an article. Information in journal articles is usually more current than information in books.
- Find supplementary materials such as internet sites. Since articles found on the internet have rarely gone through the peer-review process, they must be carefully evaluated.
- Use the information to address the research topic, integrating the information you've found into a reasoned argument or presentation. Make sure you cite your sources in the appropriate format.
- Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks are authoritative sources for background information, important concepts, names, and dates. Lists of books and articles for further reading are often included.
Selected Reference Books
Where to Find Books
Use the MilneCat search box under the Catalog tab on the library home page. MilneCat gives the location and availability of books, videos, compact discs, reserves, and other materials. It does NOT have information about individual journal articles.
For books in Milne, note the call number for the item and consult Library Floor Plans to determine the location of the item. For online books, follow the link to Electronic Book or Online Item.
To view detailed information about an item, click on the number link on the left of the entry. Availability is shown by numbers to the right (e. g. 1/0). The first number is the number owned by the library; the last number is how many are checked out.
Subjects are listed at the bottom of the detailed entry. These subjects will link to other materials on the same exact subject.
The BASIC SEARCH allows you to search by fields such as (Words Anywhere, Words in Title, Words in Author, Subject begins with). "Words Anywhere" searches are useful if you do not know the precise subject, title or author. If you are unsure of the ending of a word or wish to search the stem of a word, use the wildcard symbol * .
The ADVANCED SEARCH allows limiting by language, collection, document type, year.
If you do not find the item on the shelf, ask at the Circulation Desk to see if the book has been checked in and is waiting to be shelved. If still not available, complete a “Search” card for the item. A staff member will look for the item and notify you of the results. Items in circulation can be requested on interlibrary loan from another library.
- Hartwick College (link is located under "Other Catalogs" under the Catalog tab on the library home page)
- SUNY Oneonta students may borrow materials with a valid SUNY ID card.
Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journal Articles
- Like the index in the back of a book that helps you locate specific content within the book, journal and newspaper indexes make it possible to find an article on a specific topic without leafing through numerous issues. For academic research, it is often important to use peer-reviewed (or refereed) journals rather than popular magazines. Peer-review is the process by which a journal article is evaluated by experts in the field before publication. An example of a peer-reviewed journal is Evaluation and Research in Education. An example of a popular magazine is Newsweek.
Best Databases to Begin a Search
The databases below (except for Google Scholar) are all located on the Milne Library home page under the "Databases" tab.
Where to Find the Full-Text of an Article
If there is no full text with the citation for an article in a database, click on or Find It!. If full text of the article is available in another database, there will be a link connecting you to that database, where you can locate the article in the appropriate volume, or search for the article by title or author.
- You can also determine whether a journal is available electronically by entering the journal title in the search box under the Journals tab on the library home page and clicking on Search. If the title is available in electronic form, check the coverage, and click on the database link(s) and search for the item(s) needed. If the title is available in the library, click on "SUNY-Oneonta Print Holdings" and then on "Is it here?" to see the complete holdings.
- Locating the article in print or microfilm, if not available in electronic form:
- If under "Links to Full Text," there is a link to the title, click on "Journal," and then on "Is it here?" Check "Summary holdings" to see if Milne Library has the particular issue needed and in what form the article can be found. Journals are located on compact shelving or in microfilm drawers on floor P.
- Requesting an article on Interlibrary Loan:
- If you find an article from a journal that is not available at Milne Library in any form after you have linked to "Check Library Catalog", you can request the article through the link Request via Interlibrary Loan on the record for the article needed (see computer screen that comes up after you click on Find It!). You need to be registered to submit ILL requests. See a librarian for help. You can also request articles through the InterLibrary Loan login link on the library web site under the "Services" tab.
Evaluating Web Sites
*Anyone* can publish on the Internet. Therefore, it is important to learn to evaluate any information found on the net.
Five points to consider in the evaluation of a web site:
1. AUTHORITY: Who is responsible for creating the page? Does the URL contain .edu (education), .gov (US government), .org (organization) .int (international organization)? Or does the URL contain .com (commercial) or .biz (business)? Is it a personal site (.name)? (Country codes also may be part of a URL. See Domain name registries around the world. It is possible to limit a search to a certain country by adding the country domain in Google: Advanced Search.)
2. CURRENCY: Is there a date indicating when the page was created or updated? Is the information up to date? Are the links current and functional?
3. COVERAGE: What is the purpose of the site? Does it address your research topic? Is it detailed or broad? What kind of information is it providing: historical? background? statistical? factual? conceptual? a study?
4. OBJECTIVITY: Is the site expressing a slanted point of view or trying to sway your opinion?
5. ACCURACY: Can you verify that the information is correct? Are the facts consistent within the page? Do they match up with what you found in print sources? Are sources for the information cited?
Citations: How to Write a Bibliography. Covers both APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association) styles.
Microsoft Office Word 2007 has a tab for managing references including endnotes, footnotes, and bibliographic citations. Not all types of citation are included. As a non-thinking piece of software, it can make mistakes, so it is important to check for accuracy. Many databases such as EBSCO also provide citation generation.
When you use information from a book, article, or web site, don't forget to cite it in proper fashion! Remember to paraphrase and use your own language. For further tips see:
Plagiarism- What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It (From Indiana University--Bloomington)
Turnitin.com is often used at the College at Oneonta to detect plagiarism.
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