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Tips for Conducting Research

Research: Where to Start


The Library (books, journals, magazines) The Internet (Google/Google Scholar, Library Database)

Remember when considering a research question:


Keep the question focused (i.e. What caused the Civil War? is too broad. Why did the Confederacy fire on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861? is a more focused and specific question). Make sure you use good, honest information on the topic (credible sources) Make sure you pick a topic that has enough sources and information to write a 1500 word paper about it.

Library Sources:
Librarians Databases (Academic Search Premiere, JSTOR, etc.) Books Website

The Library Website


Go to the library website at: http://www.lib.ua.edu/ Looking for Books in the Library: You will see a search box in the middle of the page where you can type in a keyword, Title, Author, etc. Type in your subject (i.e. George Washington) This will give you a list of books, which library each book is in (i.e. Gorgas, McClure, etc.), and where in the library the book is located. Tip: Type in several variants of the topic (i.e. If your topic is George Washington, you could type in George Washingtons life or George Washingtons presidency as this will give you a wider range of books to look for). Tip: When you find a book in the library, look at the books around it. These books may also be useful when conducting your research.

Looking for Articles in the Library:


You will see the word Articles under the word Resources in the middle of the page. You will be taken to Extreme Search where you can type in your subject keyword and check one of the boxes that relates to your topic. To the right you will see a list of journals to choose from (i.e. JSTOR, Academic Search Premiere, etc.). Click one of those and look around for an article that will be useful for you. Tip: When looking for your topic, type your subject(s) in quotes to help narrow the number of hits-this rule applies to all search engines including Google.

Looking for Journal Articles in the Library:


You will see the words Electronic Journals under the word Resources in the middle of the page. You will be taken to an area where you can search for a journal or a subject category. From here you will be taken to a place that will give you journals to look at. Look in them to try and find information to help you write your paper.

Looking at Library Databases:


You will see the word Databases below the word Resources in the middle of the page. To the left you will find a box with subject choices (AfricanAmerican Studies, American Studies, etc.) and to the right will be a box with type choices (Biographies, Book Reviews, etc.). Click on the Find Databases button and it will give you a list of databases to choose from. From there, the databases should have search engines that will allow you to search for your desired topic.

Evaluating Sources
Books Pro: Often reliable Con: Might not be current; sometimes books can be self-published and unreliable Journals Pro: Often reliable; peer reviewed (others have looked at and commented on it); offer Works Cited pages that can lead you to further research resources Con: Can be difficult to navigate Newspapers (i.e. The New York Times, The Washington Post) Pro: Current info.; Easy to find and understand Con: Because some stories are in progress information can change

Popular Magazines (i.e. Time, Newsweek) Pro: Often reliable; easily accessible with web sources Con: Because some stories are in progress information can change Trade Magazines (i.e. Business Traveler) Pro: Have very specific information on a topic Con: Are written from an insiders perspective, so you must be very familiar with the content before you try to synthesize it for an audience Public Affairs Magazines (i.e. Harpers, Public Affairs) Pro: Often Reliable Con: Because some stories are in progress information can change Specialty Magazines (Southern Living, Business Week) Pro: Have very specific information on a topic Con: Are written from an insiders perspective, so you must be very familiar with the content before you try to synthesize it for an audience

Evaluating Internet Sources


Web sites that serve as the home page of an organization
While the quality of the information may be good, these sites are often biased because they are maintained by the organization. http://www.peta.org/

Web sites that provide info to the general public


These sites are maintained by government agencies and are very reliable. http://www.cdc.gov/

Online periodicals and newspapers


The majority of these sites have been peer reviewed, or in the case of newspapers, have been carefully researched. http://www.nytimes.com/

Blogs
Blogs are generally written by people who want to share opinions. In some cases, blogs are written by experts, but in many cases, they are written by people trying to state their opinion. It is important to be cautious if using blogs. http://www.churchofsaban.com/

Wikipedia
Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone. There are some safeguards on certain pages, but many are open to changes from anyone on the site. For this reason, it is not a reliable source to use in your paper. It might be a good place to start (to give you general ideas of what to look for) but should not be used in your academic papers. http://www.wikipedia.org/

Questions to Consider
Who is the author? What is the text about? What is the quality of the information? What is the focus of the printed or online text you are considering? How thoughtful and research-based is it? Does the text seem designed to sensationalize the topic, or does it take a more balanced, thoughtful approach? When was the text published or the website updated? Why was the information published? Who is the target audience for this text? Where was the item published? How Accurate is the information in this source?

The Meaning of Web Suffixes


.edu-this indicates an educational institution. Information on these sites has generally been approved by the college or university. In some cases, web space is allotted to students and faculty members who may not post information that has been approved by the university. These are usually easy to spot by their Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). For example, http://www.public.asu.edu/~dhroen/ takes you to the web site of the authors of your McGraw-Hill Guide. The word public in the URL and the tilde (~) are usually signs that the site is not maintained by the university. http://www.ua.edu/ .com-this indicates a for profit site. These sites are maintained by businesses or corporations for business purposes. www.google.com org-this indicates an organization that is generally not for profit. http://www.peta.org/

gov-this indicates some level of government. These sites are maintained by some government entity (local, state, or national). http://www.whitehouse.gov/ .net- this generally indicates a site that that is used by internet service providers and companies that provide web hosting. Commercial businesses also use this extension in some cases. The web hosting sites also allow customers to use this extension for picture sharing and other activities. http://en.artintern.net/ .biz-generally indicates a small business. http://websitebuilding.biz/ .info-generally indicates an unrestricted domain that anyone can use. http://www.rockymountainwildlandfire.info/websites.htm http://www.networksolutions.com/ offers a whols search function that allows you to obtain information about the creator of a page. If you cant find the web page, it is likely a personal page and probably unreliable.