1. Defining your topic
Begin by clearly mapping out the concepts you want to research. This will help you identify the key terms
and concepts you should use when searching electronic databases and
print research resources.
a. Clarify your understanding of the
topic by asking yourself the following questions:
- What level of research does your assignment
require? Is it a brief class presentation or are you preparing to
write a research paper with a bibliography and footnotes?
- What do you already know about your topic?
- What are the main issues?
- Does your topic deal with historical or
- Has your lecturer required that you consult
certain types of materials such as popular or scholarly journals,
newspapers, or a particular database?
b. Do some background reading to familiarize
yourself with the topic
This will also provide you with relevant
keywords or synonyms to use during database searching. Some key resources
that will help you gather this information are:
Subject Dictionaries and Thesauri:
Dictionaries provide an alphabetical list
of definitions of words, phrases, theories, terminology or people which
can help you clarify basic information. Thesauri contain subject headings
which list preferred research terms, usually produced to support a research
- Encyclopaedias provide a condensed overview
of every branch of a subject.
- At the end of an entry there is often
a list of other useful books and journal articles.
- If you cannot find an entry for your term
or concept, check the back of the last volume - there is often an
index directing you to where your term is found in the encyclopaedia.
c. Map out the concepts you wish to
Use the information you have collected to
create a concept map. A concept map is
an easy method of devising a strategy for finding information in print
and electronic research resources.
2. Selecting and Using the Best Research Resources
FOR BASIC RESEARCH
Information for assignments or for research
which does not require in-depth study can usually be found in books
or articles in Desk Copy or Short Loan
Use Library Search,
the Library Catalogue to find:
Online help is available within Library Search, but
here are a few tips to enhance your searching:
- books and journal titles held at the
University of Auckland, using key words or concepts you have identified
in your concept map.
- material recommended to you by lecturers
and reading lists.
- annual reviews on your subject.
- bibliographies of books and articles
on a particular topic.
- If you know the material you want is
on Short Loan or Desk Copy, try the Readings & Exams search option in Library Search.
- When you find the record of a relevant
book, click on the subject headings next to LC
Subject Heading(s) to find similar books.
- Once you have found a useful book on
the library shelf, check its contents to see if it has a bibliography
- this will refer you to other books and articles.
- Use our guide on Interpreting
FOR ADVANCED RESEARCH
To find coverage of all the relevant research
literature on a particular subject, you need more than Library Search.
Indexing Publications, Abstracting
Journals, and Electronic Databases are
the major research tools you should use to locate articles, conference
papers, etc. relevant to your field. They all provide basic descriptions
of articles and enough information for you to see if this material is
held by the Library.
Indexing publications (usually referred
to as "indexes") list basic descriptions of articles and other literature
relevant to your field, usually grouped by subject and/or author.
They provide enough information for you to check the Library Search,
the Library Catalogue, to see if the Library has the items your want.
Many Indexes are now available as Electronic Databases.
journals (usually referred to as "abstracts") provide similar information
to indexes, plus they provide a summary of the article (the abstract).
The abstracts are usually listed numerically, under subject groupings.
Many Abstracts are now available as Electronic Databases.
|How do you find
relevant Indexes and Abstracts?
- Try an Advanced
Keyword search, combining your subject area with either
the term abstracts or indexes.
For example: abstracts AND
- Check the Library - Abstracts
and indexes are often shelved in a separate collection within
a library; Some libraries produce bibliographies of
their major print research resources.
- Ask a librarian.
Many print indexes and abstracts are now available
in electronic format, making them quicker and easier to scan for information.
Some databases now provide the full text of the article.
If you haven't found the information you
need, talk to Library staff. Some libraries have subject librarians,
with whom you can discuss your research and the best approach to take.
3. Locating the Information You Have Identified
Check the Library Search to see if the Library has the items you found during your searches.
Once you find the items on the Library Search, note the item's Location, Call Number
- If you cannot find an item which should
be available, ask Library Staff.
- If the Library Search shows the item is already charged
out, fill in the information at the bottom of the screen to recall
the book for yourself.
Material from other University of Auckland campuses
If you have located material on the Library Search which is available but held
at another campus, use the Requests Options in the Library Search.
Material from outside the University of Auckland
Loan and Document Delivery Service is generally available to postgraduate
students and staff of the University of Auckland. Undergraduate students
may apply if they can provide the signature of their lecturer or tutor
on the printed application form. An electronic application form
4. Evaluating resources
Sometimes, we have the tendency to believe
anything we see in print. Critical thinking is a necessary skill to
develop as you read through all the information you've found on your
Most research publications go through an
external editing or peer
review process that helps verify the authority and accuracy of
the information presented. Reputable newspapers and magazines also check
their facts, but you will also want to consider such issues as objectivity,
currency of your information, and how thoroughly your topic is covered.
The majority of Internet
resources lack this kind of peer review or even simple fact checking,
which means that you, the user, must thoroughly
evaluate anything you encounter on the Internet before deciding whether
you should use it in your research.
5. Documenting / Citing Your Research
You want to be careful to fully document
or cite all the resources you use in your research, especially if you
are quoting or otherwise using other people's work, ideas, or phrasing.
This includes anything you find on the Internet. NOT citing the sources
of your research can be considered plagiarism, a serious form of academic
dishonesty and theft. When photocopying articles you might use for your
research make sure you write down the bibliographic details - this will
save you a lot of time trying to track them down later.
Depending on the format of your assignment,
you will probably compile a reference list, footnotes, a bibliography,
or a combination of these.