Monday, December 27, 2010

Permanent links (PURLs) to articles in databases

It's not uncommon to want to save the URL (aka web address or link) for an article you find in one of the library's databases. You may want to keep it in an e-mail to yourself or saved in a file so you can go back to it later. You may want to send it to someone else so they can look at the same thing you were reading. You may have to share it in a class discussion or include it in your paper's bibliography.

For web sites, all you have to do is go to the address bar of your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, or another) and copy and paste the URL that you find there. But most library databases are different. When you search in a database, it generates a dynamic URL that is based on the current contents of the database, plus the search you did. But database content is updated continually, and your search information is only true for you at the moment you did your search. If you use the URL from the address bar, you will not be able to get back to the article once you have logged out or closed your browser.

So how do you get a URL that will work? You may see it called a static link, a permanent URL, a stable URL, or a PURL. The process for obtaining it varies from database to database. The instructions to get a PURL for every one of the library's databases are available here. Bookmark the page and refer to it when you need it.


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Monday, December 20, 2010

Useful pages within the Information Skills Tutorial

The Information Skills Tutorial is a short, self-paced course in library and research skills and techniques. What you may not know is that it has been designed so that any one page of it works fine on its own. Every page of the Information Skills Tutorial is a mini-tutorial on a specific library- or research-related task.

Here are some that you might find especially useful:

  • Narrow Your Topic - this discusses how to take a broad, vague topic like "pollution" and narrow it down to something more focused and manageable like "causes of acid rain." It then explains why and how to turn your topic into a thesis or research question.
  • Sources of Information - goes through the various information sources that you might find in libraries and on the web - books, articles, and more. Each type of source has different strengths and weaknesses.
  • Primary Versus Secondary - explains how some information sources are primary, some are secondary, and some are tertiary. Each is used in a different way when you are doing research.
  • Scholarly Versus Popular - explains the difference between scholarly (peer reviewed) information sources, and those that are not. It's important to recognize the difference, and be able to search for just one kind or the other.
  • Identify Keywords - searching in databases and on the web requires that you come up with the right vocabulary.
  • Combine Keywords Into A Search - teaches you how to use Boolean Operators (AND, OR, NOT) and other symbols to tell the database exactly what you mean.

You may want to bookmark these pages or put them in your or diigo account for safekeeping. You will find them useful the next time you have to do research.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Consumer Reports

It's getting to be one of the times of year when people make big purchases. Whether you're buying a gift for a loved one or just taking advantage of the sales, it's possible to spend a lot of money and later regret it. One way to avoid that is to put the turkey-flavored sodas back on the shelf before you go to the register. Another is to do product research before you shop.

The library subscribes to Consumer Reports, which is a magazine of expert product reviews and ratings. They evaluate everything from tires to baby bottles to computer games.

To get to Consumer Reports (and to any other journal or magazine when you know its title) go to the library web siteand click Full-text Journal Finder. Type in the title of the journal and search. This will give you a list of the databases that have the journal - click one.

You can also go directly to Consumer Reports at this link.

Once you are in there, you can browse by year or click the link for Search Within This Publication. You will be taken to a search box that is already filled out with the name of the journal. Leave that there and just type your stuff in after it.

You can search for a type of product, like AND "digital camera" or you can search by the trademarked name of a specific product like AND Kinect.

The AND is there to tell the database that it must find search results that fit two criteria: articles 1. from the journal Consumer Reports 2. that are have the keyword "digital camera."

The quotation marks are used whenever your keyword is actually a phrase made up of two or more words. It tells the database that you want those words found together and in the correct order.

So before you buy something expensive, first use Consumer Reports to make sure that the product is and does what you want, won't fall apart on you, and is the best value for your money.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Help citing your sources

Citing your sources in the form of in-text citations (footnotes, endnotes, and parenthetical references) and a bibliography or works cited can be complicated.

First of all, there are the different citation styles. There are two major ones, APA and MLA. In addition, sometimes you'll be asked to use Chicago style for history and CSE for the sciences.

Then there are the different types of sources that can be cited:
  • book
  • journal article
  • web site
  • movie
  • musical recording
  • interview transcript
  • letters
  • online or "electronic" versions of the above
Then there are the questions of when it's required or appropriate to cite:
  • direct quotes (yes, always)
  • you have to cite paraphrases but when does it stop being a paraphrase and start being your original work?
  • you have to cite facts but you don't have to cite common knowledge, so how do you tell which is which?
  • do you cite at the end of a whole paragraph or after each tidbit of information?
Citing is high stakes because if you do it wrong, you can get in trouble for plagiarism even if you didn't mean to steal somebody else's work. So the library provides a lot of help with citing your sources. Every time you have a question about citing your sources, go to this Citing Your Sources Guide. Select the citation style you're using and look through the resources we've provided. If you still have questions, there is a chat box to talk to a librarian right there in the window.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Finding law journal articles

The library has a very good source of law journal articles - Westlaw Campus - but due to the unique way that database is organized, those articles are "invisible" unless you're already inside that database.

