Thought and Expression Classes: English 101, Philosophy 101 and Speech 101
Developing Library Research Skills and Critical Thinking Skills
A. Introduction to Library Research
Library Glossary (PDF)
B. Identify a Research Topic
Thinking of a Topic
C. Find and Evaluate Sources
Using Library Databases
Journals of Thought and Opinion (PDF)
Checklist for the WWW (PDF)
D. Getting Materials
Using ILL and Illiad
E. Citing Sources & RefWorks
When Do I Cite a Source?
F. Writing and Plagiarism
When you are taking any of the Thought and Expression classes (English 101, Philosophy 101 and Speech 101) at Gonzaga, you will probably be asked to write a paper on a contemporary issue of interest to you. Generally students choose topics which are considered an important issue for society at large, either locally, nationally or perhaps internationally. You might be writing about alcohol abuse on college campuses in the United States or about whether the U.S. should implement a national health care plan. Once you decide on your topic you realize there are many facts and many opinions about your topic.
When you start a library research project, there are a number of questions to answer. Where do you find the information you need for your research? How do you find it? How do you evaluate and manage that information?
When you engage in library research you have to be savvy about information and figure out the best resources to use for your paper or presentation. You must be a smart information shopper and a smart consumer, too. You must:
1. Be able to locate the best information for your topic
2. Determine whether your information sources are appropriate, including assessing the currency and quality of a resource
3. Know the extent to which you can synthesize ideas from others in your own work
4. Know how to credit others for their ideas and how to cite the sources you use
It’s also important to know how to effectively complete a research paper according to the expectations and guidelines provided by Gonzaga faculty. Most Gonzaga faculty would like you to move beyond searching Google and investigate the library databases in order to find sources from reputable publications.
Your approach to completing a library research project will vary depending on your topic and the types of sources you want to locate. For example, you most likely want to find a number of different types of sources to support your argument. The sources may include academic journal articles but they may also include popular magazines, newspapers, media images and video, or Internet web pages and Wikipedia articles. A quick Google or Wikipedia search may suit your purposes in some scenarios, but, for academic research, that’s just the first step. To help you navigate the Library's resources and collections, the definitions from our Library Glossary can be helpful to review.
When you conduct academic research, you are participating in a larger community of scholars who are committed to intellectual rigor and integrity in their academic pursuits. Living in the Internet age, you have access to a vast amount of collected information, much more than in any previous generation. Nevertheless, with an unprecedented array of information at your fingertips, you have unprecedented challenges. And in the digital age, online, you face those challenges in a landscape which is continuously changing. Although there is no single "right" way to conduct library research, certain practices and skills can make your research efforts more effective and efficient.
If you have a choice about a topic, choose something that interests you. This may be obvious to you. Still, lots of students choose topics they think their professor would like -- that can backfire. It’s better to choose something which is appealing to you, something you may feel strongly about. You will have more interest in investigating your topic thoroughly and writing an excellent paper, given your high motivation. For ideas and suggestions, talk with your instructor, talk with a librarian or confer with other students who may have ideas to consider.
To find a topic, consider these approaches:
* Read newspapers, magazines and other periodicals for current issues and topic ideas
* Do a Google search or check Wikipedia for possible topics
* Use a general encyclopedia or subject-specific encyclopedia to clarify topics
For more ideas about where to look for topic ideas, check out our library handout, “Thinking of a Topic.”
After your instructor has given you the specific requirements for your library research paper or presentation, you can proceed with searching library databases to find magazine or newspaper articles or even possibly scholarly journal articles. There are over 100 databases available to students at Gonzaga through Foley library. Go to the library’s home page (www.foley.gonzaga.edu) and use the A-Z list of databases or look at the list of databases arranged by discipline or broad subjects like Business, Education, the Social Sciences, etc.
Many important information resources are only available to students who use the library’s databases. For example, the library subscribes to many magazines, newspapers and journals so that students and faculty have access to these publications in print and online. Some of these articles are available in full-text in the database, while some are available in the library’s periodical collection (Lower Level, Foley Library). Most of the periodicals available to students at Foley are available online in one of the library’s databases. If you want to find out if a periodical is available, use the Periodicals @ Foley search engine to find out what periodicals are available in the library or in full-text in a database.
