Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Few Helpful Tips and Tricks

Over the past couple of weeks, I have observed a few more Information Literacy sessions taught by the Reference Librarians.  These skilled instructors taught many useful "tricks" and tips on how to be good information seekers.  They showed their students how to begin navigating the deep and stormy seas of research.  Although some of the classes were for undergraduate students who were just learning about research, the librarians laid a solid foundation on which these students will build in the future.

From these sessions, I learned that there are several ways to commence searching for information, so knowing where to begin can be a challenge.  A good starting point is the library's automated catalog.  In our case, it is named MICAL (MIssissippi College Automated Library -  One good search strategy when using the online library catalog is to use the keyword search.  Type a word or more than one word with "and" in between each word to receive several results.  This will display items such as books, music scores, video recordings, and so much more.  To narrow down the results, pick one option that might provide the desired information and look over the item’s information in the Contents section.  After finding the first helpful resource, look at the LC subject headings toward the bottom of the screen.  These will provide more key terms or more effective wording to narrow the search.  The advantage of using a keyword search is that the results are pulled from the title, contents section, and subject headings.

A helpful tip when searching for information is to know the difference between a magazine and a journal.  Professors will quite often give an assignment requiring students to use a scholarly or peer reviewed journal instead of a magazine.  There are several general differences although some overlap may occur in a few instances and there are exceptions as well.  According to the Mississippi College Speed Library What's the Difference Between A Magazine and a Scholarly Journal* magazines typically have articles:
  • written by journalists or laypersons
  • written for the general public
  • containing few footnotes or references
  • containing lots of advertisements
  • covering current events and general interest topics
  • printed on glossy paper with lots of photos

Scholarly Journals have articles:
  • written by an expert in the field
  • written for scholars or professionals in the field
  • containing footnotes, references, bibliographies
  • containing few to no advertisements
  • covering specialized topics relative to the field
  • printed on non-glossy paper with few photographs

Another major difference is that scholarly/peer reviewed journals have an editorial board (peers), who are usually outside of the journal and review articles before publication.  Newsweek and Sports Illustrated are good examples of magazines, whereas Foreign Affairs and Journal of Educational Research are good examples of scholarly journals.

There will be a few more tips and tricks coming in the future…

*Information from Mississippi College Speed Library's What's the Difference Between a Magazine and a Scholarly Journal? is used with permission.

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