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The Elements of Library Research

The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know

Mary W. George
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    The Elements of Library Research
    Book Description:

    To do solid academic research, college students need to look beyond the computer search engine. This short, practical book introduces students to the important components of the information-seeking process.The Elements of Library Researchprovides a foundation for success in any research assignment, from a freshman paper to a senior thesis.

    Unlike guides that describe the research process but do not explain its logic, this book focuses entirely on basic concepts, strategies, tools, and tactics for research--in both electronic and print formats. Drawing on decades of experience with undergraduates, reference librarian Mary George arms students with the critical thinking skills and procedures they need to approach any academic project with confidence.

    Ways to turn a topic into a research questionTechniques for effective online searchesHow to evaluate primary and secondary sourcesWhen and how to confer with reference librarians and facultyHow to avoid plagiarismGlossary of key terms, from Boolean search to peer reviewChecklists, timelines, and hints for successful research projects

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3041-1
    Subjects: Education, Library Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. 1 Introduction to Research as Inquiry
    (pp. 1-13)

    Let me explain what this little book is and why I am writing it. It is not a guide to whipping up successful research papers from dribs and drabs of information. Nor is it a set of commandments or a list of random reference works. It is about the interplay of ideas (yours) with sources (from outside yourself) and about the nature and discovery of those sources. I want to persuade you, as a serious but uncertain student, that library research is not a mystery or a lucky dodge, but an investigation you control from start to finish, even though...

  5. 2 From Research Assignment to Research Plan
    (pp. 14-63)

    Every living thing gathers information continuously in order to survive. That information comes from both the environment and within the organism itself, arriving without conscious activity. Then there is the intentional information seeking we do constantly as human beings in the course of our daily personal, social, and work lives. Suppose you have a doubt about a fact, a sequence, or a policy, for instance, “I don’t know where the nearest ABC store is located, if they allow exchanges of merchandise purchased elsewhere, or if they will refund the purchase price in cash or give me store credit.” So, almost...

  6. 3 Strategy and Tools for Discovery
    (pp. 64-89)

    As you’ve gathered by now, successful library research involves a mix of concepts, procedures, and guesswork. You can’t simply plug numbers into a formula and trust the answer will come out right. When you conduct library research, you are engaging your mind at every stage as you imagine what sources of information and opinion ought to exist, predict how to zero in on them, assess their actual usefulness for answering your research questions, and sleuth for alternative sources if the first ones don’t work.

    After you’ve brainstormed, look over the research questions you’ve written in your log, then prioritize them...

  7. 4 The Fine Art of Finding Sources
    (pp. 90-125)

    This chapter is on tactics, about how best to find sources to help you answer your research questions. Here I meanfindin all senses of the word: to identify the existence of sources, to verify the accuracy of citations (if they are incomplete or in conflict with other references you have), to locate the sources you have identified, and then to actually obtain them.

    Before we begin, I need to acknowledge two complications. One is that every assignment, project, and set of research questions is unique, not because it has never occurred to anyone before in the history of...

  8. 5 Insight, Evaluation, Argument, and Beyond
    (pp. 126-144)

    At the start of the library research process, as you gather background information on your chosen topic, brainstorm about it, and begin to discover and review sources, it is your initial idea—expressed as a research question—that keeps you moving forward. It’s too soon to know where your inquiry will lead, so you need patience and faith. Provided you keep working and thinking, you will have an unpredictable flash of insight that will transform how you view your topic. Your interesting, but probably vague, notion will suddenly become the germ of a compelling, supportable, and clear argument. This is...

  9. Appendix A Good Habits, Helpful Hints, and Wrong Assumptions
    (pp. 145-146)
  10. Appendix B Mary’s Maxims Compiled
    (pp. 147-148)
  11. Appendix C Research Timelines
    (pp. 149-160)
  12. Appendix D Questions to Ask Your Instructor
    (pp. 161-162)
  13. Appendix E Research Appointment Worksheet
    (pp. 163-164)
  14. Glossary of Library Research Terms
    (pp. 165-190)
  15. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 191-194)
  16. Index
    (pp. 195-201)