Figuring out which database to use is a challenge. Make sure to ask your instructor for recommendations or speak with a librarian at Foley’s Reference Desk. The databases which are recommended for Thought and Expression classes include the following:
- ProQuest Direct - An interdisciplinary index of magazines, newspapers and scholarly journals which includes the full-text of many of the “Journals of Thought and Opinion.” More information
- Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center (Critical Thinking)- Provides full-text resources on popular topics from abortion to women’s rights, highlighting opposite viewpoints and pro/con perspectives on each topic. Includes access to the Opposing Viewpoints series of books published by Greenhaven Press. Also includes articles from magazines, newspapers and journals, as well as statistics, multimedia, reference sources and websites relevant to topics.
- Academic Search Premier - Academic multi-disciplinary database provides full text for some magazines and popular periodicals but its primary emphasis is on academic journals with nearly 4,600 scholarly publications included. More information
- JSTOR – With the full-text of over 500 scholarly journals included in JSTOR, the emphasis is on core journals in all academic disciplines covered in an undergraduate curriculum. All the full-text for each journal begins with volume 1 of each title so JSTOR is an excellent repository for the full-text of many journals used by undergraduate students. More information
- Web of Knowledge - is a multidisciplinary citation index to the journal literature of the sciences and social sciences. It fully indexes over 6,650 major journals across 150 scientific disciplines and 1,950 journals across 50 social sciences disciplines. In addition to indexing it includes all cited references captured from indexed articles.
Recommendations from your instructor or a librarian on which database to use are important to consider. If you need to use a database to find newspaper or magazine articles, a good choice is ProQuest. If you need to find more academic or scholarly articles, a good choice is Academic Search Premier. Discussions and information about current issues and topics of contemporary interest are found in the database Opposing Viewpoints. Many sides of issues can be addressed in the articles and book chapters found in Opposing Viewpoints so that is an excellent way to find different points of view or different perspectives on a specific issue, such as Immigration Policies in the U.S. or Gun Control or National Health Care in the United States.
Journals of Thought and Opinion
If you have a topic of current interest, you can easily find articles in magazines and newspapers. Magazines generally have what is considered an editorial stance or point of view, and most are aimed at a specific audience with specific demographics or political or religious affiliations. Our list of the most widely circulated publications of thought and opinion provides details about their perspective or point of view. Using the library databases, it is relatively easy to find articles in these publications which reflect a specific perspective or point of view. For example, if you want to find articles aimed at a Catholic readership you would find articles on social issues written from a Roman Catholic perspective in Commonweal or The National Catholic Reporter. For articles on the political and social scene from a conservative perspective, find articles in Harper’s Magazine or the National Review. For liberal perspectives on issues of social and political concern, find articles in The Nation, The New Republic or The Atlantic. For more examples of journals of thought and opinion, review our library's handout for Journals of Thought and Opinion.
Google is the dominant player in the search engine world. Using Google is a great way to generate ideas for a topic, but doing your library research by only using Google is probably not a good idea. Since the Web provides lots of possible options, you may find some that are useful, but sometimes the results are just too extensive to consider more closely.
Use the Advanced Search Option in Google
Search a specific Web site and enter the URL for the specific site (www.gonzaga.edu) in the “search within site or domain” field. Use Google Scholar to search a more academic subset of the Web. Although you will find more academic articles on Google Scholar, there are limitations to accessing the full text of articles found by Google Scholar. Using a library database is more effective because then you can access the full-text of articles from the database quickly and easily.
Checklist for the WWW (PDF)
Google is easy to use and you can find many information on the Internet, but remember that the Internet is not filtered nor is it reviewed or organized in any way. Search engines allow you to discover some of what is available on the Web, and websites can be important sources for you to use in writing a paper or preparing for a speech or class presentation. For example, many non-profit organizations such as the Red Cross or Amnesty International and professional associations such as the American Medical Association (AMA) or the American Psychological Association (APA) have excellent web sites with a wide array of information, resources, and publications. Using information from the Web which is considered accurate by authorities in their field is a good way to approach the WWW for class projects. There are many useful sources that are easily found on the web which represent state, local and federal government departments and officials. Candidates for public office typically post their platforms on the web in order to provide a wide distribution of their positions.