There are a few tricks to using Westlaw, so I'm going to summarize the steps for finding law journal articles right here:
  1. Get into the database. Go to the library web site and click All Databases By Title. Scroll all the way down and click Westlaw Campus. Log in if you're prompted to.
  2. In the options below the search boxes, click the checkbox for Journals and Law Reviews and then use the pull-down menu to select All Journals and Law Reviews.

  • Go back up to the search boxes and enter your keywords.
  • Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and click the Search button there.
  • In your search results screen, the actual journal title, article title, and author are printed underneath the citation number, which is a link to the full-text.This is what the search results page looks like:
  • Law journal articles are often over 100 pages long (don't worry - most of it is footnotes!) Do not print the full-text before you check how long it is! But if you do decide to print it, or better yet, e-mail it to yourself, the links are in the top right corner of the page.

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  • Monday, November 22, 2010

    Finding the resources you need using Subject Guides

    Doing library research can be intimidating just because there are so many places to search for different kinds of information resources (e-books, articles, videos, data) on different topics.

    Some day we'll have achieved a level of technology where you can say, "Computer, give me three articles about PTSD among fire fighters!" and it will know exactly what you want and customize your results based on your known interests and preferences... that day is still far in the future. Not so much because of the technology, which is practically there already, but because of the laws and business considerations that restrict the sharing of content.

    In the mean time, we have Subject Guides. These are mini-websites that the librarians put together to make it easier to do research. Subject Guides bring together all the different search tools and sources that are useful for a particular subject area or family of topics, and they organize those tools and sources by type. In every Subject Guide you will find tabs for Reference, Journal Articles, Books, Multimedia and Web Sites. Under each tab will be various search tools and resources, each with a brief but useful description.

    You'll also find a chat box so you can ask a librarian any question that occurs to you while you work.

    It's important to note that the Subject Guide is not the place for you to do the actual keyword searching. With a few exceptions, it doesn't contain any useful content in itself. What it does is link you to the places that you can go to search.

    To get to the Subject Guides, either go to, or go to the library web site and click the link for Resources By Subject.

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    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Using WorldCat to discover books in any library

    Last week I mentioned that you can go to any SUNY, CUNY or New York state community college library to take out books. You can use their online catalog to find out what books they have and where to find them in the stacks.

    WorldCat is a catalog of catalogs. It's a database that contains the holdings
    of thousands of libraries - hundreds of millions of books, microform and multi
    media materials.

    You can get to it by going to Once you're in, just do a keyword search. It's a huge database, so be as specific as you want with that search! Also be sure to specify Year, Audience, Content, Format and Language using the boxes provided.
    Now you'll see your search results. Click on the title of any one that you're interested in to see more information about it. If you scroll down, you will see "Find a copy in the library." Put in your zip code to let it know where you are. It will tell you what libraries have the book, and the list will be arranged so that the ones closest to you are at the top of the list. Below, you can see that my book is available from four SUNY libraries, one of which is only 45 minutes away.

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    Monday, November 8, 2010

    New library resource - Annual Reviews

    Read the rest of this entry »

    The Annual Reviews are expert analyses of different topics that are put out every year. They survey the most up-to-date scholarly publications on a topic and synthesize and evaluate their content. As such, they are a high-quality, scholarly tertiary source.

    The Empire State College Library has just subscribed to the Annual Reviews in the social sciences. The content is from 2007 to 2011.

    • Anthropology
    • Clinical psychology
    • Environment and resources
    • Law and social science
    • Political science
    • Psychology
    • Public health
    • Sociology

    They are accessible by going to the library web site and clicking All Databases By Title. Then click Annual Reviews and log in with your college username and password. You will see this page

    screenshot of annual reviews main page

    Notice the checkmarks next to the ones that are available to us.

    You can either search by keyword, or you can click on one of the subject areas and browse for the particular Annual Review that you want. Then your results page looks like this:

    annual reviews results page

    Notice the full-text links to the right of each search result.

    Bear in mind that if you use the search option on the main page, your results list will probably include items that we don’t have access to, in addition to items for which you can get the full-text. This is more likely to come up if your research topic crosses over the boundaries of social science into economics or the “harder” sciences.

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Getting books from other SUNY Libraries

    Every once in a while I like to put out a reminder that all Empire State College students are also SUNY students, and as such, you're entitled to use the libraries at any SUNY, CUNY or New York state community college. You can use their in-house collections and borrow books using your college photo id. Some libraries also offer a guest login so you can use their databases while on campus. The libraries in this list that belong to SUNY will also extend interlibrary loan services to you.

    It's good to know what you're looking for before you get to the library. All library catalogs are on the web, so just do a web search like University at Albany library to locate their library web site. From there you can get to their catalog (sometimes called an OPAC) and find out what books they have on your topic. Be sure to write down their call numbers and any other "holdings" or location information provided, because that is how you will locate those books in the stacks.

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    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Library Research Blog is Moving!

    The Library Research Blog is moving to the Commons, where it will have a more streamlined look and easier subscription options. You can find us at

    For the next month we will post our articles in both locations simultaneously, but after that, we will phase out this Blogspot version.

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Using Google Scholar to find articles

    When you have a research question that spans several different subject areas, you can use a multidisciplinary database such as Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, Academic OneFile or ProQuest Research Library. But many articles are kept only in subject-specific databases and searching all of them would take a lot of time. Fortunately there's a way to search all of the library's databases at once.

