The Writing Center

Library Skills for the Research Paper

Beginning to do a research project requires several stages.  The following links walk you through the initial stages making you familiar with CSU’s great resources.

  1. Virtual Reference Desk:  background information from encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauruses, and a wealth of other material.  What have you found?  
    Here is the page:
  1. Academic Search Premier:  the first place to start for general information on your topic.  Please LIMIT your search by peer-reviewed articles and full text for the VERY FIRST check on whether there are enough scholarly materials on your subject to write a research paper.  If you have 3-5 sources, then eliminate the full text limitation and see how many peer-reviewed articles you find.  How many sources do you have from Academic Search Premier? 
    Here is the link:
  1. Databases in your subject area:  No one feels exactly competent in this area because all this is new and they change it every six months; nonetheless, try at least 3 databases and expect that some will yield nothing!  Some might yield a great article, and some might yield articles that are too complex at your level for you to use.  Which databases did you use and what did you find?
    Here is the page:
  1. OhioLink for books:  How many books are there on your subject?  How many book chapters?  Book chapters are usually the best to begin reading because they are less densely written than articles are. 
    Here is the link:
  1. Book Reviews:  A review of a book will save you tons of reading time and help you make great decisions.  Check this source for 2 years after the book was published.  This Virtual Reference link will help you find reviews: 
    Here is the link:
  1. Lexis Nexis:  This mammoth database contains legal information, but it is also a great source for newspaper articles on your subject area.  You should be familiar with it for future reference.  See any articles on your subject there? 
    Here is the link:
  1. Check for the availability of your sources:  How many does CSU own either electronically or in print version?  If you have to order them, how many did you have to use OhioLink for?  How many do you have to Interlibrary Loan?  Be sure to learn how to use these important services.
    Here’s the Interlibrary Loan link:
  1. Now that you have a set of sources, evaluate that set:
    1. do you think you’ve gone back enough years? Maybe go back a few more?
    2. if you have too many sources, can you limit your search (by English language, by article type)?
    3. do the sources seem exactly on your subject (do not be generous here!  be ruthless!)
    4. does one seem best?  if so, look very carefully at its bibliography—you might find more important sources there
    5. use your intuition—anything else you need to explore?  Go ahead and order things you think might be related if your intuition keeps bugging you about something.  You might be right.
  1. Keep a research log (see handout on WAC page) to keep a record of your thoughts/feelings as you begin to skim, take notes, and eventually read the materials. 
    Here’s a handout on research logs:
  1. If after all this exploration, you are not satisfied with what you’ve found, make sure to make an appointment with a reference librarian IN YOUR AREA:  you can find business cards with their email and phone numbers at the Reference Desk.  They are DELIGHTED to help you, so please make an appointment with one, especially if you are doing advanced work in your field and can’t seem to find what you are looking for.  The email boxes on the library web pages are also a GREAT way to set up these appointments or to ask questions.  Who is the reference librarian in your area? 
    Here’s the e-mail box link:

Finally, don’t forget the Writing Center:  tutors are here for you to discuss your research process and any problems you might encounter.  Now that we are located in the library, we can work with librarians together to help you in just one visit!  Call 687-6981 to set up an appointment.

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