Think carefully when you look at information on a web site. Make sure to carefully analyze what organization or association is presenting information on the site to assure that a web site offers accurate and authoritative information that can be cited for an academic class. Think about the following standards which are used to evaluate books and periodical articles. Is the information accurate? Does the individual, organization or association have the authority to present quality information? Is the information current? Is the information objective or does it present a viewpoint which can be qualified as representative of a specific organization’s viewpoint?
Finding the information you need to write a paper or prepare for a speech takes time. Make sure you plan to spend some time before your paper or presentation is due to work with library databases to locate articles you want to read and review on your topic. Now that many of the library’s resources are available online, the process is much easier and you can access many resources online in full-text. That premise holds true for most magazines, journals and newspaper which are found online by searching for a publication under Periodicals @ Foley or checking the Full-text Options in the library’s databases. The steps of the process will become second nature after you have completed the process a few times for research in different classes.
Using InterLibrary Loan (ILL) or ILLiad.
In addition to what Foley Library offers in its collection and as full-text in our library’s subscription databases, students are also able to request items from other libraries through ILLiad. Books, journal or magazine articles and other publications can be requested from other libraries. Typically there is a wait of 3-5 days for articles and 5-10 days for books. Use Interlibrary Loan judiciously. Make sure you search for appropriate resources in the Foley collection first and foremost. Ask at the Reference Desk if you need help locating specific books or articles. Call the desk or use the IM widget called Meebo on the library website. Let us know what you need and we will figure out the best way to get it quickly and reasonably.
Finding the right information for your research paper topic is an important stage in the process of library research. After you find the best sources and decide how to approach your topic, you will start writing. When you are writing and want to incorporate the ideas from others in your paper, you will need to cite your sources to avoid plagiarism. You must give credit to all published authors for their ideas. In academic scholarship, this is especially true, but proper reference documentation applies to other areas as well. In newspaper and magazine articles, sources for specific information must be acknowledged, although they are not always explicitly named. In academic journal articles, it’s essential to acknowledge any ideas used which reflect the intellectual work from books, journal articles or other publications and even websites or documents found on the Web.
If you refer to an external source in a paper, whether a book, magazine or journal article, you document the sources you use. There are a number of ways to incorporate outside sources in a written paper.
A book that is very useful in helping students learn how to cite sources effectively is called They Say/ I Say the moves that matter in persuasive writing by Gerard Graff and Cathy Birkenstein.
When writing a paper you will have many options for direct and indirect citations which depend upon how you want to reference the ideas of someone else. The important thing is to keep in mind that your references are meant to help someone who is reading your paper, so he or she can find the specific source that you have used. If you refer to a quote on a specific page of an article or book, make sure you have noted the page number when you use in-text citations. Also, make sure that all the references used in the paper are listed on the Works Cited page of bibliographic references at the end of the paper. Sometimes students forget to include specific references and they leave the reader wondering where to find a specific reference.
Citation Formats and Styles
In English 101, your instructor will expect that you follow a specific style format for citing sources, such as the MLA Style Manual. There are a number of formats available and the one commonly used in the social sciences is the APA (American Psychological Association) Style while the MLA (Modern Language Association) style is used in the humanities. There are several citation styles which are used in the sciences. Ask your instructor to clarify what style he/she expects you to use.
When you are citing sources in a paper, you will most likely use the same in-text citation format that you will use to list your works cited at the end of the paper in the Works Cited page. RefWorks is a very useful tool for generating citations in a specific format such as MLA, APA or the Chicago style. You can move selected references from a database directly to RefWorks and then create a bibliography or a list of works cited using the style format your instructor requires. It’s much easier than creating the citation by reading the style manual. The time you save can be spent finding additional sources or writing and refining your paper.
Writing a paper is a process that does take some thought and time for rewriting and revisions. Make sure you give yourself enough time to write and make revisions in advance of the deadline for your paper so you can be successful. If you need assistance in the writing process, make sure to ask for help at the Writing Center which is located on the main level of Foley Library. Writing tutors can assist you in outlining and developing your ideas, as well as reading your paper over for spelling and grammatical errors. They can also give you some feedback about what to consider in the content of your paper, as well as the way you have explained your argument. Make sure you use your own ideas in the paper and make sure you give credit to the ideas of others and cite the sources your use as references in your paper.
For additional print and online reference sources, use Reference Universe.