    If you go to, there is a link to log into Google Scholar. It will prompt you for your college login and password, which regular Google Scholar doesn't do. The reason you have to log in through the college is that now Google Scholar will link you directly to full-text in the library.

    First, there are a few things to know about
    searching in Google.
    • +keyword - this keyword must be in every search result
    • -keyword - this keyword can't be in any of the search results
    • "two words" - everything in quotation marks is searched together as a phrase
    • Advanced search lets you limit your search to a specific date range or subject area
    Here is a screenshot of what your search results will look like. Notice the Full-text @ ESC Library link. Just click it to be taken to your article.

    You may also see links to PDF files in that space. These full-text articles are not in our library, but are stored in repositories, usually belonging to the university or research institute where the author works. They are perfectly legitimate as scholarly articles. You will be able to find out what journal the article was published in - in most cases, the journal version is the "official" version that you should cite.

    Questions? Ask a Librarian

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Using RefWorks to manage your citations

    RefWorks is an online citation management tool that you can use for free because the college has subscribed to it.

    Basically, you log in with your college login and password and then create a personal account with RefWorks (you have an individual account to keep your research private.)

    Once you're in, you can either type in bibliographic information from your research sources, or use a set of tools to import this information automatically. For example, you can select search results in a database and batch send them to RefWorks. There is also a plug-in that lets you grab this information from any web site.

    You can organize your citations into folders for different courses, topics or research projects. You can access the full-text of any article that is in the library through its entry in your RefWorks folders. You can also upload files, such as the PDF full-text, some images, or a document with all your notes!

    There is a plug-in that you download and configure, and it hooks up with Microsoft Word. Then when you are writing a paper, you simply click a button to open up the plug-in, select the source you want to site, and insert your citation. When your paper is done, you click a few more buttons to format it in any citation style you want - APA, MLA, Chicago, CSE, and others.

    No more confusion about what to do with oddball sources, or the picayune details of formatting in different styles - all of this is handled by RefWorks.

    For more information and to log in, go to

    Don't forget to sign up for one of our webinars on how to use RefWorks! During the webinar, we will help you get set up with your own account, download and configure the two plug-ins and get some hands on experience using the different features. Go here for more information and to sign up for a webinar.

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, October 11, 2010

    InfoSci Online is now IGI Global

    In case you've been looking for InfoSci Online, it's now called IGI Global. It is an excellent source for peer-reviewed journal articles about information technology. Examples of subject areas covered are library science, instructional design, and computers in organizations.

    "IGI Global’s InfoSci-Journals database is a rapidly expanding full-text collection of peer-reviewed journals that focus on cutting-edge, specialized topics in advanced technology research as well as organizational, managerial, behavioral, and social implications of technology."

    You may find it helpful to download this User Guide (skip to page 5!)

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Online Library Workshops

    We have brought back our online library skills workshops with an expanded schedule!

    All of the workshops are offered on weekday evenings (mainly Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8pm.) They take place via a web conferencing tool called Elluminate. There is nothing for you to download, although your browser will automatically install a plug-in. All you need is a broadband internet connection plus one of the above:
    • computer speakers and microphone
    • an earphones/mic headset
    • a phone (once you log in, we will give you dial-in info.)
    We are offering two main workshops:
    • Intro to Searching, which covers the basics of where to find library resources and how to do keyword searching effectively
    • Citing Your Sources, which covers making in-text citations and a bibliography in any of the required styles (APA, MLA, etc.)
    and also a special topics workshop:
    • Intro to RefWorks - RefWorks is our online citation manager, a powerful tool that can help you save and organize all your research information, and insert perfectly formatted citations into your Word documents!
    Sign up and find out more here:

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Participate in the New York State Broadband Speed Test

    The New York State Center for Technology in Government is building a map of broadband (high speed internet access) speeds throughout the state. Their goal is to find out which regions are being served adequately and which are not, so that service can be improved.

    Why is the government getting involved in this sort of thing? Because internet access is crucial to civic participation, economic development, education, career development, health care, home-based business, social networking and it helps reduce the need for expensive and environmentally damaging paper forms and mailings.

    If you want to help out, all you have to do is go to Click the blue Take the Speed Test button. Then click the blue Begin the Speed Test button. A box will pop up - click "Run" or "Ok." The whole thing will happen automatically and will take about a minute.

    The more people participate, the better an idea they will have about the real internet access situation in New York State, and that can lead to policies, funding and regulations that will help you. So take a minute and do the speed test at

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center is now Opposing Viewpoints in Context

    Opposing Viewpoints is a great resource for getting articles, opinion pieces and primary sources about different sides of controversial issues and contemporary hot topics. The database is making some major improvements and changing its name. How will it affect you?
    • More image, audio and audio-visual content. This content will be more fully integrated in with the text content.
    • Outdated content has been replaced with newer materials.
    • "Expert picks" to guide your reading.
    • Each topic has its own "portal page" with an overview of the issue to contextualize all the resources.
    • Text-to-speech and translate capability
    • Share what you find using Twitter, FaceBook,, digg and a variety of other Web 2.0 tools
    As always, whenever you need to, there is the Help button, or you can Ask A Librarian!

