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Library Tips #7: Research is Messy

2017-04-07T11:32:07+00:00 By |Library Tips|

Now that so much information is accessible online, it’s easy to get confused about types of information sources — what’s what and what’s useful — whether or not it’s accessed from one of the Library’s many subscription databases, through our Discovery System, in our local catalog or from the free internet.

Because of different information source formats, different content providers and different availability due to ownership agreements, there is a fair amount of overlap in ability to access some information sources. To illustrate, consider all of the ways you might find an academic or “scholarly” or “peer-reviewed” journal article relevant to a specific information need. (More on how to identify and dissect an academic article here in the Library Guides and in a future blog post.)

Locating an academic journal article: Possible access points

  • Searching the Library’s Discovery System or one of many subject-specific databases and using limiters to ensure results are relevant, scholarly
  • Browsing the Library’s Periodical Holdings List or Online Journals database for a relevant journal, then browsing the contents of said journal for relevant articles
  • Browsing the Periodicals section on the second floor of the Library, then paging through journals for relevant articles
  • Browsing the free internet, meaning:
    • Typing keywords into a search engine and browsing results returned,
    • Using Google Scholar,
    • Visiting official websites of scholarly organizations or publications, or
    • Receiving a link from a colleague or mining citations from another publication

Many of these methods would lead to overlapping results, but each also has the possibility to lead you to an accidental discovery or a fair amount of frustration. Hey! Research is messy.

So, speaking of messy… Here’s more about searching the free internet

Searching the free internet means starting research using an internet search engine (often Google (this is not a paid post, by the way)) instead of starting with the Library. It’s a habit that many of us have. I easily use Google twenty or thirty times every day. Google! Spell necessary. Google! Define: mellifluous. It’s not going away, and we don’t have to pretend like it doesn’t exist. Instead, we must harness the positive aspects of free internet searching and be militantly clever about evaluating the credibility of what we find on the internet. Librarians can help!

It’s our job as librarians to help you learn how to be savvy when using the internet — to learn how to be an informed skeptic, to evaluate information, to cross reference and to take advantage of library services such as Interlibrary Loan to access the information you need when you hit a free internet paywall.

So, Google on! Or use another search engine. But before you do, brush up on the CRAAP Test and remember:

  • There’s no “one right way” to research
  • Research is messy
  • You can always Ask a Librarian for help

P.S. If you are already using Google Scholar, you may want to check out this guide: Five easy steps to make Google Scholar work for you at SRSU. (Thanks, Suyu!)

P.P.S. If you’re not following us on Facebook yet, this is a good reason:

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Do you have feedback? Want to see something featured in an upcoming Library Tips post? Please comment below (new!) or email us at SRSULibrary@sulross.edu.