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Research Skills for Undergraduates

OSU Libraries workshops for undergraduate students.

Transcript - Move Your Research Beyond Good Enough Workshop video (Pt. 1)

Transcribed by Disability Access Services at Oregon State University. 

May 2012

Move Your Research Beyond Good Enough workshop (Pt. 1)


Fifty minutes, thirty-eight seconds


Tiah Edmunson-Morton:  So today we're going to talk about several things.  This is a very large topic as many of you know.  Writing a research paper is not just one tip or one tool.  It really is a lot of resources, a lot of tips, a lot of tools.  So we're going to cover a lot today.  These are some of the goals for today.  We will hopefully, when you walk out of here you will feel comfortable constructing and planning for your research process, identify and explain kind of how you do broad and narrow searching, and I want you to be able to locate resources within the library but also in the Writing Center.  So kind of beginning in that research phase but then recognizing that you'll have that end phase where you're actually writing as well. 


So this is our agenda for today.  We will talk about these things actually in order, so your research process, exploring your topic, ways you can focus your search and collecting that research work that you do.  It's great to collect it all but you have to be able to track it and manage it and actually use the work that you do. 


And then overarching this entire session really is my personal view that it's really important for you to be very deliberate and to construct that research process, but also to reflect on it.  So it's great to do it but also reflect on both the research, what went right and what went wrong, and as you're writing reflect on your writing process as well.  And then, again, there are lots of resources at the library, so knowing how to locate those. 


So are there questions before we get started?  Okay, excellent. 


So we're going to do a little warmup exercise.  It's 9:00AM for those who are not morning people.  I am a morning person.  For those who are not morning people let's warm up a little bit and think about research as a trip.  So if you imagine that we're setting off on this journey and we need to plan.  So we need to think about what we're doing to set off on this research trip.  Here are some questions that I have come up with.  You will see these in your handout, and then in the PowerPoint handout, and then sort of how it directly pertains to research is sort of the cheater version if you want to look ahead. 


But I want to know from all of you, how do you plan for your research?  What do you do when you're given that assignment and you need to start?  What are some things that you think about, some questions that you ask yourself before you start?  What's the A number one thing to think about?  What does your instructor hand you or give you via Blackboard? 


[Tiah laughs]


It may have a number in it and the word "assignment." 


[Tiah laughs]


So thinking about that assignment, what is it that your instructor is actually asking you to do?  I think depending on what disciplines you guys are in you may be given direct assignments, direct research assignments that say, "Go research this and report on it to me," the instructor.  But it also may be that there's a lot of choice that you have in that assignment.  I have a degree in English literature in addition to my library degree and in English literature it really was much more about, "Here is the general topic of the class.  Go write a paper on something you're interested in." 


So thinking about what that assignment is and what the requirements are.  So what are some of the other things that you guys would do to prepare as you're thinking about that assignment, thinking about your research? 


What other things?  If we look at this and maybe think about how it relates to research?  So maybe thinking about, again, maybe the due date?  So how long do you have?  For those of you who are really comfortable working in the library or working with library resources you know that sometimes it takes some time depending on the resources that you need.  So making sure that you know if books aren't available, if journals aren't available.  How long will it for you to use resources like Interlibrary Loan or Summit?  So thinking about what the due date is and then planning backward. 


And then also thinking about what are some of those requirements for sources.  So who has had an assignment where you read over it and it says that you need scholarly sources?  Yeah.  And what about primary sources?  I'm the instruction librarian for history and philosophy and religion and history of science so we do a lot with primary sources.  We see a lot of people who have that requirement. 


So again, it might take a little bit longer to use those resources.  So just building that in as well. 


And then towards the middle here, thinking about where, if you think of sightseeing as those choices that you can make and you can think of gas and food as the requirements.  So what are the choices that you can make?  How much flexibility do you have within that assignment?  And then what are the things that you need to do?  Do you need three to five scholarly sources?  Do you need two primary sources?  Can you use websites?  Are there choices for what you can do? 


And then finally, thinking about the last bullet point here is do we have any friends or do you know anyone who has made this trip before?  So thinking about referrals.  Use your referral network of people as well.  It's not just databases or books or catalogs, it's also people. 


So, now that I have said all of that is there anything that anybody can think of that you might do in planning for a research paper that I haven't already covered in my bullet point metaphor of our trip?  Do you guys write stuff down?  Brainstorm?  Talk to friends?  Panic at the last minute?  Who's panicking? 


[Tiah laughs]


Panicking in the back row.  Yeah and I think the idea is the more that you plan and build in, it's a little awkward to do that planning and building in at the beginning but I think it really does pay off. 


So again, in your big fat packet, here are some tutorials to review on your own.  There are descriptions of those tutorials in the Notes field and links to those as well. 