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, September 13, 2010

    September 17 is Constitution Day

    On September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution, establishing the United States under a federal system of government.

    The U.S. Constitution was the first written constitution in the world and is the oldest one still in existence.

    Congress has established September 17 as Constitution Day to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. In honor of the event, the Empire State College Library has gathered some web resources and articles about the Constitution's history.

    Writing the Constitution
    Interpreting the Constitution
    Reading the Constitution
    • Constitution of the United States (National Archives)
      High-resolution images of the U.S. Constitution, with explanatory notes and transcripts of the Constitution text.
    • Interactive Constitution (National Constitution Center)
      A clause-by-clause explanation of the Constitution, providing access to basic constitutional facts and interpretation, and searchable by key words and Supreme Court cases.

    Questions? Ask a Librarian

    new Information Skills Tutorial

    Do you feel like a complete beginner when it comes to using the library or doing academic research? Have you been managing but still have some pretty big questions? You're in luck - the library just launched the new Information Skills Tutorial.
    • Questions about how to search for your topic in databases? Go to Search!
    • How to decide if a web site or book is "scholarly" enough? Go to Evaluate!
    • How to cite this crazy thing with two titles and no page numbers? Go to Cite!
    Do you just want to become an expert, confident researcher once and for all? Start at the beginning and work your way through to the end - it won't take long. We've pared down the information to the essentials and put it in the most clear, concise language we possibly could.

    We even spotted most of our typos before the launch! If you have some feedback about how the site could be improved, there is a comment box in the right column of every page.

    Questions? Ask a Librarian

    Monday, September 6, 2010

    improvements to ScienceDirect interface

    ScienceDirect, a huge all-scholarly, full-text database in the sciences (no surprise there) and also business topics, is making some important changes. They are launching the SciVerse Hub to integrate content from ScienceDirect and two other sources: Scopus and Scirus.

    What does this mean for you? Partly, it means that ScienceDirect won't be an all-fulltext database anymore. There will still be all the full-text articles there were before, but there will also be search results with no full-text in the database. While this is a little bit inconvenient, it also means you'll be made aware of potentially valuable articles that you can find in other library databases or other libraries. (Like we mentioned before, you can use any SUNY, CUNY or New York community college library!)

    Do you get assignments requiring you to find an article that talks about a certain research methodology? We know some of you do. ScienceDirect now has a way to search for articles by that criteria! It's called the Methodology Section Search Application. It's a clunky name for a powerful tool. Check it out!

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    Library will be closed for Labor Day Monday September 6

    Due to the holiday, the Ask A Librarian service will be unavailable on Monday, September 6.
    Questions? Ask a Librarian

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Improvements to the JSTOR interface

    One of our biggest and most popular databases, JSTOR is making some improvements.
    • There is no Basic Search. The default is the Advanced Search page, which has been rearranged a little, but you'll find all the same features.
    • Right under Advanced Search is Browse By Discipline. This is a great way to look for journals that might address your topic.
    • By default, you will now be searching all JSTOR content, not just content the library has access to. This means JSTOR is no longer an all-fulltext database. If you want to turn off this feature, you have to select that option using a button on the Advanced Search or the Results page. While this is a small inconvenience, it means that you will be able to discover more articles on your topic. While they may not be available through JSTOR, you can look for them using other library databases or other SUNY libraries. (Did you know you have borrowing privileges at all SUNY, CUNY and New York community college libraries? You do!)
    • You can track down articles that cited a particular article. This is a great way to find more articles on a topic.
    Remember that you can always click the Help button at the top right of every JSTOR screen. Or Ask A Librarian!

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Improvements to EBSCOhost interface

    EBSCOhost, the database vendor that provides Academic Search Complete, Business Source Complete and many other databases, has made some minor improvements to its interface. The changes don't affect the search box. They all have to do with the results list and the "detailed record page" where you view all the information about an article.
    Click each image for a full-size version.

    Refine Your Results (including check-boxes for scholarly and full-text and the date range function, has moved from the right column to the left.

    Detailed Record Page has changed a lot. The Permalink for sharing and saving the article is now a button over on the right side. The full-text link is up on the left side. There is now a translate function and a text to speech function.

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, August 16, 2010

    New video resources

    We now have three more streaming video collections from Alexander Street Press:
    You may find these useful for research, getting background information on a topic or sharing in a group discussion.

    To get to these resources, go to the library web site and click All Databases By Title, then click the Multimedia tab. You will need to use your college login to access these video databases.

    These videos require that you have Flash installed and up-to-date (your computer may handle this automatically, or you can download Adobe's Flash player here.)

    You can search by keyword, or browse through the collections, which is organized by a number of categories.

    Each video has a transcript. You can make clips of a video, create and share playlists and embed video. Note that when you embed video, other viewers will be required to log in.

    Check out these video collections - we think you'll be impressed by both the content and the database features.

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Does the library have ___ ?

    One of the most common questions we get at the Ask A Librarian reference desk is "Do you have ___ ?" Whether it's an e-book or an online journal, we're always happy to answer your question, but there's a quicker way for you to find out yourself whether a particular item is in the library.

