How to Do Effective Library Research

Choose or Identify a Topic

An idea for a topic should always be discussed with your instructor.A topic can be viewed much like the scientific method in which a new perspective is developed or knowledge is added. This is generally considered to include 1) definition of a problem to be investigated, 2) collection of initial data, 3) use of data to form a theory or hypothesis explaining the problem 4) further collection of data to verify or modify the hypothesis through observation or experiment, 5) testing the data, and 6) interpreting the results to determine how it relates to the initial problem.

Visit Library for Background Information

  • Discuss your topic with a reference librarian for suggestions on locating relevant sources of information.
  • Locate encyclopedias, dictionaries and other general sources for background information. A reference librarian can help you identify main concepts or keywords on your topic to use in several online catalogs and databases.

Locating Books in TSU’s Innovative Online System

  • The library’s online circulation system is called Innovative. There is a web-based version available.
  • Innovative can be searched by several access points including Author, Title, and Subject. For Subject searching use keywords to narrow your topic. When you produce a list of available books they will be designated with certain location codes called call numbers. TSU Library uses the Library of Congress Classification scheme A - Z and may be found in Circulation, Reference, Special Collections, Reserves, or located at the Avon N. Williams Campus. Circulating books located at the Main Campus are divided between the First and Third Floors. Books that are classed in A thru PE are located on the First Floor. Books that are classed in PF thru Z are located on the Third Floor. Non-circulating books are located in the Reference Department found on the Second Floor. Also, books that are located in Special Collections (3rd Floor) do not circulate.
  • Using the Subject access type in your topic. Several entries should appear giving the necessary bibliographic information including Call Numbers, location, and circulation status. If a book is checked-out the status will read "Charged". If the book is available the status will read "Available".

Locating Periodical Articles and Identifying Databases

  • TSU library has several electronic databases available on a number of topics. These databases include Infotrac, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health, ERIC, Medline, Agricola, PsycLit, etc.
  • Your database choice would depend largely on the topic you have chosen. For example, topics covering wide variety of issues can be searched in Infotrac. Infotrac contains databases specific for health, business and a wide range of other topics. For example it contains the Health Reference Center, Business Index and Expanded Index. All research indexed covers the latest periodical articles available including professional and refereed journals.
  • Other specialized subject databases are extremely useful in research purposes for the various disciplines. For example, if your topic is involved with education or an educational related topic, ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) would be an excellent choice to search for related information. PyscLit (psychology), Agricola (Agriculture), Medline (Medicine and Health Care), etc.

Searching the Web to Locate Internet Resources

Many search engines are available to assist you in locating sources of information on the Internet. Some of these search engines use Boolean logic (AND, OR, NOT) to query searches. For example, to search for information on the adverse effects of Viagra enter: Viagra and Adverse effects. Below is a selected list of search engines:

  • Excite  provides full-text resources of millions of Web locations which includes newsgroups, but excludes FTP and gopher sites. Reviews are added to evaluate the sites.
  • Lycos (Boolean) provides the abstracts of millions of Web pages and includes FTP and gopher sites, but not newsgroups.
  • Open Text (Boolean) provides full-text sources of over a million Web sites including FTP and gopher sites, but not newsgroups.
  • MetaCrawler  allows queries to be searched by several search engines which include Yahoo, AltaVista, Infoseek, Excite, Thunderstone, Webcrawler and Lycos.
  • Yahoo provides access to millions of sites by subject and keyword searching.

Identifying Research-based and Non-Research-based Information

  • Information located should be evaluated for authority and quality. Your instructor or a librarian will be resourceful in helping you determine the authority or lack of it in research.
  • A librarian can help you identify the researched-based databases, such as PyscLit, Sociological Abstracts, Dissertation Abstracts, etc. vs. Non-research based databases such as SIRS, some publications indexed in Infotrac, encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.

Citing Sources of Information

The library owns several style manuals to help you properly cite sources of information. The instructor should recommend a format for your research paper which will include any of the following:

  • Modern Language Association (MLA)
  • American Psychological Association Publication Manual (APA)
  • Kate Turabian: Manual for Writers of Term Papers

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