This guide should help you understand the process involved in researching a topic and evaluating sources and should acquaint you with the Cornette Library's books, journals and online sources. The list is not comprehensive so you may need to use this as a starting point and pursue other sources as well. If you have questions, stop by the Reference, Periodicals/Special Collections, or Government Documents Desks for assistance or call the Reference Desk at 651-2215. For additional help, contact Linda Chenoweth (x2212) or Steve Ely (x2231) and make an appointment.
- Research is investigation and examination.
- We do research every day: ask the time, look for an e-mail address, decide which vehicle to buy.
- Getting started can cause anxiety, but that feeling is temporary.
- Requires time and flexibility as you learn throughout the process.
- Often an experimental, trial-and-error process. Information from one step may require redoing an earlier step.
- Research becomes easier with practice.
- Receive a research assignment: A paper or presentation is assigned, or a personal decision is required.
- Write a paper that's due in one month.
- OR, Present a speech in class one week from today.
- Select a topic: May be assigned in broad terms, or may be a personal interest.
- Write about violence in the media.
- OR, Speak about what happened the day you were born.
- Explore the facets of topic/narrow the focus: Ask basic background questions or specific parts of the overall topic. Often requires basic information collection and evaluation.
- Collect information on television, movies, video games, anime cartoons, rap music, etc.
- OR, Collect information on world events, state festivals, local politics, celebrity births and deaths, family occurrences, etc.
- State a question: This is your thesis, the question that you will answer, and it defines the limits of your problem.
- Does the image of women in rap music lead to more date rape?
- OR, What was the headline article in the New York Times on April 1, 1984, and where can I find other information about that event?
- Decide on the types of sources: Different kinds of questions will require different types of information sources.
- General databases such as Academic Search Complete contain current research from hundreds of scholarly and general publications on causes of violence and correlations with movies watched or music preferences.
- OR, National newspapers and news magazines covered current events, and parents or grandparents may be interviewed.
- Collect and evaluate information: Gather data to answer your specific question or thesis. This is often thought of as "research". Too much or too little available information may mean the question has to be restated.
- Academic Search Complete contains current research from hundreds of scholarly and general publications on causes of violence and correlations with movies watched or music preferences.
- OR, Print copies of the front page of the New York Times for April 1, 1984, and the cover stories for that week from Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report.
- Is the question answered? You may need additional information, or you may need to restate the question, if not enough information is available.
- One source is available, but there are 5 other sources that discuss rap music and violence against women. Restate the question as Does the image of women in rap music cause more violence against women?
- OR, You have five articles discussing the events of your birthday. Start practicing your speech.
- Make the decision/write the report/prepare the presentation.
- Your paper on rap music is turned in and you get an A.
- OR, Your speech wins applause from your classmates.
All of these characteristics should be considered in evaluating any information source, whether it is a book; a magazine, newspaper or journal article; a government document; a web page; or an individual. Experience makes this process easier.
Goal: find information from knowledgeable sources.
- Who wrote the item?
Examples: Book or article author/s, Government agency, corporation.
- What are their qualifications?
Examples: Education, work or personal experience, organization mission.
- What else has this person or organization written about the subject?
Examples: other books/articles, extent of web site,
- Is the person or organization reputable?
Examples: How often is the author cited? Who else links to the web site?
Goal: find sources that specifically address your individual question.
- Does the item relate to your specific question, or is it misfocused?
Example: an article about racism in South Africa would not be relevant to a research question like Does racism still exist in the 21st century United States?
- Does the item address all or a part of your topic?
Partial coverage from one source requires coverage from other sources.
Example: an article about racism in current college admissions MIGHT be helpful for a paper on racism in 21st century America.
- May require scanning an entire article, as titles aren't always informative. Use abstracts where available.
Goal: find information for the audience to be addressed.
- What age group is the item aimed at?
Example: Ranger Rick might be excellent for a teacher preparing elementary school activities, but not your freshman biology class.
- Is the item intended for a general or a specialized audience?
Examples: a speech to your fraternity would require different sources than a 30 page formal research paper.
- Is the item intended for scholars or the general public?
Example: National Geographic and Journal of Geophysics have very different audiences.
Goal: find accurate, reliable information.
A difficult judgment to make for a new subject. Part of the process will involve comparing one information source on the topic to others.
- Are sources provided so that you can verify the information?
Examples: footnotes, reference lists, links.
- How reliable are the sources?
See the authority discussion above.
- Is the journal peer-reviewed?
Examples: Not all scholarly sources are checked by other experts.
Goal: find information current enough to answer your research question.
Old sources can be fine for an historical question, but not for current events.
- What is the publication or creation date?
Example: books may be reprinted. Journals have publication dates. More authoritative web pages will have a clear "updated" date.
- Does the internal data reflect the same date as the creation date?
