Modernist Reading Circle Essay: Building Literary Research Skills
(Still image from the film version of Their Eyes Were Watching God. )
Goals for the research skills class
Good research is the result of good thinking.
Brainstorm a list of keywords and phrases relevant to your topic, and include synonyms. This is an essential step you should never skip. Think about synonyms for your keywords and phrases.
Use quotation marks for exact phrases:
Wild cards find all versions of a word when added after the word's root:
Start with a general search, and narrow it down as you look through your results.
Databases vs. Web Searching
The Deep Web / Invisible Web
The vast majority of internet information cannot be found through Google or other search engines! Some experts estimate that 96% of the internet is hidden from search engines.
What are Databases?
Databases & Google: What's the Difference?
Internet Search Engines
Useful Databases for Literary Research
We subscribe to JSTOR, which is the best choice for literary research in the humanities. You'll need the login and password, so click on the box at the upper left of this page.
Anatomy of a Search Screen
Be sure you are logged into JSTOR. Here are some keys to narrowing down a search. Start with general terms, and narrow down systematically.
Read abstracts when they are available.
They're brief summaries of the contents of a long, complex article. Abstracts are hugely helpful. Note: JSTOR does not provide abstracts for 90% of its articles. Here is an example of a rare abstract from JSTOR (albeit on a different topic).
For this project, websites are arguably the toughest sources to find. Why? Searching for high quality sources among millions of options is not easy. Unlike JSTOR sources, the majority of websites are not vetted/checked for quality.
Use Advanced Search in Google
Now apply all of your best search techniques, including quotation marks for phrases, and the asterisk at the end of the root word.
Be sure to try limiting by domain. Domains with .gov, .edu, or .org may be less commercial, but you still have to evaluate results carefully. Credential all of your sources!
Be persistent! These searches take time and experimentation.
This is a specialized web search engine. Be aware that not all content is available full text. Let's get started.
Notice that we're searching using Advanced Google Scholar. It lets you fine tune your search. Be very specific when you search, as there is a lot of material to sort through.
Types of material you might find in a Google Scholar search:
Books on Reserve
SHARE • CHECK OUT USING SLIPS • RETURN PROMPTLY • BE RESPONSIBLE
All the library's 45+ relevant books for your research are on a reserve shelf on the east side of the US Library.
Please practice ethical behavior using reserve materials:
What's on reserve?
Save Yourself a Huge Headache
Be sure to copy the title page of the book when you copy an article/section of the book. You'll be able to locate it and cite it later on. Another resource for citing is the US Library Catalog. Look up the book you're using, and obtain information about authors, editors, date and place of publication, edition, etc. Have questions? Sue and Derek are here to help you.
How to use ebooks in our collection
You have access to several useful ebooks through our Infobase Books subscription. Why use ebooks? They are ALWAYS available, and you can use them from home whenever you want. NOTE: These require a login and password, which are found on the E-book sticks (see below), and on the Logins and Passwords page (above, left).
Your writing is more authoritative when your sources are high in quality. What determines the quality of a source? The author's credentials are important.
What's a credential?
How Do I "Credential" an Author?
In JSTOR, this process is quite easy. There are two places where an author's teaching affiliation (if any) will most likely be found:
Here are examples of both of those situations:
Look at the list of results that includes your article. Notice that the author's name is a clickable link.
I clicked on "Cyrena N. Pondrom," and here's what I found.
Now head on over to Google Scholar, and search for "Cyrena N. Pondrom." Here's what I found. Notice the large number of results, including books and articles.
Credentialing Authors in Books
Be sure to start by checking for a brief bio of the author inside the book jacket, or at the end of the book. With collections of essays, there is often a section called Contributors that provides good information. When in doubt, also check JSTOR and GoogleScholar.
Credentialing Website Authors
Look for the link called About, or More Information, and read it carefully. Can you externally verify this information by opening another Google tab and searching?
Questions? Please ask Tony or Sue for research help.