    To find a book, use the E-book Catalog. You'll find it at You can also get to it through the library web site, in the left column. Simply click through to the basic search page and enter either the title (in quotation marks) or the author's name (last name first.) If we have the item, it will appear in the search results, probably at or near the top. To read it, simply click the view e-book link to the right of the title. (At this point, you may be prompted to log in.)

    To find an article, use Full-text Journal Finder. It's at and it's also on the library web site in the left column. To use it, simply enter the title of the journal you're looking for. If we have it, you will get one or more databases that have that journal. Pay close attention to the dates that are listed. Different databases have different volumes and issues of the same journal! Click the link to the database that has your journal in the date range you're looking for. If you're not already logged in, you'll be prompted to log in.

    Now that you're "in" the journal, you need to find articles. There are two ways to do this. One is to click the link to a particular date, volume, or issue, and then look at the article titles that are available there. The other is to locate the search box and search for your keywords there. If you have a certain article that you're looking for in the journal, search for the title of the article in quotation marks.

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, August 2, 2010

    Doing company research in Mergent

    When you need to do research on a company, there is one place you should go first - Mergent Online. Mergent is the premier research resource for company, industry and financial research.

    What can you learn from Mergent?
    • ownership of property and facilities throughout the world, number of employees
    • mergers, acquisitions, and subsidiaries
    • executives and their compensation, members of the board
    • who owns stock
    • trading price and volume of stock
    • annual reports
    • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission - SEC filings
    • cash flow, profitability, growth, debt
    • quick links to news items about the company from major online news services
    • industry information equivalent to Standard & Poors Industry Surveys
    • easy access to comparative information on the company's competitors
    • Mergent Reports - detailed, comprehensive, and in clear English describing what the company does and how well it's doing, as well as its history
    Mergent has information on both public and privately held companies all over the world.

    For more information and instructions on how to search for a company, please check out our Mergent video tutorial.

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, July 26, 2010

    Looking for a law or court case? Use Westlaw Campus.

    Westlaw Campus is the main database that's used to do legal research. This includes
    • Federal laws (the United States Code)
    • State laws
    • Case law (U.S. Supreme Court, federal circuit courts, state courts)
    • Law journal articles
    Today we'll focus on looking up articles in law journals. If you do a search in Multidatabase Search or Google Scholar, you won't get many full-text results, but this is deceiving. Westlaw's immense collection of full-text scholarly law journal articles is invisible to those search tools. You have to actually log into Westlaw to find the articles. Here's how:

    First, go to All Databases By Title, scroll down, click Westlaw Campus, log in, and click through the intro page. Now you're on the main search page, which looks like this:

    There's going to be a set of search boxes, and underneath that are a lot of check-boxes. Click the third one down in the first set of check-boxes: Journals and Law Reviews. Then use the pull-down menu next to it to select "All Journals And Law Reviews."

    Next, search your keywords in the search boxes above. But don't use the Search button next to the search boxes. Instead use the Search button at the very bottom of the window. (Don't ask me why it's this complicated...)

    A search result will look something like this:

    18. 71 Ala. Law. 146

    The header is a standardized abbreviation for the citation, and it's a clickable link to the full-text article, which you can then e-mail to yourself, download or print. Law articles tend to be very long, so you might want to avoid printing an article until you've skimmed its contents to see if it's what you need.

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    Ferguson Career Guidance Center - new feature!

    Ferguson Career Guidance Center is one of the college's main career development tools. It can be accessed through the library web site under All Databases By Title, or from the Career Resources Guide.

    Ferguson Career Guidance Center provides information on industries and specific careers that are available. It also has advice and skill-building techniques for getting a job and building your career.

    Now they've added one more feature - an assessment tool that helps you determine which jobs are best suited to your interests and aptitudes. Try the Career Interest Assessment Tool today! (requires login.)

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Friday, July 16, 2010

    Article Linker and Full-text Journal Finder unavailable Saturday evening

    Serials Solutions, the company that provides our Article Linker service will be performing maintenance this Saturday, July 17, from 9pm to 11pm. During this time, databases will work, but you will not be able to use Full-text Journal Finder or Article Linker.

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Making Image Groups in ARTstor

    ARTstor is a database of high-quality images of art - photography, sculpture, architecture, paintings, drawings, etc. You can browse ARTstor by its collections, or you can search by keyword. For instance, you could search for "horses" and come up with artworks featuring horses. Or you could search for "charcoal" and come up with artworks in that medium. Or you could do both.

    One especially useful ARTstor feature is that you can create Image Groups. These are virtual slideshows of the images you've found and selected, which you can share online.

    To make an Image Group, you must first log into ARTstor. In addition to logging into the service itself with your college login and password, you need to have your own personal account with ARTstor where you will save your own searches and the images you've selected.

    You'll see a Log In to ARTstor box in the upper right corner of the screen. If you have already created an account, log in. Otherwise, click Register and follow the steps to create an account, then log in. Next, do your search.

    In your search results you can select an image by clicking once on its thumbnail (small version on the results page.) You can tell it's selected because it now has a red border.

