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 del.icio.us or diigo account for safekeeping. You will find them useful the next time you have to do research.

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The Library Research Blog is moving. Find us at http://commons.esc.edu/libraryblog!

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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The Library Research Blog is moving. Find us at http://commons.esc.edu/libraryblog!




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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