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Forum Home > Recommended Links > Information Skills: An Introduction

YiWen Hon
Member
Posts: 27

Hi! I just thought I'd start a thread on information skills to help peripeteia members develop their research methods and knowledge of resources :). In my day job, I'm a librarian, and I spend my time helping people find the information that they need. I'll be posting on good search skills, resources etc. here; feel free to ask any questions as well... I'm here to help!


Today I'm just going to start out with a simple infographic on how to make the most out of Google. Although it's always best to go to a specialist resource or published article (as this ensures high-quality, peer-reviewed and verified information), Google is usually the first place we look, and with the right skills it can be a powerful tool. The info is targeted at American college students, but many of its points will be relevant to you too. Hopefully it'll help narrow down and focus your search results.


http://www.hackcollege.com/blog/2011/11/23/infographic-get-more-out-of-google.html


Give it a go and tell me what you think!

March 7, 2012 at 10:55 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 911

Our very own erudite virtual librarian, how fantastic! This looks great8)

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March 7, 2012 at 2:17 PM Flag Quote & Reply

YiWen Hon
Member
Posts: 27

As a starting point, it would be great if people could tell me what steps they take when researching essays - where do you go, what sort of websites or books do you use? do you rely alot on classroom handouts?

I'm looking forward to hearing from you :)

March 7, 2012 at 4:02 PM Flag Quote & Reply

YiWen Hon
Member
Posts: 27

Having (hopefully) shown you all how to use Google a little more effectively, I am now going to tell you why you shouldn’t rely solely on it for your research, and show you some methods to help you produce better work.


Google is based on algorithms, or mathematical formulae, which are mostly quite good at delivering optimal search results. However, because it works in this way, it can be manipulated to produce specific results; an excellent example of this is if you google ‘Santorum’. Gay rights activists have exploited Google’s algorithms so that the top result of the search does not direct you to biographical information about Rick Santorum, the Republican candidate, but instead shows up something else altogether... Here is the article from Wikipedia explaining how and why: (Warning! Might not be suitable for younger, or more squeamish, members of the forum) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campaign_for_%22santorum%22_neologism


Google is not quality controlled – it simply gives you aaaaaaaaaall the pages on the internet that mention your search terms. You could try using sites like Dogpile, which searches Google, Yahoo and Bing and comes up with an aggregate of the top results, but that still doesn’t avoid the problem of unverified information turning up.


What to do, then? I’m not saying all information on the internet is unreliable; it’s just that a lot of the good stuff doesn’t show up in conventional searches, and a lot of the rubbish does. Be wary of the websites you consult – the internet is a platform for free speech, and this is a wonderful thing, but it can be dangerous too (and detrimental to your essays!). Here are some things to watch out for on the internet, when researching for your English essays:


1) ALWAYS check the accuracy of quotations, and check to see the context of the phrase in the text. If you don’t have a copy of the book with you, try Project Gutenberg or Google Books as they’re pretty reliable.


2) Whilst websites like Sparknotes and Wikipedia are useful as a basic starting point when approaching a new text, be aware that they are not the kind of thing you should be citing in your work! Always try to use a more verified source. If you were writing on Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, for example, you would prefer to use the Victorian Web or the Jane Austen Centre websites, rather than Sparknotes.


3) A useful way to get only academic websites in your search results is to do a search with site:.edu or site:.ac.uk, as this cuts out all the commercial .com results. You could also try using filetype:.pdf as this might turn up some open-access research papers or essays. Always remember to reference things, though!

 

March 10, 2012 at 11:27 AM Flag Quote & Reply

YiWen Hon
Member
Posts: 27

Try it out! Search "northanger abbey gothic" and "northanger abbey gothic site:.edu" and just look at the difference in the research quality it throws up :)

March 10, 2012 at 11:32 AM Flag Quote & Reply

YiWen Hon
Member
Posts: 27

Next time, alternatives to Google! Other databases and websites that are handy for a student of English literature

March 10, 2012 at 11:37 AM Flag Quote & Reply

YiWen Hon
Member
Posts: 27

Why shouldn't you cite Wikipedia as a reference for your essay?


1. You must never fully rely on any one source for important information - you need to have a range of sources for a fully researched essay.

2. You can’t rely on something when you don’t even know who wrote it - Wikipedia can be written and edited by anyone.

3. The contributor with an agenda often prevails - the information could be biased.

4. Individuals with agendas sometimes have significant editing authority - Wikipedia editors could remove information that they don't approve of.

5. Sometimes “vandals” create malicious entries that go uncorrected for months.

6. There is little diversity among editors - apparently 87% of Wikipedia editors are males!

7. The number of active Wikipedia editors has stayed the same recently.

8. It has become harder for casual participants to contribute - Wikipedia is becoming monitored and edited by stagnant contributors.

9. Accurate contributors can be silenced - the editors decide what goes on.

10. Because Wikipedia says so - "Users should be aware that not all articles are of encyclopedic quality from the start: they may contain false or debatable information. Indeed, many articles start their lives as displaying a single viewpoint; and, after a long process of discussion, debate, and argument, they gradually take on a neutral point of view reached through consensus. Others may, for a while, become caught up in a heavily unbalanced viewpoint which can take some time—months perhaps—to achieve better balanced coverage of their subject." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About


Source: http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/education/2010/march/The-Top-10-Reasons-Students-Cannot-Cite-or-Rely-on-Wikipedia.html and also here http://libraryatkings.wikispaces.com/Wikipedia [the latter, incidentally, is a good resource...]

 

March 10, 2012 at 11:45 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 911

Thank you YiWen for this very useful and timely information, and too for initiating this discussion thread. I hope members will respond and make the most of your generosity and expertise.

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March 11, 2012 at 7:21 PM Flag Quote & Reply

YiWen Hon
Member
Posts: 27

Today I'm going to show you the Internet Public Library, which is a curated colelction of resources divided into subject area: http://www.ipl.org/

If you click on "Resources by Subject" and then "Literature", you will have a list of nearly 200 websites that have been identified by librarians as being reliable sources of information. There are options to view only pages on Criticism, or Literature by Time Period, or on specific Authors.

You can even ask a professional librarian for help with any research topic :)

Here are some of the best resources I discovered through the IPL:

The Undergraduate Guide to Critical Theory : http://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/theory/index.html

The ipl2 Literary Criticism Collection: http://www.ipl.org/div/litcrit/ has links to websites and articles on almost every author conceivable.

 

March 30, 2012 at 6:51 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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