Archive for the ‘Finding Sources’ Category

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Supporting Scholarly Research with Free Sources

posted: 9.17.09 by archived

As an adjunct with no R1 institutional affiliation, I have found it hard to research the past couple of years. When I was only teaching at a community college, this research was even more difficult because I did not have access to the majority of scholarly journals in my field. At first, I focused on teaching and did not notice this deficiency; however, as I sought to return to the world of research, this gap became obvious. Fortunately, social networking, peer exchange, and the Web provide some viable work-arounds for adjuncts in similar situations: those who cannot afford individual subscriptions to academic journals or services, who teach for institutions with minimal academic resources online, or who are between jobs.

Rather than attempt a comprehensive list, what follows is one of my research processes — and it is a process that has served and continues to serve me well. I have used it when I had access to a good research library and when I was without one. I would rather develop research skills and resources that work in times thick as well as times thin. If you have developed other work-arounds that are effective, please share them in the comments.

The first obvious source is Google Scholar. It ranks the relative scholarly importance of articles by showing how often they are cited. Additionally, Google Scholar provides a list of related articles; this can be almost as good as an annotated bibliography. It is also useful for identifying patterns. Sometimes this has led me to discover related articles in free, online, and open access scholarly journals.

Once potential sources and leads are identified, I move to Google Books. I follow the leads there, locate the books, and find out just how much of the materials I can read online. Unfortunately, it is not possible to copy and paste from Google Books; however, viewing is better than having to buy pricey texts, and it offers you a chance to at least look at them. On top of that, it provides an opportunity to review the working scholarly bibliographies and lists of works cited so that if and when you do hit an open window for materials, you are prepared with a list of goodies to go find. Be sure that you save these books to your GBooks library so that it is easy to relocate the texts.

Finally, I go to ScribD. The site hosts a number of scholarly books and articles, and I download them without hesitation. When I have a book-buying budget, then I will purchase the books. At this point, my budget is limited, so I do what I need to do in order to further my scholarship. Additionally, by downloading a PDF, I can use Adobe Acrobat, mark up my own PDF, and keep my notes stored — all without killing trees or paying $230 for a single book. If texts from academic presses are more reasonably priced, like some of University of Chicago’s books or MIT’s books, then I am certainly happy to buy them or pay for a digital download. Ditto on the academic articles.

While ScribD certainly does not have all the materials that scholars need, you can get a lot of material. I also find a lot of interesting and semi-related material in the sidebars which, like YouTube, show related or potential articles of interests. This sort of incidental or coincidental discovery has led me towards a number of useful sources. For example, when I was researching “Biopower” and “Foucault,” Eugene Thacker’s work was listed in a sidebar. I followed that link and discovered his text The Global Genome. From that developed a new area of interest for me: the rhetoric surrounding genetic capitalism and development. I have spent hours and hours researching a topic that I happened to bump into in a sidebar.  Thus, the peer-exchange nature of sites like ScribD offer the additional benefit of numerous potential paths/distractions/leads to follow — something that can be more intense than straight research in a library’s online or physical resources. Unlike looking at books in similar locations, sites like ScribD enable intersections with ideas based on the user who posts the content as well as the content’s key words.

Finally, be sure to network with people in person and online. Perhaps one or several of them will share their PDF library or access with you. It may be a long shot, but you never know until you check. Fortunately at key points in my intellectual development, people have passed along vital PDFs which reshaped my thinking and theorizing.

As an adjunct, we have far fewer resources than many graduate students and most full-time faculty. This means we must adapt, adopt, and innovate to continue our research. The Web can facilitate this.  Hopefully the peer-exchange and social nature of the Web will also cultivate the development of research work-around strategies that bolster our academic work while avoiding the costs of information access.

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Categories: Adjunct Advice, Finding Sources, Gregory Zobel, Professional Development & Service, Research, Working with Sources
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Three Tutorials on Using Search Engines

posted: 7.20.09 by Traci Gardner

Most college students think they already know everything there is to know about using search engines. I’ve found, however, that while they can type a few words into Google or Yahoo, they need to learn a lot about more sophisticated search options and about how to sift through the results they get.

Google has announced a collection of resources that will make teaching these lessons a snap. You can either run through the three Search Education lessons yourself to brush up on your understanding of the search engine before leading class discussion or you can use the lesson materials, all created by Google Certified Teachers, as resources in your lessons themselves.

The “Summer 09 Edition” of the Google Teacher Newsletter describes what the lessons have to offer:

[Google Certified Teachers have] developed three modular lessons not specific to any discipline so you can mix and match what best fits your needs. And all of the lessons come with presentations which will help guide your classroom discussions. You’ll learn fundamentals of search (which includes judging the validity of sources), search techniques and practices (for more advanced searches), and features and functionality (to learn some neat tips and tricks).