Example: a web page that states Clinton is the current president, but has a 2005 "updated" date isn't truly current.
Goal: find sources to address all sides of an issue. May require multiple sources representing differing viewpoints.
- Does the writer have a strong opinion on the issue?
Examples: NARAL Pro Choice America has a very different view of abortion than National Right to Life.
- Is that point of view obvious? Careful reading may be required.
Distinction between scholarly journals and magazines is important because:
- your instructor may specify "use only scholarly" sources,
- various citation styles treat journals and magazines differently,
- material in a journal is automatically considered more authoritative than a magazine, and peer-reviewed journals are considered the most authoritative.
The following criteria are guidelines. Some publications won't match the criteria exactly. If a publication fits MOST of the criteria, that would probably be the correct categorization.
Check with your instructor if you are not sure of the classification of a particular source.
|Physical format and appearance|
Reference books are one of the best places to start your research. Finding background information on a topic can help you prepare to search the Library's online catalog and other resources. The Reference Collection houses basic information sources like dictionaries, encyclopedias, bibliographies, chronologies, and research guides. A selection of Reference books which you may find useful are listed below. Be sure to check Cornette Library's online catalog or ask a Reference Librarian to find more.
- A Dictionary of Political Thought
- JA 61 .S37 1982 Ref.
- Defines and discusses many key terms and concepts of political thought, in entries ranging in length from a paragraph to a page.
- The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Thought
- JA 61 .B57 1987 Ref.
- A one-volume guide to important and influential ideas and doctrines of western political thought. Entries are included on individual philosophers, statesmen, sociologists, and writers, as well as on the philosophies, movements, ideologies, and concepts relevant throughout western history. All entries are signed and include bibliographies.
- Dictionary of Government and Politics
- JA 61 .D53 1998 Ref.
- "Basic vocabulary used in the fields of government and politics, both in Britain and in the United States."
- Encyclopedia of the American Constitution
- KF 4548.E53 2000 Ref.
- This six-volume work features many illuminating articles on the people, concepts, and legislation affecting and affected by the United State Constitution. Articles are signed and generally include short bibliographies. Also included is the text of several relevant primary source documents.
- Encyclopedia of American Political History
- E183 .E5 1984
- This three-volume work offers many articles, of several pages each, on the institutions, movements, and ideas that have characterized American political history.
- Dictionary of American History
- E174 .D52 2003 Ref.
- More an encyclopedia than a dictionary, this work of ten volumes is an excellent source of information on the events, concepts, trends, places, and people that characterize American history. Articles vary in length from a paragraph to several pages but consistently include author bibliographies and signatures, and one volume is devoted to archival maps and primary sources.
- Encyclopedia of the United States Congress
- JK1067.E63 1995 Ref.
- This four-volume work offers many detailed articles about the people, legislation, and issues dealt with by the U.S. Congress throughout its history. Articles are signed by the authors, whose affiliation is identified in the first volume; most articles also include a short bibliography.
- The Rowman & Littlefield Guide to Writing with Sources
- PE 1478.D37 2007 Ref.
- Discusses clearly and helpfully questions such as when you need to acknowledge a source, when you should paraphrase and when you should quote, how you should paraphrase, how you should quote, how you should punctuate quotations, and how you should select and cite electronic and internet sources. Available next to the Reference Desk.
- Student Guide to Research in the Digital Age: How to Locate and Evaluate Sources
- ZA 3075.S74 2006 Ref.
- Discusses overall research process, how to find different kinds of information, and how to use that information.
- Cornette Library's Online Catalog
- Includes books, government documents, videos, journal titles, etc. available throughout the Library. Suggested searches include:
- a keyword search for your subject, such as political philosophy.
- the general LC subject heading political science.
- the LC subject heading for a specific time and place such as united states politics and government.
To determine the most appropriate subject headings for your search, refer to the red Library of Congress Subject Headings near the Reference computers in the Library or search the online Library of Congress Authorities Catalog.
One excellent source is the multi-volume set Masters of Political Thought (JA81.M34)
- Online catalog for libraries around the world.
- Lists Cornette Library books along with many more in other libraries.
- Search by keyword, author, title, or subject.
- Excellent source for locating items not in Cornette Library's collection.
- Request books not in Cornette Library through the pre-filled Interlibrary loan form. Allow at least two weeks for the books to arrive.
Provide current information
- Library shelves contain more than 1500 bound and current journals.
- Microform (film or fiche) available for dozens of leading newspapers, as well as other periodicals.
- Databases index articles found in journals and magazines.
- Citation only;
- Citation and a short summary of the article (abstract);
- Full text;
- General, covering many kinds of topics, and specialized, for specific disciplines.
- For this assignment be sure to use scholarly sources, not general interest magazines. The differences are important, for citation and for evaluating reliability.
How to Access Databases
- On-campus: In the library or HELC.
