Does the image of a white coat bedecked person in a lab with test tubes and beakers bubbling over come to mind? You are correct. That scene is an example of this kind of research. Surveys, tests, archeological digs, soil sampling, tracing monarch butterfly migration, surveying the public to discover how to get us to use public transportation and such are also original research. So researchers start with a question or two, devise an experiment, survey or other method that they believe will answer their question. These experts in their fields collect the data, analyze it and write up their results (and rewrite) which are then published as articles or as books. You and I come along with our library research question and we:
- search for information
- find it in that article or other place the researcher wrote it
- evaluate the information
- read it and think about it in relation to all our other research
- use it to write a paper, make an argument, decide how to vote on something and so on.
- repeat 1-5 above as needed
One thing to notice when reading original research is that the authors of the study will almost certainly begin with a review of the library research (e.g. published articles and books by academic experts) they read before and while they do their original research. This is often called a literature review or review of the literature. The word literature here is not supposed to evoke Shakespeare or Angelou. Rather here the term literature refers to the collection of works written on a topic. So basically, the authors did the same kind of library research to write their literature review as you do when you have a research paper or project. It is that same library research that we will be talking about in this book. You will use it for your papers in undergraduate classes all the way through your master’s or doctorate degrees: Yes, Master’s and/or Doctorate. You might as well go for it.
Library research is finding published academic books and articles and other information written by experts on your topic to support a thesis or answer questions. It is the kind of research most students are expected and often required to do when assigned to write a paper. As you have seen above, library research is
included as background for original research.
Just as original research does, library research starts with thinking through a topic or question. To find information and answers, most library research will involve the use of databases.
A database is a way of organizing information or lists of information on a topic. A library’s catalog, for example, organizes what a library owns. We can search it, discover an interesting book and find it via a call number or, if an e-book, read it online. Library catalogs provide access to books, media and periodicals owned by or accessible through the library. (Notice, library catalogs do not have articles in them, but more about that later.) Different databases have different kinds of information. Some include only lists of books, or only e-books, or only periodicals, or only media or only articles.
Some databases have access to combinations of these and other types of information. Some databases have and/or list information on just about any topic you can imagine: everything from azaleas to Zanzibar. Some have and/or list government documents. Others have and/or list just health information or just chemistry information, or just psychology information and so on. Some databases have scholarly academic information and some have popular information like you might find in Time or Newsweek magazines. Some have both.
Figure 1: http://www.fnal.gov/pub/today/archiv...2_Figure01.jpg, www.esc.gov/isMain.asp, blog.epa.gov/blog/tag/women-in-stem/ , ttps://www.loc.gov/
Authors do the research and publish their work. Database providers, such as EBSCO and ProQuest, acquire the work or the right to list the work. Libraries buy the database. You and I search the database to find information. When we write our papers, we join the scholarly conversation.
This book provides the fundamental strategies of research that you will be able to use in any database in any library (public, college, or university). These strategies will enable you to keep current in your professions and support self-directed life-long learning.