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Research Methodology

As part of our adherence to the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education as approved by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), Ellender Memorial Library has a mandate to inform students of the most efficient and ethical methods of performing scholarly research, as the pupose of any university should be to turn students into both serious scholars and informed citizens. In order to accomplish this, the Reference staff offers classes in Scholarly Research Methods, or what librarians term Information Literacy or Bibliographic Instruction. In these instructional sessions, we inform students on the proper use of library resources, focusing on the following:

  1. The use of the Reference Area, located on the 2nd floor of Ellender Memorial Library.
  2. Here, scholars begin their research by consulting dictionaries, encyclopedias (both general and subject specific), biographical sources, almanacs and subject oriented books of facts. These sources are the first place students should go for background information on any topic, and for beginning bibliographies. The ability to use these reference materials (which are non-circulating) is the first crucial step in answering research questions which arise during a course of study.
  3. The use of the eLibrary, the library’s Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) eLibrary (a catalog interface made by library vendor SIRSI) is a web-based catalog, which means that from any location, the general public is able to search Nicholls’s holdings for books, videos, multimedia items, and journal titles, simply by opening a web browser. We have placed a convenient simple search interface for eLibrary on the library’s main page, where the catalog can be searched by keyword, author, title, standardized subject, or periodical title. Directly below this simple search interface is a link to our Power Search interface, which allows for the combining of search terms using Boolean terms like and, not and or. Here, researchers can run searches such as those based on author and title, or those where keywords are combined. Also, via this Power Search interface, researchers can limit their search results by criteria such as format or item type (book, reference book, electronic book, government document, CD-ROM, etc.).
  4. The use of the Electronic Research Databases
    The old days of using print indexes (bibliographies) such as The Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature and the MLA are behind us, as these print versions have been replaced by web based (but proprietary) online databases. This new technology allows for students and faculty to quickly search for journal articles, and sometimes book chapters, by using an interface which is similar to that used by our eLibrary Power Search. This gives the researcher not only the advantage of speed, but also the advantage of comprehensiveness, as some of these online databases make it possible to combine as many terms as are necessary to find exactly the information that is required.

    Other benefits of these online databases include the ability to very easily differentiate articles in magazines from those in scholarly journals, and the ability to download the entire text of some articles onto a workstation, personal computer, or laptop. These full-text articles give researchers faster access to content than they had previosuly, when many articles had to be acquired via Interlibrary Loan.

    It is important to note that using these databases IS NOT the same as “getting an article from the internet.”

    The articles in these databases, whether they have been typed into html by the library vendor, or have been scanned into a pdf format using Adobe Acrobat, are the actual articles from the actual journals and magazines, whether they be scholarly or popular. As previously stated, these databases do differentiate between scholarly and non-scholarly articles, either by using a scholarly / peer reviewed check box (which needs to be checked by the researcher) or by simply indexing only scholarly journals to begin with.

  5. The use of the Documentation Styles, such as MLA, APA and Turabian
    Of course, no one does research in a vacuum. The point of most research is to create a document, whether it be a Research Paper, Publishable Article, or Lab Report. Therefore the job of the researcher is not done until he or she has learned how to cite sources. To that end, Ellender Memorial Library houses the most recent editions of various documentation manuals in print (usually located at the Reference Desk, on the 2nd floor of the library), and provides students with a list of internet-based sources for documentation, usually housed and managed by professional organizations or university faculty.

For more on what Ellender Memorial Library specifically offers to help students learn how to conduct research effectively and efficiently, link here to our Information Literacy page, and to our Subject Guides, which are arranged alphabetically.

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