COLWRIT R4B: (The Idea of) Prison

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  • Tim Dilworth
  • Office Location: 212 Doe Library
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This guide has been archived

Please note: this course guide was created during a previous semester and is no longer being actively maintained. For a list of current course guides visit

Campus libraries

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UC Berkeley Library campus map

Library Hours

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Off-campus access

Unless home is a campus dorm, in order to access many Library resources you must first configure your computer to use one of two simple access methods:

Proxy Server  (easiest method)
After you make a one-time change in your web browser's settings, allows you to use your CalNet ID to access a licensed resource (setup instructions).

VPN (Virtual Private Network)
You install and run the VPN software on your computer.  It allows you to log in with a CalNet ID and accesss a licensed resource.

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Who is writing about my topic ?

Who is likely to be writing about your topic?  

Many resources focus on literature published in a specific field.  So, you need to consider which disciplines are likely to be examining your topic. 

While everyone will be writing about some aspect of prison, some may choose to look in databases focused on education, or psychology, or sociology, or film studies, based on their specific focus.

* Considering the above will help you select a resource to meet your needs. It's not all about keywords, but where you search. *

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Where are they writing about my topic ?

Consider the currency of your topic. Different types of publications serve different functions, and have different production timeframes (tutorial snippet on the information timeline, and the content focus of different types of resources).

Is anybody writing about my topic ?

It depends. Information doesn't exist in a void, generated on demand -- someone has to have created it. 

If your topic is widely studied, or current news, finding topical materials won't be hard.  On the other hand, just because you can imagine a topic, doesn't mean others are writing about/studying it.

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The Right Tool for the Job

Choosing the "right" resource means choosing a database that finds you the kind of materials you need.

Encyclopedias: Brief background information on your topic.

Books & articles: You're likely to need the UCB Library catalog (OskiCat) and an article database for your assignment. Which one you use, depends on what you already know and the kind of materials sought.

Library Catalog

Catalogs list library collections, item locations, and availability.  OskiCat is the UCB libraries' catalog.

Article databases & other electronic resources

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Where's the article ?

UC-eLinks orange logo

Most library databases have the UC-eLinks feature. When a result is not available online, it allows you to check the UC-wide collections to see if it is available elsewhere (either online or in print copy).

Click the orange button associated with a result to see its access options.

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Background information

Encyclopedias are often a good place to begin when you don't know much about a topic. They provide basic background information, the knowledge of which helps when searching for other materials: identify people, events, issues, etc. Entries may also have an associated bibliography that identifies other materials related to a topic.

Online Access...see electronic resources section above

Print Encyclopedias... use OskiCat

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Evaluating sources

Research is as credible as the work that goes into it! It's important to analyze the information you find, including where it comes from. 

While a magazine or journal article database lists results from sources known to be reputable/scholarly, finding material via Google requires additional evaluation on your part.

guide on evaluating web sites

Citing Sources

Properly citing sources is an important part of your research.  It allows you to avoid plagiarism and highlights your engagement with related scholarship.

In a nutshell:  "Whenever you quote or base your ideas on another person's work, you must document the source you used. Even when you do not quote directly from another work...." 

The above extract is taken from the Library's guide on citing sources. The guide gives an overview of this topic and links to formatting rules for the major citation styles.

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Chat with a librarian

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Research Advisory Service

Research Advisory Service for Cal Undergraduates

Book a 30-minute appointment with a librarian who will help refine and focus research inquiries, identify useful online and print sources, and develop search strategies for humanities and social sciences topics (examples of research topics).

Schedule, view, edit or cancel your appointment online (CalNetID required)

How to use this page

These notes contain additional suggestions about how you might proceed to best use the resources outlined in this class guide.  They presume familiarity with the general concepts and information addressed in the other tabbed pages of the guide.

A research trajectory

  1. Review information in the My topic tab to determine who is likely to be writing about your focus, and where

  2. Review the suggested resources, below, and also the information in the Choosing a Resource tab  (to isolate the type of tool you want to use and note important info. about its use)

  3. Visit the library homepage and select a resource whose content matches the kind of materials you are seeking to find.  When choosing an article database, select one whose disciplinary focus maps to your topic (i.e. publications in that field are likely to be writing about it).

    Or... choose a General (interdisciplinary) database.

  4. Search to see what's been written about your topic  (or see what issues others are writing about -- that might help you refine your focus).
    • see Tips section of this tab for help with searching

  5. Examine promising results.
    • remember to note the information you'll need if you end up citing them

Suggested resource types


Article databases (by SUBJECT)

Article databases (GENERAL)

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A few search tips

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