bool

goog
poppeer
subscr
subscrdata
lib

Return to Student Learning Tools

Critical Thinking, Evaluating Resources,

&

Library Research

 

*A special thanks to the Gateway CC Library for providing much of the following information:

Boolean Operators


Boolean operators allow researchers to include, omit, or qualify certain terms when conducting computer-based research.

AND (Hillary and Clinton): It must include all the terms joined by and ; both terms will need to be present in a queued document, but the terms may or may not be side-by-side.

OR (Hillary or Clinton): The operator would search for either terms alone in separate documents, or both words in the same document; it must include at least one of the terms in the search.

NOT (Clinton not Hillary): It will keep the first word in the search, but not the second; the term following not is not included.

Using Google

Question: Is Google a good method for research?

Answer: YES! But be careful.

  • There is just too much information on Google, and it’s not well organized.
  • You can’t always tell who the author is.
  • Consider the “domain” of the web site when searching on Google:
    • Clues contained in a simple URL

    • Some common Domains:
      • .biz- businesses and corporations
      • .edu- educational institutions/Colleges
      • .gov- US Government entities
      • .mil- US Department of Defense
      • .com- commercial, for-profit businesses (Note: .com=.net, they are both for profit)
      • .net- networking institutions (Note: .com=.net, they are both for profit)
      • .org- non-profit organizations (Note: not all .org web sites are non-profits! And don’t be deceived: .Org web sites are almost always BIASED!)
  • Google is not an objective search engine: Some web companies pay Google large amounts of money to be placed at the top of the list when people key in certain terms.
  • Finally, I like using Google as a "brainstorming" tool. It allows me to run a quick search and gage and expand on the ideas I may be generating.

Popular Magazines vs. Peer-Reviewed Journals

Popular magazines are generally the magazines found in super-markets. Some examples are Teen, People, and Time. A peer-reviewed journal is also like a magazine, in the sense that it is published on a regular basis (monthly, annually, seasonally, etc.). Examples of these magazines are English Journal, Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and Modern Medicine: Journal of Science and Research. Magazines and peer-reviewed journals do have significant differences:

Popular Magazine

Peer-Reviewed Journals

Not “scholarly”

Considered “scholarly”

Minor editorial review

Stringent review by experts

Author not an expert

Author qualified in field

For general readers

Written FOR academia

Usually no bibliography

Bibliography Included

Library Subscription Databases Vs. Free Search Engine


Think of a library subscription database as a VERY EXPENSIVE search engine. This means that if you would like to search on a subscription database, you would have to pay a regular subscription fee, which is usually in the thousands.  Luckily, your college library pays for the students to have access to it. Because colleges can’t make this expensive information available to just anyone, you will have to obtain user ID and log-in information to access the databases. Unlike free search engines such as Google that can run searches on any different kind of category (i.e. medicine, education, music), some databases specialize in searching for specially categorized information. For example, the database “Masterfile” & “Academic Search Premiere” may conduct searches on a general categories, but if a student would like to research information about human behavior, she/he may want to search under databases that specialize in social issues (such as the “Sociological Collection” database).

Library Subscription Databases Vs. Free Search Engine

Think of a library subscription database as a VERY EXPENSIVE search engine. This means that if you would like to search on a subscription database, you would have to pay a regular subscription fee, which is usually in the thousands of dollars.  Luckily, your college library pays for students to have access to many different databases. Because colleges can’t make this expensive information available to just anyone, you will have to obtain a user ID and log-in information from your college library to access the various databases. Unlike free search engines such as Google that can run searches on any different kind of category (i.e. medicine, education, music), some databases specialize in searching for specially categorized information. For example, the database “Masterfile” & “Academic Search Premiere” may conduct searches on general categories, but if a student would like to research information about human behavior, she/he may want to search under databases that specialize in social issues (such as the “Sociological Collection” database). Most databases will only provide students with peer-reviewed articles; this eases the student's burden of evaluating the research.

Suggested General Library Subscription Databases

CQ Researcher
This is a nice and easy database to work with, especially if you haven’t worked on a database before. It can give you good information that encyclopedic in nature.

 “Brief reports on current “hot” topics in the news written by experienced Journalists. Topics range from social and teen issues to environment, health, education and science and technology.”

Opposing Viewpoints
When working in this database, I recommend that students search by ▪ KEY WORD and not by SUBJECT. This database also provides a list of pre-searched terms. I don’t recommend that students use this list as it tends to be very generic. Conduct your own search.

 “..[P]rovides a complete one-stop source for information on social issues. Access viewpoint articles, topic overviews, statistics, primary documents, links to web sites, and full-text magazine and newspaper articles.”

Sociological Collection

 “...[P]rovides information on all areas of sociology, including social behavior, human tendencies, interaction, relationships, community development, culture and social structure.”

Academic Search Premier -
This database provides much more in-depth research. It also give students ONLY PEER-REVIEWED research. When searching, I recommend that students check the box Both and Full-Text

“Provides full text for nearly 4,500 scholarly publications, including full-text for more than 3,600 peer-reviewed journals..,. Coverage spans virtually ‘ every area of academic study and offers information dating as far back a
1975...”

