Monday, March 29, 2010

Citing Your Sources

In scholarly research, it's always obligatory to cite your sources, that is, make footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical references and a bibliography or works cited.

  • to give your readers the ability to trace your research back to its sources, and explore those sources
  • to give credit where credit's due
Citing sources is much too complicated to address in one blog post, but here are some tips:

The citation style you use depends on the subject area you're working in and your instructor's preference. Check with your instructor before committing!
  • If you are working in the social sciences and business, you probably need to use APA.
  • In the humanities, you should probably use MLA.
  • For history, use Chicago.
  • The sciences often use CSE.
Citing is not an exact science.
  • If you do not have all the information called for, simply fill in the information you do have.
  • If you cannot figure out which type of source you have, pick the one that seems closest.
  • If you are very confused, Ask a Librarian.
The most important thing is to help your reader find the exact same thing you were looking at. Keep that in mind and you can't go wrong!

Empire State College Library provides access to a tool that can simplify and streamline your whole research process. It helps you keep track of the information sources you're using and when you write your paper, it inserts and formats citations where you need them. It's called RefWorks, and you can sign up for an account and get more information about it here.

Questions? Ask a Librarian

Monday, March 22, 2010

Looking for good websites for research?

There is no substitute for published scholarly research material, but sometimes that's not what you need. Sometimes you just need a good reference work, or a report, or somebody's summary or opinion, and the Internet is full of that kind of thing. The problem is, the Internet is also full of unreliable material, and telling the difference is tricky and labor intensive.

Here are some of the categories of unreliable material to look out for, with some extreme examples:
In many cases, the unreliable material looks pretty reputable. Student websites have .edu URLs, and professional-sounding domain names are available to anyone who can afford them. Anybody can come up with a nice logo and design template. For that matter, anybody can put MD or PhD after their name (they might even go to the expense of buying a degree from a diploma mill if they're really committed!) Someone might have great writing skills so they sound intelligent and informed, but their information is still wrong.

What should you be looking for on the Internet?

First, think of who or what would have the information you need in the real world. For example, if you're studying economic development in third world nations, you might think of the United Nations Committee on Development. Their website is full of articles and reports.

Second, .edu websites are a good choice - as long as you confirm that what you're looking at is by faculty or experienced grad researchers.

Third, .org websites are a mixed bag. Organizations can be as biased and ignorant as individuals. On the other hand, many of them are havens of expertise and contribute to the public good. These have great information in their reports and articles. Go to the site's About section and learn about the organization's agenda and the credentials of the people who are putting information on the site. Look them up on Google and see if there you can detect any ties that seem suspicious or if they look clean.

Fourth, in any site you choose, look for signs of agenda, bias, poor research methods, and errors.
Finally, if you want to find some good websites on your subject in a hurry, go to the Subject Guides. Select the Guide for your Area of Study, and click the Selected Websites tab. All of the sites in the Subject Guides have been picked out by the librarians and faculty because of their scholarly reliability and usefulness.
Questions? Ask a Librarian

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware the Ides of March! (and other quotations)

"Beware the Ides of March!" This quotatation is so common that children use it, often before they learn where it comes from (Shakespeare's Julius Caesar I:ii 15.)

You might want to quote a famous line to reinforce what you're saying, hold your audience's interest, or make your point more memorable. Or you might hear or read a quotation and wonder where it came from. For those times, a dictionary of quotations is essential. There are many options available:
Typically you can search by part or all of the quotation itself, by speaker, by literary work, by or subject/theme.

A note for proper language mavens: Quote is the verb and quotation is the noun. You quote a quotation! ;)
Questions? Ask a Librarian

Monday, March 8, 2010

Doing industry or company research? Mergent is the database for you!

If you do business research, you can't afford to miss out on Mergent Online. Whereas Business Source Complete has journal articles on business topics, Mergent gives you access to reports and data that are used in the business world.
  • Look up a publicly traded company by name or ticker code and get a copy of its SEC/EDGAR filings, which include information on the value of its stock
  • Select an industry, a region, and a date range to get a report that describes the sector, estimates its value, names leading companies, and forecasts the outlook for that sector.
  • Look up a company and get an Equity Report that includes the company's annual report, plus information on its executives, subsidiaries, assets, liabilities, property, etc.
  • Compare information on executives (age, sex, level of education, level of compensation, annual bonuses) across industries and companies
  • Generate your own reports on a company or industry
  • Look up a country and get an overview of its economic situation, industries, and friendliness to business
Mergent will get you high-quality information for your assignments right now, while giving you experience using a top-flight business tool that's in demand in the professional world. For more information on how to use Mergent, check out this video tutorial.

Questions? Ask a Librarian

Monday, March 1, 2010

Secrets to taking out books from almost any library!

SUNY Libraries
Empire State College is part of the SUNY system, so employees and students of the College are also employees/students of SUNY as a whole. That means that, according to the SUNY Open Access Policy, you can use any SUNY Library - including all the colleges and universities, the community colleges, and even the CUNY colleges.

Your access is limited to their print resources - you can use their reference collection in-house, take out books, and make copies from their print journals for personal use. In addition, some may have a guest login to use their electronic resources (databases) while you're in the library.

To be granted access and to take out books, you will need to bring your Empire State College photo ID. If you don't have one yet, you can get one by following the procedures detailed here.

Other College Libraries
Do you live near a college that isn't SUNY? If so, you can often borrow books from them too if you go through the right steps. Go to your public library and ask about whether there is a regional access card or something like that. Many (but not all) private colleges participate in a cooperative arrangement that allows local residents to borrow books with a special library card. For example, in the Mid-Hudson Valley region, it's called a Direct Access Card, and in the Rochester area, it's called an Infopass. For more information about this possibility, ask at your public library.

Public Libraries
Another thing you may not have thought of is your local public library. Sure, they don't have much in the way of academic books and journals, but what they may have is interlibrary loan services. Interlibrary loan is a program by which a library borrows a book or article from another library on your behalf. You get to use it and then return it to your library, which returns it to its home library.

For more information on this possibility, go here.
Questions? Ask a Librarian