Advanced Research Tools - Coan

Many of you have done several research papers during your time at CSU, and most of you are probably aware of the variety of sources available. Since the essays we write during the second half of this course are non-academic, geared toward readers "outside" the arts and humanities, you may find that some of your usual methods of finding sources don't work or must be adjusted.

1. Ways to Start

  • Find your topic in an online, cd, or library encyclopedia and look for key words and issues.
  • Go to the Reference Room at the library to look through the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature (an index of recent articles in popular magazines).
  • Go to NewsBank (online at the library) to find recent newspaper articles.
  • Do a Boolean search on the Web (wildcards, AND, OR, NOT, exact phrase or publication info.).

2. SAGE/Prospector

  • When searching SAGE, many people skip over the easily-available option of finding items damaged by the flood through other libraries. When an item appears as missing or damaged, go to Prospector. This service will tell you what other libraries have the item. Interlibrary Loan is easy; most items will arrive in a few days.

3. Databases and Electronic Indexes

  • Consider the audience for each database or index. Is it academic? If so, you may want to borrow terms to search a less academic source.
  • Examples of databases: ERIC (educational), Uncover and Lexis-Nexis (current articles in multidisciplinary journals).
  • Electronic journals are listed through the Writing Center (get there from the left-hand column on the English Department page). The Writing Center and the library are currently revamping this source; when you visit, click on the "dynamic" list. This will take you to SAGE, where you can get an idea of how current the library is on each index.

4. Experts

  • An essay is almost always enlivened by real people. Depending on your topic, you might want to interview professors at CSU (most will make time, given enough notice), professionals in the community, members of institutions important to your argument, or even friends and family (most people have some sort of opinion on nearly everything).

5. Citation

  • I prefer MLA format, but if you are comfortable with another, please use it. The Writing Center is an excellent place to tutor yourself in the nitpicky aspects of format, especially for newer sources like the Web.
  • For this kind of writing, it is not considered plagiarism not to cite formally "common knowledge," personal, and cultural sources. When you step outside of this realm, use common sense. If your reader would have a hard time guessing where you got a certain bit of information, you should let her know. But be careful not to overload your essays with citations. Your research should be thorough, making you somewhat an expert, so that your authorship is credible without parentheses or a footnote every other line. That way, in combination with a clear annotated bibliography, your essays come off as smart but not academic. To avoid over-citation, attribute/establish credibility within your own text.