    Now go to the gray menu bar at the top and select Organize, then Save Selected Images To, then New Image Group. It will prompt you to type in a name for your image group. Do that and click Save and Open. Now you are looking at the contents of your image group - all the search results that you selected before.

    If you want to save more images to your image group, go back to the gray menu bar and select Find, then Search. Do another search and select more images from the search results. Then go back to the gray menu bar and select Organize, then Save Selected Images To, then Existing Image Group. Select the desired image group from the list, and then click Save and Open.

    If you want to share an image group, you need to "obtain instructor privileges."Anybody with a college login can get instructor privileges, whether you're an instructor or not. Here's how to do it: Go to the gray menu bar and select Organize, then Open Image Group. You'll see a link for Obtain Instructor Privileges on the right side - click it. The authorization code is awmfesc and the password is artstor.

    Now, to share your Image Group, go to the gray menu bar and select Share, then Manage Folder(s). Then select your folder. Now select the option for Selected users and create a password in the box below. You should also select whether those users can make changes in the image group, or just view it. Click Submit and then OK.

    Now go back to the gray menu bar and select Share, then Generate Image Group URL. This is the link you will send people or embed in a discussion or a course page so that they can come see and work in your image group.

    One final thing you can do is turn your Image Group into a Powerpoint presentation. To do that, go to the gray menu bar and select Tools, then Export Group to Powerpoint, then Yes. (You're limited to 1000 images in 120 days so take it easy.)

    Information overload, right? Don't worry - ARTstor has a Help button up at the top right of the page, and you can always call the library for help at 800-847-3000 ext. 2222.

    Questions? Ask a Librarian

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    Some Databases Are Returning

    You may remember Gale's Academic OneFile, General OneFile and Health Reference Center Academic. They have returned to the Empire State College Library courtesy of NOVELNY (a program of the New York State Library.)

    Academic OneFile and General OneFile are both multidisciplinary databases containing articles from scholarly and popular periodicals. Health Reference Center Academic is a reference source for up-to-date information on a variety of health topics.

    You can access these databases through the All Databases By Title link in the left column of the Library Web Site.

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, June 28, 2010

    Mergent upgrade - better business searching

    Mergent is a database that allows you to look up company information including executive profiles, annual reports, financials, and countless other crucial details. You can also do industry and country research using Mergent. The database has been updated with a new search interface that will make it easier and more intuitive to use.

    The blue tabs going across the top work as context menus - each tab gives you access to different search functions while you're searching, and kinds of information when you're viewing reports. If you've ever used Microsoft Office 2007, you're already familiar with the idea. If not, it's pretty intuitive and you'll pick it up quickly.

    Click the Help link at the upper right corner of the screen to get a menu of instructions on how to do a Basic Search, Advanced Search, Executive Search (for company executives, that is), search for Reports, search for Government Filings, and more. The instructions are straightforward and step-by-step.

    Questions? Ask a Librarian

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Save a search in EBSCOhost

    Fine-tuning a search in a database can be time-consuming and frustrating, so when you finally get it exactly right, you don't want to lose all your work!

    Most databases let you create an individual account (separate from your college account that let you log in in the first place) that lets you store both the search itself and selected search results (articles.) Here's how to do it in an EBSCOhost database:
    1. Log in with your college login and password.
    2. Click the Sign In link in the upper right corner of the EBSCOhost screen.
    3. Click the Create New Account link at the far left of the green menu.
    4. Fill out all the information and click the Submit button. Then click the Continue button. Now you should be back at the search screen.
    From now on, you can log into the database with your college login and then sign in with your unique EBSCOhost account. You must be signed in before you start searching in order to use the special features.

    To save a search
    You're signed in, so start searching as usual. When you get a search that works very well, this is the one you want to save.
    1. At the top, on the right side of the search results list you should see a link that says Alert/Save/Share. Click it.
    2. A box will pop up with a permanent link to this particular search. You can copy and paste it into an e-mail, class discussion group, or wherever you like. Clicking the link will take you right back to your entire list of search results.
    3. In the box is also a link for Create An Alert. You can put in your e-mail address, and from then on, you will get an e-mail whenever there are new results for that search (new articles on your topic in the database.)
    4. The box also has a link for Add Search to Folder. This puts the search (not its results) into your permanent folder so that the next time you log in, you can go right back to searching where you left off. To access your folder, click the little icon that looks like a manilla folder at the top right of the page.

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, June 14, 2010

    RefWorks 2.0 - same product, better interface

    Have you started using RefWorks? If you haven't, it's a good time to start because RefWorks is shortly going to be coming out with a new, improved interface that looks brighter and is more intuitive to use. If you've been using RefWorks, you'll be happy to know that it is keeping all the same features and functions, but laying them out in a more pleasing way.

    What's RefWorks, you ask? You mean you've been doing your bibliographies and footnotes by hand because you didn't know there was a better option? Ok, from the top: RefWorks is an online service that you can log into with your college username and password. Then you create your own RefWorks account and start saving all your citation information (author, title, publisher, etc.) for all the research materials you're using (books, articles, films, websites, etc.) You download a little plugin that hooks up to Microsoft Word, and then, when you're writing your paper, you just put your mouse where you want a citation, select the information source, and it puts your citation in. RefWorks will format your paper for APA, MLA, Chicago, or CSE citation style and compile your bibliography for you too. What are you waiting for? Go here!

