Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Writing a Paper? Try These 7 Research Tips

This article by Lynn Jacobs and Jeremy Hyman in U.S. News & World Report offers practical tips for successfully starting, planning, and finishing papers. The following list gives article excerpts and along with links to Tarleton Libraries' resources and services to help you apply the research tips. Enjoy!
  • Start from where you are.
    • Pick a topic that interests you. Look to course materials, lecture notes, handouts, and so on for ideas.
    • Talk to your instructor to see if your topic is on target.

  • Think E.
    • “The best place to start is not with Google, Bing, or Wikipedia but with E-reserves that the professor has listed” and made available via your library’s site. Tarleton State University Libraries
    • “Next stop: the electronic resources (or E-resources) at the library Web page” for online access to articles, reference books, and more. Tarleton Libraries databases
    • Subject guides are useful because they list resources by subject and “can be incredibly helpful" when you start researching a topic. Tarleton Libraries’ Subject Research Guides

  • Discover WorldCat.
    • “One of the best resources is, a free and public catalog of more than a billion (with a "b"!) items available from more than 10,000 libraries worldwide. . . . It's available in all modalities including online and mobile (with downloadable apps for iPhone, BlackBerry, and most Web-enabled phones).”

  • Learn the shortcuts.
    • “Use wild-card characters—typically a question mark (?), pound sign (#), or asterisk (*)—when you know only the first few letters of a word or when you want to find all the words that start with a certain string of letters.”
    • “Use the Boolean and operator (typically AND or +) to limit the results of a search, and the or operator (OR or -) to expand the topic.
    • “Take out any apostrophes (in words such as O'Reilly) and replace foreign language characters (ç, ü) with their English equivalents (c, u).”

  • Use the resources that live and breathe.

  • Learn about ILL.
    • If you need something your library does not have, use your library’s interlibrary loan (ILL) services. “The ILL crew will get you the physical book or a copy of the article from another library, usually free.” Request items as early as possible so you can get them in time.Tarleton Libraries Interlibrary Loan Service

  • Look for "gateway" sources.
    • When starting a research project, you may want to begin with “sources that survey the problem, area, or subject you're researching and point the way to further, more specific studies. They might have names like Cambridge Companion to X, Stanford Encyclopedia of Y, Grove Dictionary of Z, or Oxford Illustrated History of A.”
      -- You can locate these resources using Tarleton Libraries catalog.
    • When “reading any source, look in the footnotes and bibliography” for ideas about other sources.
      -- Then use Tarleton Libraries’ SFX Citation Finder and catalog to locate items.
      -- Use the library’s Interlibrary Loan service to obtain items not available locally.
      -- Remember to Ask a Librarian for assistance whenever you need it.

View complete article: Writing a Paper? Try These 7 Research Tips

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