So we are going to talk broadly about research to begin with.  So I've got the globe here because it's the holistic worldview of research.  So when we're thinking about starting research, starting your research paper, where is the first place you guys go to do that research?  And I want you to be honest . . .


Wikipedia.  How about Google?  For those more comfortable with library resources, who uses 1Search?  No. 


[Tiah laughs]


1Search.  Who's heard of 1Search and knows what OSU Library's 1Search is?  Maybe half the room.  How about you guys over here on your right side of the room, my left side of the room?  1Search sound familiar?  Alright.  Let's go.  I will show you 1Search for those who are not familiar with 1Search, 1Search is the default search box here up at the top.  So if you go to the library's main webpage and you're frantically looking for a search box (which many of us are frantically looking for a search box), what the library's main webpage defaults to is 1Search.  So for those who are familiar with 1Search, can you describe it for the rest of us?  Or how it makes you feel? 




Female student:  It just does, it's a really broad search.  It searches all the materials.  Journals, books, media, everything.  I don't use it very often because it's often too broad of a search. 


Tiah Edmunson-Morton:  Right. 


Female student:  And it's hard to narrow things down. 


Tiah Edmunson-Morton:  Right.  So who has a search topic that we can demonstrate here up on the screen, that we want to see what happens?  I always default to trees and that's sort of a ridiculous search because when you search for trees, what happens?  Whoa! 


[Tiah laughs]


"How did I get that many results?"  How about some of you, what are some of the research papers that you're working on now that we're in week three, or topics from your classes? 




Female student:  PTSD in the military. 


Tiah Edmunson-Morton:  Okay.  Now I'm not sure what will happen with just using PTSD so that's something that we would need to consider when we're doing our search.  It may be that the search engine recognizes the acronym.  If we're not getting anything you might need to spell it out.  It kind of depends on how smart the search engine is, or the words that the author used.  Well it looks like the search engine is smart enough. 


So what 1Search does, and I'm sorry, this is even probably for you guys in the front row it's probably really hard to see, what 1Search does is it will give you a big list of everything that is available to you on the OSU website.  So that could be books, that could be articles, that could be references on tutorials or library course pages.  It's everything.  For people who do a great job with that kind of wham, everything way of processing information, it's great.  People who love to get everything and then narrow it down, which you can do.  You can refine your search over here on the left.  You can tell it what content type you want, what subject terms, the publication date.  So lots of different ways that you can narrow that search from the library's 1Search page. 


There's also a great recommendation up here at the top of databases that you might want to check that may have a lot of articles on PTSD. 


So fourteen thousand results.  That's a lot.  And for me that's not the way I like to search.  I may be the Wikipedia sort, to go and get that kind of broad picture first.  Um, whoops. 


So another tool that is a little bit that hit-by-a-bus sort of tool is Google Scholar.  And who's used Google Scholar or has heard of Google Scholar?  So if I had you raise your hand and I said, "Do you agree with, 'I feel comfortable using Google Scholar?' who would raise their hand for "I feel comfortable using Google Scholar?  So a couple of you.  I'm going to walk you quickly through Google Scholar because your first side of your handout, the assignment handout which is the one with small text, it will look like this.  So looking not at the stapled together PowerPoint, it's just a single sheet.  And at the top it will say, "Beyond Good Enough: Exercises On Your Own."  That's the page you're looking for. 


So I'm going to have your explore Google Scholar on your own, but first let's go.  I want to show you a couple of my favorite things about Google Scholar.  So Google Scholar is not surprisingly a Google site, and what Google Scholar does is gives you access to scholarly articles.  So it's a way again for you to do that broad research outside of the databases at OSU, but you are able to do the Advanced Scholar Search.  So whenever you're at a database or in a search engine doing that Advance Scholar Search or Advanced Search will allow you to refine your search more.  We all know what happens when we type into the Google box that looks like this without the scholar.  You get lots and lots of results and there's not a whole lot of way to refine those results.  But with the advanced search or with those limiters you can refine it more. 


And also Scholar Preferences is something that's important that you know about.  Scholar Preferences will allow you to identify your library so that when you find articles in Google Scholar, if you have access to those articles because you're an OSU student it will show up and it will directly link into the database.  So because we're on campus it defaults to showing that, but you can see here pretty close to where my cursor is, so right up here in the Library Links, that's where you'll be able to enter in your library name.  So that's just a way that you can tie directly into the databases and then you don't have to go back to the library resources, library databases to find those articles. 