- Off-campus: Login with your Buff Advisor username (for example, js123456) and your Buff Advisor password (for example, buffaloes).
- Database citations not in full-text may be located in Cornette Library's online catalog, or the list of online journals.
- Use Interlibrary Loan to request articles inaccessible through Cornette library. Allow up to 1 week (3 weeks for books) for articles to arrive.
- Academic Search Complete
- Contains abstracts and citations for a broad range of topics, with substantial full-text. Includes scholarly full-text articles from over 5,100 sources, with an additional 1,000 full-text sources. Indexes more than 10,000 periodicals.
- Back volumes for 375+ journals providing complete full-text coverage of journals from first issues, but not the most current 2-5 years. Covers a wide range of subjects.
- Find more at our Political Science Subject Guide.
- Displays in most of our databases. Links from a citation to one or more of the following:
- One or more links to full-text of the cited article,
- A link to a pre-set search of the Cornette Library catalog for the cited item,
- A link to a pre-filled Interlibrary Loan request form for the article, or
- A link to various help options.
- For more information see the tutorial Using SFX to Link to Articles
- Ask at the Reference Desk (first floor) or Periodicals Desk (second floor).
- Call 651-2215 during the hours Cornette Library is open.
- Use the "Ask A Librarian" page for electronic reference support.
There are four principal ways to access the online form to request an item through Interlibrary Loan.
- From our home page
If you already know that we don't have your item and you want to go directly to the request form, you can find it from any Cornette Library web page. It is the 6th item on the "Library Quick Links".
- From our catalog
If you've searched for a book in our catalog, discovered we don't have it, and want to request it through Interlibrary Loan, there are links to that form at the top and the bottom of the catalog screen. "Interlibrary Loan" is the middle text link in the maroon bar at the top of the screen or the 6th in the text links at the bottom of the screen.
- From WorldCat
If you've found an item in WorldCat that we don't have, you can create a pre-filled request form. From your results list, click on the item's title, which will take you to the item record. Click the link labeled "Request via Interlibrary Loan" (on the line labeled "External Resources."). After logging into your account, you will see a pre-filled form, with a Submit button at the bottom.
- From a periodical database search result
If you've found an article through one of our periodical databases and used the SFX tool described in the section above, the Interlibrary Loan link in the SFX screen will also automatically fill the request form's fields with your article's details.
More information about Interlibrary Loan.
Cornette Library collects United States federal and Texas state documents on many topics.
- Most U.S. documents published since 1994 are listed in the Cornette Library's Online Catalog.
- For older documents, you will need to use the Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications.
- We also have British Parliamentary Papers from 1731-1978/79 in microform.
Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications
- Indexes all United States government documents made available through the Government Printing Office.
- Includes Congressional reports, hearings, debates, and records; judiciary materials; documents issued by executive departments (Defense, State, Labor, Office of the President, etc.).
- Dates available include:
- Documents/Reference (1913-present).
- Online via FirstSearch. (1976-present)
- The World Wide Web is an excellent source of information.
- Not everything found on the Web is accurate.
- You must evaluate information on the Web.
- Searchable lists of annotated web sites, discussion lists, and electronic journals that have met specific selection criteria.
- Scout Report Archives
- Scholarly. Keyword or advanced search. Results listed by relevance.
- INFOMINE Scholarly Internet Resource Collections
- Scholarly. Keyword search or browse by general subject area. Can limit to free sites.
- ipl2, the merged Internet Public Library (IPL) and Librarians' Internet Index (LII)
- General public interest. Keyword search, or browse by general topic and subtopic.
Why must I cite the sources I use for research projects?
- To give credit to the author of the information you use.
- To avoid plagiarism (WTAMU Code of Student Life: Academic Integrity Code). Plagiarism is a serious offense that can result in a failing grade or worse!
- So that others can verify the information.
- To assist others in doing their own research.
For More Information
- The Rowman & Littlefield Guide to Writing with Sources
- PE 1478.D37 2007 Ref.
- Discusses clearly and helpfully questions such as when you need to acknowledge a source, when you should paraphrase and when you should quote, how you should paraphrase, how you should quote, how you should punctuate quotations, and how you should select and cite electronic and internet sources.
- Dr. Commissiong requires you to correctly cite your sources using a consistent and recognized style. These include The Chicago Manual of Style, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, and the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.
- Copies of these manuals are located at the Reference Desk.
- Additional assistance is available from our Citation Basics web page and from our more detailed page of recommended web sites for citing sources.
- You may also find very useful EndNote Web, a citation management system that allows you to gather, organize, and format references from many different sources, including ESBSCOhost databases, Web of Science, JSTOR, WorldCat and much more. EndNote Web is available to WT students from within Web of Science. As with any citation-formatting software, double-check your results to ensure correctness.
- Suggestions for improvements?
- Particularly helpful items?
- Please email Linda Chenoweth.