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, June 7, 2010

    The security of your personal information online

    Here are some tips for being sensibly paranoid in this age of viruses, phishing, scams, employer surveillance, the PATRIOT Act, and companies selling your data for a buck. You don't have to lock yourself down, but if it makes you feel safer, here's how to do it.

    At work
    • Unless you are at your home computer, assume that your browsing is being monitored. Your employer has the right to monitor your work computer and e-mail account. Its contents may be subject to search warrant or subpoena in any legal action involving your employer. And businesses use archiving and discovery software that means they can still access what you've deleted.
    • Do not visit any sites or download anything that could get you in trouble (even if you think you can hide your tracks.)
    • Do not send or receive any e-mails containing personal information from your work account.
    • DO tell your friends and family not to use your work e-mail address or voicemail.
    • Do not use the same password for everything.
    • Do not use real words or names in your passwords, and don't use your birthday, your spouse's birthday, the last four digits of your social security number, or your anniversary as a PIN.
    • Do not give real answers to secret questions like "What street did you grow up on?" or "What is your pet's name?" That information is too easy for someone to find out. Instead, make up false answers that you'll be able to remember.
    • Do not keep passwords in your wallet or desk drawer.
    • DO use a trustworthy service like, or a password card.
    Social Networking
    • Do not post any information, messages, or pictures you wouldn't want your spouse, parents, and current and future employers to know about. The privacy controls and terms of service change so often that what's secret today might not be secret later on. Not to mention, there are frequent bugs and leaks.
    • DO follow the advice in 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know.
    Shopping and browsing
    • Do not click links in ads for weight loss products, dating sites, "business opportunities," credit repair, home loans or refinancing, student loans, or sexual health products.
    • Do not sign up for discount programs that lock you into subscriptions, or offer limited time free trials after which they deduct a monthly payment from your credit card. They are a rip-off, and also notorious for selling your personal information.
    • DO use PayPal or Google Checkout to pay for purchases whenever possible. These are trustworthy companies, and using them keeps other online merchants from having your credit card info.
    • Do not respond to, open attachments, or click links in e-mails or instant messages unless they come from someone you have already corresponded with. (Even then, if it seems out of character for them, they may have been hacked.)
    • Do not respond to or click links in e-mails that claim to be from your bank or credit card company. Ironically, these phishing messages prey on your fears of being a victim of identity theft. If you are concerned call your bank or credit card company, using the number on the back of your card.
    • DO use a separate e-mail address (a free webmail account is good) for websites that require that you sign up with one.

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, May 31, 2010

    Gulf Oil Spill

    News is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from a variety of media. You can keep yourself up to date with newspapers, TV (including 24 hour news networks,) radio, Internet, and news delivered to your cell phone. Despite this information inundation, it can be hard to figure out what's actually going on and decide for yourself what to think and do about it.

    An example is the current Gulf Oil Spill crisis. It's easy enough to find out what news anchors and political pundits are saying, but it's harder to know the science, business deals, and politics behind the polished press releases. That's where good research skills and access to a library become useful.

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, May 24, 2010

    New York State politics

    If you live in New York, chances are you've heard about and have some strong opinions about what's going on in Albany with the budget process. Here are some links to help you stay informed and make your voice heard.

    Stay Informed
    Make Your Voice Heard
    • New York State Senate - At the upper left of the screen is Find My Senator. Enter your address and zip code to find out who your senator is and get their contact information.
    • New York State Assembly - The third box down on the right side of the screen is Member Search. Enter your zip code to find out who your assembly member is and get their contact information.
    • Contact Governor Paterson

    Questions? Ask a Librarian

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    Services the library doesn't provide

    We get a lot of questions and requests actually should be directed to another part of the college.

    Textbooks and coursepacks
    If you are looking for the readings assigned in your course or study, we don't have them. They are available for purchase from the Empire State College Bookstore. You can call 800-847-3000 ext. 2365 or you can go to If you are looking to save money, you might want to shop around the used book sellers on the web as well - just make sure you get the right edition of your book!

    Writing help and sample essays
    We don't have any examples of the kinds of essays and assignments your instructors want, but the Writing Resource Center does. Go to They also have a paper critique service. If you study at one of the regional centers, contact them to see about in-person peer tutoring or writing assistance.

    You can access the college's online tutoring service at If you study at one of the regional Centers, you might also consider contacting your Center about whether they have peer tutoring available.

    Details about assignments
    Only your instructor can answer questions about when an assignment is due, what the expectations are, or what something means. Instructors often have their own vision of how something should be done - even something as seemingly straightforward as citing your sources - and we can't guess. There is no substitute for direct communication with your professor.

    In addition, librarians can't help you with any of the "creative" or "original" aspects of your assignment. For example, we can give you guidance on how to narrow down your topic, but we can't pick a topic for you. We can show you the best places to look for sources and the best techniques for searching, but we can't say which articles and books to use.