So going to Advanced Scholar Search, let's go ahead and use yours again since that seemed to get us something.  Now we're not going to limit it at any point right now.  This is something you can do on your own when I give you practice time.  But what I want you to see is there are different kinds of results that come up.  So there are books, there are articles, there may be research projects, but what I really love about Google Scholar is this Cited By feature.  So those who use Google Scholar, have you use the Cited By feature?  One person, yeah.  So it used to be that Web of Science was one database that allowed you to search not just for citations that happened, articles or books or studies that were done before that article was written, but it allows you to search for everything that's happened since that article was written and has cited that article.  So if you think about a work cited page, a work cited page in an article will say these are all of the things that I consulted or I used or I cited to write this article.  Well it's sort of like the opposite of that so it allows you to see everyone who has cited that root article.  So why is that important?  Why is that so exciting in the library research world? 


Female student:  Other sources. 


Tiah Edmunson-Morton:  Yes, and what else can it help you find for those sources?  Or what about those sources? 


Female student:  Related sources? 


Tiah Edmunson-Morton:  Related sources and more current sources even.  So depending on what field you're in.  Again, thinking about the history field or thinking about English literature, it's not that we don't care about what's been written recently, but it's not nearly as important as if you're in the sciences, so biology, chemistry, ag sciences.  You really want to know what people are doing now because that's part of your charge as a researcher is to know what's going on in the research world and the scholarly conversation. 


So Cited By, you click it, and then it gives you all the articles that have cited that article.  And again you can go again, so if you like the one at the top you can do Cited By.  It's sort of a rabbit hole that never ends.  So it's a very very neat tool.  So let's go ahead and I want you to take, let's see, how about three minutes to explore Google Scholar on your own.  And I've just given you some ideas of things that you can do within Google Scholar.  If you like worksheets then go ahead and follow the worksheet.  If you're not a big worksheet person, activity-following person, then feel free just to explore around.  So see what Google Scholar is like, and if you can find some of those references that are linked directly to OSU. 


And because I can't come down to you, if you have questions you can go ahead and raise your hand and we can talk about it.  So if you just go "Google Scholar" into your search engine you'll get to it.  And please let me know if you're having trouble getting to Google Scholar. 


Alright, so what are you guys finding?  Have you found the site? 


[Tiah laughs]


I feel like I should have a mirror in the back so I can see your computer screen.  So what have you found?  Is it something that you think might be useful, something you can see using in your research?  I love Google Scholar, I have to be honest.  I didn't really understand what the big hoopla was and I thought, "So what?  It's just Google with some articles in it."  But I think it really does allow you to, that feature that allows you to find the most recent articles that were written is just, it's just delightful to me in my research.  And I've found a lot that are articles, and I do a lot of research and archives instruction, for instance.  And a lot of articles that are written in different countries, there's a lot of work being done on archives instruction research in Australia, for instance.  And so there are journals that are Australian journals that we wouldn't have indexed in our databases at OSU that I've found using Google Scholar. 


Alright, so we need to start focusing though.  So again, if we think about moving in this sort of intentional direction, so we use things like Wikipedia, Google searches, Google Scholar, 1Search to get this kind of overarching view of the landscape.  So we want to know that historical context for what we're researching.  We want to know what the general field of scholars is saying.  So this is when we start to refine our search.  And I'll give you just a second to read over some of the text-heavy slide here.  So thinking about ways that you can focus your search.  Are any of these things that sound familiar to you or are ways that you start to focus your search? 


So what are some things that I left out?  Once you get that big picture, how do you start to narrow down?  Say that you've found fourteen thousand articles on PTSD in the military and none of them are quite right. 


Female student:  Have to enter more specific search terms?


Tiah Edmunson-Morton:  Yeah, so thinking about narrowing your search, being more specific.  And once upon a time we had to use something called Boolean searching for searching, and databases weren't nearly as smart as they are now so when you were doing research you had to use "AND" in all caps or "NOT" in all caps.  And that was a way for you to include or exclude things from your search.  So "and," "or," and "not."  Databases are smarter now but really, thinking about how you combine that whole search together, not putting a sentence in and expecting that you will get a really great broad array of articles, but also not just using one search term.  So thinking about ways to refine your search but also using subject terms within those specific databases. 


So what I want to show you, going back to the library page, and I'll have you to do this on your own as well but I just want to walk you into the databases.  Who uses or knows about subject terms?  Sort of? 


Female student:  They can be kind of difficult sometimes. 


Tiah Edmunson-Morton:  Subject terms can be really difficult to use.  And they're great once you're in it and you've found a subject term just that you can click on.  Subject terms are those terms that are given to researchers through a database whether that's a catalog or a library database, journal database.  The cataloguers at these journal companies or catalog companies will give specific phrases that describe that article.  It's a controlled phrase though.  So let me show you in the catalog first and then I will show you in the database as well because I want you to do some work in a database. 

<end of Part 1>

Part 2