While the lessons are far more scripted than most of us would use in the college classroom, there is plenty of stand-alone material that you can adapt and use in whatever way fits your teaching style. The lessons are broken into basic, intermediate, and advanced techniques, so you can easily find resources that will fit any classroom of students.

The lessons include great suggestions for extending the lessons as well. For instance, be sure to check out the list of hoax sites for students to practice on in the advanced Believe It or Not lesson.

Looking for more than the Google lessons offer? Check out Bedford/St. Martin’s Research and Documentation Online for additional classroom resources, including Tips for Evaluating Sources.

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Categories: Citing Sources, Finding Sources, Professional Development & Service, Research, Teaching with Technology
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Stop Dihydrogen Monoxide!

posted: 4.14.08 by Barclay Barrios

As an exercise in getting students to evaluate Web sources with a critical eye, have them review the Web site for the Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division. This site details the dangers of this chemical, which include death from inhalation and severe burns from its gaseous form. The punch line is that the chemical is water. See if your students can decode this hoax and then prompt a discussion of the reliability of Web sources in research projects.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Critical Reading, Finding Sources, Rhetorical Situation, Teaching with Technology
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Post-Apocalyptic Research

posted: 3.10.08 by Barclay Barrios

Most university libraries now have extensive electronic resources, but what other research tools are still in use and how can students use them?  Ask your students to imagine that a disaster has occurred (something as simple as the computers being down on campus).  How can they continue their research?  Does your library still have a card catalog?  How is it used?  At my institution, it turns out that no research can be done any more without computers, which provides an opportunity to discuss the role of technology in research.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, Research, Teaching with Technology
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Invite the Author to the Conversation

posted: 12.24.07 by Barclay Barrios

One consequence of the prevalence of the Web is that it’s easier than ever to locate and contact people (for good or bad). That includes the authors of the essays you may be reading in class. Have your students search for the email address or contact information for the author for an essay under discussion in class and then as a group or class project have them assemble a list of questions they’d like to ask the author. Submit these to the author as a way of extending the class conversation.
Listen to this Post! An Audio Bits Podcast (0:39 min)

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, Teaching with Technology
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The Research Pyramid

posted: 10.1.07 by Barclay Barrios

One of the perennial problems I find students have with research is choosing a topic of appropriate scope—not too broad and not too narrow. To help students find the right focus, have them review the material on choosing a research topic in the handbook. Then have them make a “research pyramid” for their topics by imagining the broadest possible version of their topic and then making it more and more refined as it nears a top of over-specificity. Students can then determine what level of the pyramid would make the best topic. For example, the base of a pyramid might be immigration and the very top might be Indian immigrants in Silicon Valley. Testing each level of the pyramid with a quick database search at the library will help students determine which level provides the best balance of material and focus.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, Research, Teaching with Technology
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Good Old Fashioned Research

posted: 9.24.07 by Barclay Barrios

Computers, databases, and electronic journals are increasingly playing a crucial role in research. Students can gain a new perspective on these tools, however, by attempting to do research without using them. Ask students to imagine that all the computers on campus have been knocked out, perhaps by something as innocuous as a power outage. Have them complete some simple research tasks using non-electronic tools. The results can be quite interesting. At my institution, for example, no research can be done without a computer now: there is no card catalog and no bound copies of indexes such as the MLA International Bibliography. Asking students to complete this exercise will either expand their set of research skills or, just as usefully, prompt them to consider our reliance on electronic research tools.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, Teaching with Technology
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Disciplinary Contexts

posted: 3.21.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review material in the handbook on developing a research topic, then ask them to take an issue from their current reading and locate materials from their field that address the same issue. How do disciplinary contexts change the approach to and assessment of an issue?

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, WAC/WID
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Web Grammar Research

posted: 3.7.07 by Barclay Barrios

Ask students to review any Web sites about grammar listed in the handbook or on the book’s companion site. Then have them expand this list by finding other Web sites they think would be useful. Collect these and distribute a consolidated list to the class.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, Grammar & Style, Teaching with Technology
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Research on Research

posted: 3.7.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the material in the handbook on the research process and then have them expand this material by doing research on how research is done in their chosen discipline/field. Using interviews, reference books, articles, and the Internet, students could produce a short report that explains the citation system used in their field, the major methodologies, what counts as research, or what counts as evidence in that research.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Citing Sources, Finding Sources, WAC/WID, Working with Sources
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