    Technical support
    If your login isn't working or something is wrong in your course, we don't have any way to help you, but the Service and Support helpline is available for that. You can go to to access their Knowledge Base or fill out a request form, or you can call 800-847-3000 ext. 2420.

    Questions that we CAN answer!
    We are here from 9am-9pm Monday through Thursday, 9-5 on Friday, and 1-9 on Sunday to answer all your questions relating to the research process and how to use the Library and its various databases, tools, and services.

    Use our chat window at or call 800-847-3000 ext. 2222. (If you don't receive an answer right away, we are helping another person and will get to you in a moment.)

    If you prefer to communicate by e-mail or it's after hours, go to and fill out the help request form. We are happy to help you and will get back to you within an hour or two during our online hours. Otherwise we will get back to you early the next business day.

    The library is part of an ecosystem of services that are available to you. We work hard to coordinate with the others so that you can get your education with minimal hassle and wait. Please don't hesitate to contact us for help as soon as you need it!

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Managing your time in research projects

    Writing research papers is a complex, arduous task. They provide you with a learning experience and provide your instructor with a way of assessing your performance in a number of areas: subject mastery, organization and planning, information gathering, critical thinking, and communication. There are two keys to succeeding at all of the above.

    The first key is time management. While it may seem impossible to write five or ten or twenty pages in the next few weeks, you will be able to do it if you proceed methodically and step by step. The Assignment Research Planner is one tool to help you do that. All it does is give you the dates by which you have to have each step of the process completed. Note that the Assignment Research Planner is from another library, so some of its links direct you to their resources. When that happens, just go back to the Empire State College Online Library.

    The second key is getting help when you need it.
    • Ask A Librarian if you have a question about using the library or doing research
    • English Language Learners has help and support for you if English isn't your first language.
    • SmarThinking offers tutoring services, including help proofreading and critiquing your paper.
    • Writing Center Assistance is also available. This site will direct you to a person to contact, and there is also a link to a website full of writing exercises, sample papers, grammar help, and more.
    Research papers are never easy, but they can be a positive experience. Start promptly, work methodically, and get help when you need it.

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, May 3, 2010

    Fact-checking and evaluating logic in information sources

    Whenever you evaluate an information source, you should not only check it for timeliness, reliability, authority, and perspective (see last week's post) but also for factual correctness and strong logical arguments.

    To check facts, go to a known and reputable reference source. The Library provides access to hundreds of high quality online reference materials through
    You can also check facts against other reliable sources like your textbooks.

    Checking the logic of a source's arguments is a little more difficult. There are dozens of kinds of logical errors that an author can make, and some of them appear to make sense, at least if you're not paying close attention.

    Some common types of logic errors, or fallacies are:
    • appeal to authority - "Aristotle said the sun revolved around the earth, and Aristotle was very wise, so he must be correct."
    • ad hominem attack - "In the early 20th century, the medical industry conducted experiments on minorities, so you can't trust doctors when they say that swine flu is caused by the H1N1 virus and not by a government plot."
    • appeal to ignorance - "I can't imagine what else those helicopters could be doing, so they must be spying on citizens."
    • circular argument - "The oracle says she speaks God's word, so we can't question the Oracle."
    • appeal to consequences - "If you believe that human beings evolved from a common ancestor with apes, then you believe that human beings are animals, so you don't believe in human rights."
    • appeal to popularity - "Everybody knows that the more powerful a computer is, the bigger it is." (Everybody did think they knew this back in the 1960s.)
    • sample bias - "99% of survey respondents say second-hand smoke doesn't cause health problems." (If your survey respondents all work for the tobacco industry, you might get that result.)
    • begging the question - "When children are possessed by frog demons, they show symptoms that mimic common childhood ailments."
    You get the picture. This website is an excellent place to learn about different logical fallacies and confirm whether you've spotted one "in the wild":

    Empire State College Library Research Blog
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    Monday, April 26, 2010

    Evaluating Information using a Rat TRAP

    There are two major reasons why you have to evaluate every information resource:
    1. People make mistakes, including authors, publishers, and librarians, so nothing is 100% reliable, even scholarly sources from Library databases.
    2. Things can look more reliable than they are, especially now that anybody can put together a professional-looking website with very little time, skill, or money.
    Evaluating information, whether on the web or in print, is done on the basis of four factors. There's a mnemonic to remember them: "TRAP the rats (bad information sources.)"

    T - Timeliness
    • Is the information out of date?
    • What constitutes "out of date" varies by subject and discipline. In the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, you want the most recent information available. A year old might be too old. In the humanities and social sciences, it really depends.
    R - Reliability
    • Peer review uses a network of subject experts to ensure quality control of scholarly articles.
    • Academic publishers hire editors that are subject experts to do the same thing.
    A - Authority
    • Does the author have the expertise and experience to know what they are talking about?
    • What are their credentials and institutional affiliations?
    P - Purpose
    • What was the author's intention in creating this information source? To inform or educate? To entertain? To persuade? Even to misinform or propagandize?
    • There are myriad sources of bias (a point of view that acts as a filter and blindspot.) Can you detect the author's biases?
    • What possible conflicts of interest might the author have?

    Empire State College Library Research Blog

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