Research and Writing aid for students, including:
Guide to Writing Research Papers
Most common problems with Research papers
The tangled Web (use and ab-use of the web for research)
Research at the Library:
Do I really have to go to the library?
But I am good at surfing the web....
Let me say this, so that we are all clear on it: Do write a research paper, you do need to go to the library.
You can not write a research paper for my classes simply by "surfing" the web. That might change in a few years, as more and more academic journals are published on-line.
But for now, you do need to utilize the traditional scholarly media: books, articles in academic journals, encyclopedias, videos, etc.
Basics of the Colgate Library:
I know you night-owls have a plan to be awake when the rest of humanity sleeps, and sleep when the rest of us are awake. If that sounds like you, you might wish to check out the Library's hours.
It may sound funny to you, but one of the most frequently stated reasons for why students do not use the library research facilities is that they are intimidated by the sheer size of it, and are worried about looking lost of front of others. Here is a helpful place to begin: A guide to the floor-plan of the library.
To put it differently, here is a guide to what is contained on each floor of the library. The most important items are the following: Books, 2nd floor. Journals, 4th floor. Librarians (your most important source!), 3rd floor.
First, use the catalogue system at Colgate:
Mondo: Mondo is your friend. Befriend Mondo. Get to know it well.
Click here to do Mondo searches by author.
Click here to do Mondo searches by title.
click here to do Mondo searches by subject.
click here to search the library's "Other" site, which contains audio-visual material.
What to do if our library does not have an item?
First, submit an inter-library loan request. You can do this for both books and journals. Do remember that ILL can take anywhere from a week to ten days (for easily obtainable material) up to three months or so (for harder to find things). Here is what you don't want to do: you don't want to walk into Case library for the first time two days before your paper is due and ask them to magically make the books appear for you. The ILL angels at Colgate are amazing, but even they have to deal with the limitations of time and space.
Second, if you deem the source to be a really crucial one for our library to have, you can always ask the library to purchase the book for its collection. Do not feel too bad about doing this, as long as you use the system responsibly. Remember, if you are writing a paper for me, chances are our library will not have many of the sources you need. Unless someone requests the material to be purchased, we will perpetually be deficient in our holdings on material dealing with Islamic studies, Iran, and Comparative Religion. By requesting the book now, you are making life easier on all of us in the near future.
College Level Research:
I am extremely grateful to Dr. Margaret Maurer and Dr. Connie Harsh of Colgate in agreeting to provide us witha copy of their brilliant essay titled:
Doing College-level Research, with advice on avoiding the Plagiarism Question. Be sure to read through this essay before you turn in any papers to me!
The importance of using "scholarly" articles:
Believe it or not, your esteemed instructors don't get to publish all of their hard-earned wisdom. To get something published in a respected "academic" journal, one has to submit the article to an editor. The editor shares the articles with a number of "readers" or "referees", who are deemed to be experts in the field, but are not supposed to know who has written the article. If they deem it worthy, it is then published. It is very difficult to get articles accepted in many academic journals, given that there are often many more submissions than there is space.
I ask that prior to completing any research projects for me, that you take a few minutes to complete the Texas Information Literacy Tutorial. Students have found this a very useful tool to "understand why it was important to use a library instead of relying exclusively on the web; the difference between popular and scholarly materials; how to use boolean operators to more effectively search online databases; how to read Library of Congress call numbers; how to evaluate web sites more critically; what a library database is; what plagiarism is and why it is important to cite sources correctly." I am grateful to Mary Jane Petrowski of the Colgate Library for the above quotation, and the web cite.
This is one major reason that I recommend to you to use articles from "scholarly" journals: these articles have already earned the "seal of approval" from a "blind" group of experts in the field. Even if you do not agree with the point of view the author is presenting, you can have some confidence in the fact that s/he has the scholarly tools necessary to present and support a particular thesis.
Having said that, let's get more practical. Here is a web page from our own library that helps you in determining if an articles meets the above criterion. How do I know if something is a "scholarly publication"?
Now that you know why it is important to use them, on to the next step: where do you find scholarly articles? (courtesy of the Duke library web page). This site features a very helpful chart, titled "Five steps to finding journal and magazine articles."
Click here for a link to Colgate Library's page for Periodical Indexes and Abstracts: Religion
Click here for a link to Colgate Library's page for Periodical Indexes and Abstracts: Women's Studies
There are other links as well that you may wish to consult, including (but not limited to) one for Periodical Indexes and Abstracts: History, and another one for Periodical Indexes and Abstracts: Political Science International Relations.
One way to find out what other scholars think about a certain book is to look for book reviews, which are usually published at the end of academic journals. Here is a link to Colgate's guide to finding book reviews.
What are some of the basic sources that you need to use for research in this field?
Obviously the sources will vary from paper to paper, but here is basic rule for you to follow: You need to have at least consulted the following material. It may very well be that they do not contain material relevant to your specific project. However, you need to start with them.
Case Indexes BP161.2 .I64. Index Islamicus is a reference source
which lists all the scholarly books and articles on a whole host
of topics dealing with Islamic studies, Middle East, etc. You can
do research by specific countries, people, subjects, etc. The
index is a good place to start. It will give you a number, which
you can trace to the bibliographic citation in the text.
Encyclopdia Iranica, Case Reference DS 253.E53
Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, Case Reference DS 37.E523
Your best resource, after doing some of the above: the angelic beings masquerading as reference librarians:
You will find that these angelic beings can help you get launched on a research project. They don't bite. They will not look at you funny. Promise.
They can be incredibly helpful at pointing you to the right direction. They can save you a great deal of time and headache.
Do go to see them in person, as it is the most effective means of interaction.
Also, did you know that you can send an email to reference librarians at Case Library?
Guides for Writing Papers:
You have probably heard me lament the lost art of footnoting and bibliography.
I hope this
helps you see the differences between the various
styles (University of Chicago Style, MLA, APA).
I GREATLY prefer that you use the University of Chicago style.
How do I footnote? If you follow this web-page, it will give you a good start on footnoting following the University of Chicago method, which is what I prefer. For some strange reason, there is a single "(" missing from the "Book by a Single Author, First Edition" section, under the Sample Notes (First References) section. Don't be confused! It should read as follows; use this format as a guide:
1. Donald N. McCloskey, Enterprise and Trade in Victorian Britain: Essays in Historical Economics, (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1981), 54.
Guide for formulating paragraphs and topic sentences.
How do I cite information taken from a web site? (University of Chicago style)
Most common problems with research papers
Issues with sources:
The tangled Web:
How do you find anything on the web? How do you evaluate its worth, once you do find it?
What is a "Meta-search Engine"?
Recommended Meta-Search Engines:
Return to Omid Safi's home page