Monthly Archives: January 2009

This Year Don’t Procrastinate: Let the Library Help You with Your Research!

Let me admit something first. I have written a lot of research papers, including my doctoral dissertation. And even though I love to learn,  research, and read, almost every single one  of the days it came to writing those papers, I would rather have cleaned a truckstop bathroom on my hands and knees than sit down and write. Realize,  most people find the research paper process imposing. (I’ve written about the process before. So check out some of the earlier entries.)

So this spring, the Kisber Library is coming up with a couple of programs that might make the whole thing easier, if not fun.

Instructional Librarian Emily  Bush will be conducting a series of workshops on the research paper on  Saturdays (and spring break):

Research Skills for Distance Ed Students — Feb. 28 at 10 a.m.

Spring Ahead! Research Workshops — March 9 at 10 a.m.

Spring Ahead! Research Workshops — March 10 at 2 p.m.

Search 101: Desmystify the Databases– March 21 at 10 a.m.

Down to the Deadline Research Help– April 18 at 10 a.m.

Down to the  Deadline Research Help– April 30 at 10 a.m.

Call the library at 353-3555 to reserve your spot. To be able to give folks individual help, Emily is limiting each workshop to 12 people.

Also, we know that some folks have research papers assigned in courses other than composition and need help. This semester, you can call and make an appointment to have a librarian provide in-depth help on your assignment. You can have the librarian’s undivided attention, and you can talk about your assignment, not research in general. To make an appointment, call the circulation desk at 353-3555.

All workshops will be held in the library on the main campus.

What Makes a Good Source? (Or Why Should I Believe You?)

Imagine you’re having an argument with a friend. You say that working out is more important than eating right in losing weight, and he says the opposite.

Then he says, “My friend Tony also think eating right is more important.”

Has the argument become stronger because your friend has back-up?

Yep, that’s a trick question. You have to evaluate the source.

Who is this Tony? If he’s a guy who sits on the couch and eats potato chips and keeps thin by taking illegal drugs, then you’re probably not going to give his opinion much weight. But let’s say that Tony is a nutrition major who has lost 50 pounds in the past year through changing his eating habits. Then you’re probably going to pay a little more attention. Tony is now much more credible.

And that’s always your goal: to back up your arguments with credible (believable) sources.

So what makes a source credible? Here are some basic criteria:

  • Author’s credentials. What are some of the things that make an author believable?
    • Experience in the field. If you’re doing a paper on discipline techniques in elementary school, then an article by someone who has taught kindergarten for ten years would probably be helpful.
    • Degrees. Having a degree in the field can certainly help. If I’m looking for help with my chronic sinus infections, then I feel more comfortable with an article by a doctor than one by a regular person like me.
    • Reputation. Do other people in the field regard this author as an expert?
  • Relevance:
    • When was the source published? In many fields (such as medicine and information technology), sources more than a few years old are out of date.
    • Does this relate to my argument? The source material must make your argument stronger and not be tangential to your point. Going back to your argument with your friend, it would not be helpful to the argument to say that you know several people who don’t exercise, and they are very angry people. Maybe so, but that has nothing to do with losing weight.
  • A word about scholarly journals.  While not infallible, scholarly journals are a good place to conduct research because much of the source evaluation has been done for you.
    • Journals are the places where experts in the field publish findings from studies and experiments.
    • The articles are not published without first being peer reviewed by two or more other experts in the field.

Keep in mind that judging a source is a process of weighing attributes. The fact that the author has a doctorate does not always mean the information is good. Neither does experience. Someone can have been in a job for fifty years, but really has just experienced the same year fifty times. The more critical thinking you bring to judging sources, the stronger your papers and presentations will be.

Frequently-Asked Questions: Reserve Textbooks

Does the library carry current textbooks?

The library does have many current textbooks if the departments have placed them on reserve. You can see if your textbook is on reserve by checking the online library catalog. Textbooks are kept behind the circulation desk. They are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

How long can they be checked out?

Current textbooks may be checked out for 2 hours and are for library use only.

But I want to take it to class!

Sorry.  This policy is designed to provide access to as many students as possible.

Can I make copies of some of the pages?

There are 2 copy machines in the library. Copies are 10 cents a page. The library staff does not keep change. So come prepared. The machines do take quarters, and one accepts dollar bills. NOTE: Copying an entire textbook or a substantial part of one consitutes copyright violation. The user of the copy machine assumes all liability for copyright infringement.

What would happen if someone did take a textbook out of the library?

Well, the first thing is that the alarm would go off, and you would be asked to bring it back to the desk. Those books are school and state property, so taking one is serious business. If a textbook does leave the library, the library procedure is as follows: to call or email the student to ask that the book be returned that day. If it is not, the student is charged for a replacement copy of the text, and  he/she is turned over to the Dean of Student Services for disciplinary action.

My textbook is not on reserve. How can I get one placed in the library?

Ask your instructor to place one on reserve. But keep in mind, some desk copies are harder to get than others. And there may be good reason why your text is not in the library. The library’s collection was not meant to substitute for your having your own text, but serve as a temporary solution until your book arrives.