MasterFILE Premier

 “.... Contains indexing to over 2,400 periodicals in a wide range of subjects. Over 1,730 of the titles have the full-text online. Full-text coverage back to 1975. Also includes 500 full text reference books, 84,774 biographies, 86,135 primary source documents, and an image collection of 235,186 photos, maps and flags. Subjects covered include general reference, business, education, general science, health, multi- cultural and more, Daily updates.”

*Quoted database descriptions provided by the database vendors.

Evaluating Internet Sources

The World Wide Web is burgeoning with web sites and information. Unlike the college library databases, the WWW will bring students all kinds of information, both accurate/valuable and innacurate/invaluable. The information seeker must assess the relative value and usefulness of the information contained in web sites by considering the following factors:

Evaluating Information:

I. Authority
Who says so, and are they qualified?
II. Content
Is the information suitable for your needs?
III. Purpose, Point-of-View, Bias
What is the author’s purpose and motivation? Consider the organization she/he is working under, if any.
IV. Currency
How recent is the information and does its currency matter?
V. Primary vs. Secondary Resources
This refers to accounts given from first-handed experience versus the interpretations done by others about the first-handed experiences.

I. Authority and Authorship

A. Determine who or what organization or entity is responsible for the site’s content.

1. URL or Web site address may indicate web site host.

a. See the list of common Domains that are listed above.

2. Think about the credibility of the organization or agency or person sponsoring the Site.

B. Decide if the author of the information is trained, qualified, or has expertise in the subject.

1. Check the author’s credentials.

2. If another publication is cited, determine if the publication is reputable, and
citations are accurate.

C. If no source or author can be found, maybe you should be skeptical of the information given.

II. Content

A. Determine if the Web site provides appropriate information for the type of research you are conducting.

1. Check if the scope of coverage of the topic is adequate for your research needs.
2. Check that the depth of coverage is sufficient,
3. Determine if the information is age-appropriate (not too simplistic or too technical).
4. Judge if the web site itself is user-friendly and easy to navigate, or cumbersome and unclear.
5. Decide if the information is easy to locate, or difficult to find within the site.
6. Notice if the site has been recently updated, or if it has been neglected for years.
7. Decide whether the information is reliable and accurate, or questionable and unsubstantiated.
8. Check for good, strong evidence from several sources to support claims.
9. See if the site provides a means by which to contact the host for further details.

III. Purpose. Point-of-View, Bias

A. Web sites usually are created with some purpose in mind—some objective of the site owner or host.

1. Determine the purpose of the web site in question. How is the site intended to affect you?

a. Selling a product.
b. Selling a viewpoint or opinion.
c. Providing neutral information as a service (is any information totally free of bias? No.).
d. Explanation of a process.
e. Vanity or retaliation.

2. Determine the point-of-view or bias of the web site’s content.

a. Some sites present only one side of a topic. some present many sides.
b. Beware the use of “straw man” argumentation which only appears to present other sides of an argument or topic by providing imbalanced evidence or argumentation.

3. Remember that a bias does not necessarily mean the site is inaccurate nor does the absence of bias indicate the site is accurate.

V. Currency (Just how old is that information?)

A. Accuracy & relevance of some types of information is tied—at least in part—to how current it is.

1. Science/Technology.
2. Current events/News.
3. All things Medical.
4. Economics.
5. Geography.

B. Accuracy of some types of information may not be much affected by currency of information.

1. Biographies.
2. Literature.
3. Art.
4. Music.
5. History??? History can be effective even if it’s outdated. Also, remember that unless you’re looking at a primary resource, history is always told through someone’s interpretation of what they think happened.
6. Grammar.
7. Tune-up specifications for a 1966 Ford Mustang.

VI. Primary vs. Secondary Resources

A. Primary Resources are original documents containing firsthand information about a topic; common examples of a primary source are diaries, interviews, letters, original works of art such as paintings or music, photographs and works of literature.

B. Secondary Resources contain commentary on or discussion about a primary source. The most important feature of secondary sources is that they offer an interpretation of information gathered from primary sources. Common examples of a secondary source are biographies, dissertations, indexes, abstracts, databases or bibliographies (used to locate a secondary source), journal articles, and monographs.

Ask a Librarian Site
www.maricopa.edu/lts/ask 

"It could be the middle of the night, the library may be dark and the doors locked, but the library is still open…virtually!
Maricopa Community Colleges’ Ask a Librarian chat service is available 24/7, 365 days a year to serve the information needs of students, faculty and staff. Professional librarians are available online to instruct students on how to discover and navigate an increasingly complex world of information and select the best resources, including electronic databases, the catalog, and more.
We’re here to help with:
·         Selecting the best database(s) to search
·         Finding scholarly articles
·         Discovering primary sources
·         Citing sources
·         Requesting books from other Maricopa College Libraries
·         And a whole lot more!"

*Quoted material provided by the vendor.

Return to Student Learning Tools