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KATHRYN A. MARTIN LIBRARY

WRIT 3160: Advanced Writing: Social Sciences

Spring 2018

Review the Basics

Find Background Information

Once you have a basic idea of your topic, look for information to help you narrow down the topic, focus on a specific question, and generate keywords for your searches.

In this part of the process you're just browsing around to see what you find. If you find something you're sure you want to look at later, make sure you keep track of it!

You can start with a look at resources like Wikipedia to get some basic definitions and background info. Next you can read some popular sources such as newspapers or magazines to look at some current issues and discussions of the topic. Then, look for some scholarly articles or books to see how scholars think and write about the subject that you're interested in. This will help you formulate a question and become familiar with the kinds of scholarly articles you'll be able to use to do your research.

Student Resources in Context is a good place to start with this basic research. It includes reference content, full-text magazines, academic journals, news articles, primary source documents, images, videos, audio files and links to vetted websites.
 

Why Use Library Resources?

It may be tempting to think....Isn't everything on the internet? Can't I just use Google and Wikipedia for my research?

While Google, Wikipedia, and other internet sources can be useful, you don't want to rely on them for your research. Why not?

  • Not everything is openly accessible on the internet. The UMD Library subscribes to and purchases high quality resources that are not available on the internet.
  • Information overload: using a search engine, like Google, often means that you get thousands or millions of results. Library databases are organized in such a way that the results are more manageable. This allows you to find the best resources for your topic quickly.
  • Authority & accuracy: keep in mind that anyone can create or edit an entry in Wikipedia. Anyone can create a website. How will you know if the author is an expert? How will you verify the information?
  • Your professors want to see high quality, scholarly sources cited in your papers. Impress them by using library resources!

Is it ever okay to use Google or Wikipedia?

  • If you need background information about a topic before you research it, looking in a place like Wikipedia can be helpful. You can also find background information and overviews of various topics by using online encyclopedias at the UMD Library.
  • Think of internet resources as a starting point, but NEVER a stopping point. Always go beyond Wikipedia!

One Perfect Source

It's easy to believe that your searching will turn up articles that directly address your topic in detail. Really, you'll need to look at many articles and piece together information from each one. Gather more than you'll need. Review the articles, then choose the ones that will help you write.

This video from the North Carolina State University Libraries is a humorous look at the quest for the "perfect article."