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The Research Process   Tags: research  

This LibGuide will help students begin a research project and successfully find valid books, articles, and internet sites,determining scholarly from popular periodicals, and sources for humanities, sciences, and social sciences.
Last Updated: Apr 5, 2016 URL: http://libguides.nsula.edu/content.php?pid=653482 Print Guide RSS Updates
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Getting Started

The research process can be broken down into 6 steps:

Step One: Choose Your Topic. The purpose of a research project is to answer a question, find a solution, or compare/contrast. By choosing a topic you find interesting, you will not get bored with the project. You might consider choosing a topic currently "hot" in your major. Remember, you are searching for a new approach, a new solution, or a new insight. Research is not repeating what has already been done. You will formulate a working thesis and it may be easier to think of it as a question rather than a statement.

Step Two: Create your Search Strategy. This step consists of reading, reading, and reading some more. You want to immerse yourself in the literature of your topic. This is called your Background Literature Search. Depending on your subject, you may need books, journals, reports, papers, websites, etc. You will need to determine what resources will answer your question and where these sources are located.

Step Three: Locate Materials. Make sure you exhaust resources in this library--books, journals, databases, reference resources etc. For those items you cannot obtain here, use Interlibrary Loan. For some research topics, you may have to travel to another library, archive, etc.

Step Four: Gather Information. Make sure you have all the materials at hand to organize and write your paper. It is very important to make sure you copy the bibliographic information for your bibliography, references, or works cited page. Note: you do not need to use every item you find. As your research evolves, you may find that the first items you collected are not really relevant. That is OK and part of the process.

Step Five: Evaluate the Information. This involves serious thinking about what you have found. Is it on your topic? Is it too simple? too complex? Is the author an authority in the field? Is it biased? Is it timely? Who published it? Why was it published? Can you verify the information in other sources?

Step Six: Write and Cite. A paper has an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction is sometimes the hardest part to write and many scholars write it last. Make an outline-even a simple one. This is your road map.  Don't be discouraged if you need to go back and do additional research, if new questions occur to you or you discover holes in your research. This is all part of the process. Be sure you cite everything you use in your paper. Remember, it is OK to use other writer's ideas if you give them credit. The important part is how you use those ideas to answer your own thesis question.

 

Scholarly Vs Popular Journals

Definitions:

Periodicals or Serials are magazines, journals, or newspapers that are published at set periods--weekly, monthly, quarterly etc. and are published in a series.

Journals generally refer to scholarly, academic, peer-reviewed publications. Peer-Reviewed means that articles are evaluated by a writers' peers (experts in the subject) to determine if an article should be published

Magazines generally refer to popular publications that you find on newsstands. This include news publications such as Time or Newsweek. They are written for the general public, not scholars or professionals.

Below is a chart to help you determine if a publication is scholarly or popular.

Scholarly                                                            Popular

Plain cover                                                         Colorful cover, may feature a celebrity or other VIP

Research, technical, or scholarly articles           Articles cover popular, current events, or general interest topics

Author is identified with relevant credentials      Author may not be identified

Concludes with a bibliography of sources          Rarely includes references

Little or no advertising                                        A lot of advertising interspersed with the articles

Publisher is an academic organization or          Commercial publisher                                                                                          university

Audience: Professionals/scholars                      Audience: general public        

Some publications such as American Heritage or Scientific American cross both lines. Always check with your professor if you have doubts about using a publication or website.

 

Humanities

Most of the databases for the humanities are listed under the categories: Art, Music, and Humanities, Biography, History, Literature, Language, and Linguistics.

In the area of history, the library has access to a number of  full-text historical documents: African American Historical Serials Collection, African American Newspapers 1827-1998, America's Historical Newspapers-Louisiana State Package, Civil War Primary Source Documents, European Views of the Americas: 1493-1750, and History Periodicals Collection 1866-1877.

Some databases fall under all categories:

Academic Search Complete: a multi-disciplinary database indexing more than 8,500 full-text periodicals including 7,300 scholarly titles.

Biography in Context: useful in locating authors, artists, philosophers, historians, etc.

Gale Virtual Reference Library: online reference books covering a variety of subject areas.

JSTOR (Journal Storage): an archive of scholarly journals, most of which are full-text. Note that some titles are not covered to the current issues.

Project Muse: A collection of books and articles on various topics. Note: not all are available full text.

Worldcat: is an international and national bibliography of books, Internet resources, archival collections, etc. Note: items held by Northwestern State University libraries are highlighted.

 

Sciences

Most of the resources for the sciences fall under the following database categories: Computers, Nursing and Allied Health, and Science and Technology. Be prepared to use Interlibrary Loan because the number of full-text science articles is considerably less than in humanities and social sciences.

Some databases fall under all categories:

Academic Search Complete: a multi-disciplinary database indexing more than 8,500 full-text periodicals including 7,300 scholarly titles.

Biography in Context: useful in locating scientists.

Gale Virtual Reference Library: online reference books covering a variety of subject areas.

JSTOR (Journal Storage): an archive of scholarly journals, most of which are full-text. Note that some titles are not covered to the current issues.

 

Social sciences

Social Sciences contain the largest number of disciplines. Under Database Directory, the categories include: Business, Criminal Justice, Education, Law and Legal, Political Science, Psychology, Reference and Library Science, and Sociology and Social Work. 

Some additional databases include:

Academic Search Complete: a multi-disciplinary database indexing more than 8,500 full-text periodicals including 7,300 scholarly titles.

Biography in Context: useful in locating authors, scholars, etc.

Gale Virtual Reference Library: online reference books covering a variety of subject areas.

JSTOR (Journal Storage): an archive of scholarly journals, most of which are full-text. Note that some titles are not covered to the current issues.

Project Muse: A collection of books and articles on various topics. Note: not all are available full text.

Worldcat: is an international and national bibliography of books, Internet resources, archival collections, etc. Note: items held by Northwestern State University libraries are highlighted.

 

Conclusion

Sometimes the best way to start is to see what materials are available in the library and what original approach you might take. If you have a Louisiana topic, check with the Cammie G. Henry Research Center staff to see about collections with which you might work.

It is not unusual to have to use interlibrary loan to obtain most of your articles. This is especially true in the sciences because most articles are not going to be available full-text in the databases. For more information on using interlibrary loan, use this link: http://libguides.nsula.edu/ILL.

Be wary of internet publications and websites. Be sure you check their legitimacy before using them.

If you are having problems searching the databases or finding information, contact a reference librarian for help. You can set up a Research Consultation with a reference librarian for face to face assistance.

Finally, research, done correctly, is not a quick process. It takes time to locate and read articles, books. etc. to find information. Do not wait to the last minute to research and write your paper.

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