Page updated: 23-OCT-2012

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"The Internet Vs. The Library: How to Locate and Critically Assess Your Academic Research in the Digital Age" download file
(2.1 MB
very large and slow--be patient)
The Key skills covered in the PowerPoint file include:
  1. where to find reliable sources, (the library, subscription database indexes, print-based electronic sources, Internet sources using search engines)
  2. how to locate these sources using Boolean operators
  3. what criteria is necessary for evaluating electronic sources in particular and print sources in general

Please review the PowerPoint notes above.  To print a copy follow these steps:

  1. First, click on the link to view the file.  Use the PowerPoint Viewer if you don't have PowerPoint installed.
  2. Next click FILE-->SAVE to put a copy on your disk. 
  3. Then open it.
  4. Go to FILE--Print and select Handouts under "Print What".
  5. Print 2 handouts per page, and check off Pure Black and White.
  6. You will get miniature versions of the slides with room to write notes on the right hand side.

Conducting Your Academic Research

For the writing you do in this course (and in general this applies to writing expected of you in other college courses), you will want to focus your energies on finding essays and articles published in academic publications.  Other publications that reach a more educated audience such as Time, Newsweek, US News and World Report, Harpers, The New Yorker, and so forth would be acceptable sources to use in your papers.  The reason is that articles and essays published in these periodicals are pitched to a critical-minded audience and have a reputation to uphold.  That does not mean that the authors won't have a bias, but it does mean that your information usually can be deemed reliable.

Electronic Research

When you decide to use the Net to locate sources to use in your writing, apply the same consideration to selecting electronic sources as you would to choosing print sources.  One of the mistakes students often make is carelessly choosing electronic sources because they are easy to find on the World Wide Web.  However, when searching for electronic sources, realize that in addition to the Web, you should exhaust some other avenues first.  Many of these resources are accessible via the Internet and a Web browser, and they are more reliable than just going to your favorite search engine and doing a query on a topic.  Consider, for example, subscription databases.

Subscription Databases

A subscription database is a good place to start before conducting a broad Internet search for Web pages.  One that Fullerton College subscribes to is EBSCOHost.  This resource will allow you to look up articles that have been published in various periodicals such as newspapers, magazines, and academic journals.  (Nota Bena: This database is accessible from a remote location like your home computer by logging into myGateway and creating a Library channel.  From the Fullerton College library or campus computer labs domain, you login directly by going to the library website.)  This database is searchable by author, title, subject, or keywords.  Pick relevant keywords to help focus your search.  Your sources will always give you critical information about the source: author, title, periodical name, volume, issue, and page number.  You will need this bibliographic information to compile your Works Cited page, so you should find some system to record it.  The search results basically will be of two sorts:  

1) bibliographic information (the database will indicate whether the source is part of Fullerton College's holdings); 

2) bibliographic information and a full-text article (some databases also will offer a PDF version of the file, which is the best version to acquire).  

If you find a relevant source that has a full-text article, you can print it out, e-mail it to yourself, or download it to your floppy disk.  An electronic version is the smart form to use since it is possible that you will be citing, perhaps even quoting, from the source.  The electronic format is flexible, and you can always print it out later if you want to read from the hard copy rather than the screen.

Other subscription databases that the Fullerton College Library offers are J-STOR and Project Muse.  These sources also require a user ID and password, which you can get from the library or you can access them through myGateway by creating a Library channel.  These are just some of several that will be your primary method of research later in the semester.

Online Public Access Catalogs (OPACs)

Don't forget that you also can remotely access Fullerton College's online public access catalog (OPAC).  You can mostly find book and periodical titles relevant to your topic; but as the library expands its holdings, links out to the Web can be found for some sources.  An advantage to this search tool is that you can search for the sources you want at home, then go to campus and pick them off the shelf, then check them out.  If you happen to live closer to Orange Coast College, Golden West College, or Cypress College, you can search those college libraries and check out sources from that location instead.  Fullerton College is just one place to access an OPAC.  You may even want to search through the library holdings at California State University, Fullerton, since the campus is nearby, and it is a larger institution with more resources.


Using the World Wide Web

Once you are finished investigating these databases and online catalogs, the next step is to consider locating sources on the Web.  You should be familiar with different search engines and how they differ from one another.  A good source is Terry Gray's "How to Search the Web: A Guide to Search Tools."  Another web site worth exploring is Search Engine Watch.

Use the Boolean operators to refine your searches, both in the subscription databases like EbscoHost and the search engines like Google. Again, your goal is not to find as many sources as possible; you want to limit your searches so that you can find the most relevant information.  Review the notes from "The Internet Vs. The Library: How to Locate and Critically Assess Your Academic Research in the Digital Age" on Boolean searches.