"I'm writing a paper on World War II."
Often students start their research with a very general topic, even though they may realize the topic is too large to deal with in a 10-15 page paper. Faculty and librarians tell them, "You have to narrow this down." But how do you narrow a topic?
You can combine these ideas, "What were the major impacts of WWII on women in France, in the decade after the war?"
More ideas in our brief tutorial on topic selection and narrowing.
So, how do you know what disciplines you should use?
What do you do with this information? Search in the article databases dedicated to those disciplines. Here's a list of databases for each discipline, by campus.
So you need scholarly resources for your paper. These can be either books or articles: How do you know when to use which?
• Long• Information tends to be less current because it takes time to write and publish a book. • Subject matter is broad; can give an overview of a topic • Find them using a library catalog
• Briefer; like an article • Information tends to be less current because it takes time to write and publish a book. • Subject matter is narrow, like an article; could be a case study for example. • Find them using a database/ search engine, like JSTOR
• Briefer • Information tends to be more recent than books • But not as current as news items • Subject matter is narrow; could be a case study for example • Find them using a database/ search engine, like JSTOR
For more information see our tutorial
Write down your topic. Identify and mark the most important keywords (the ones you would definitely want to include in a search).
What is the role of the passions in Romeo and Juliet?
For each keyword, see if you can think of synonyms or closely related concepts that you might also want to search.
passions or love or eros
Romeo and Juliet or Shakespeare
Library catalogs and article databases offer several ways to narrow or broaden, or otherwise control your search. Below are common methods; if they don't work, look for a "Help" link!
Most default to a quick keyword search (somewhat like Google) that assumes you want items containing all the words you type.
Most let you truncate a word with a wildcard symbol (usually * ) to get plurals and other variant forms.
passion* gets passion, passions, passionate
Most offer an Advanced Search with more options, such as searching on an author's name, or words in a title.
REFINING YOUR SEARCH
If your search retrieves too many items, use more specific terms, or put in additional keywords.
gets fewer items than love shakespeare
love poetry shakespeare
gets fewer items than love shakespeare
If your search gets too few items, use more general terms or remove some keywords.
You can also combine terms with OR to get more items.
love OR eros
gets items containing either term.
FINDING RELATED ITEMS
In library catalogs and most article databases, click on the title of an interesting item and look in the detailed display for links (blue underlined text). These may include the author's name, "Subjects" or "Subject headings". Clicking on one of these links will do a search for items tagged the same way.
Many catalogs and databases allow you to save items to a list/folder/etc. and e-mail, print or download the citation. Some will allow you to output citations in a particular citation style (ex: MLA or Chicago).
To use library databases from DC you have to set up your campus proxy server or VPN. Once you do so, you'll be able to get articles from the databases in pdf form after logging with your campus ID.
Click your campus name below for set-up instructions:
What sort of articles and data do you need to find for your paper? Scholarly, for sure, but there are many others:
It's helpful when doing your research to think about how you will use what you find. The acronym BEAM helps you make sure you find materials that will do the job you need in your paper. Research papers need materials in all four categories.
B = Background information. Do you know the seminal works, major scholars and theories in your topical area? What about the actual definitions of the disciplinary jargon you're using? Scholarly encyclopedias are the best source of background information: look in Oskicat under your discipline, with the word encyclopedias, [sociology encyclopedias]. Could also use Wikipedia, a textbook, a newspaper, or any source that fills you in on your big topic.
E = Evidence Often called primary sources, evidence is the stuff you are studying in your research. Evidence could be news coverage, laws, court cases, personal interviews, statistics or data... whatever helps you prove your thesis.
A = Analysis Here are the secondary sources-- analysis is usually written by faculty scholars or technical experts, who are themselves analyzing evidence that they may include or cite. As a student writing a paper, you are doing analysis, so it's important to refer to the work of others studying the same topic
M = Methodology This means the methods and questions you will use to analyze your evidence. Each discipline has its own favorite ways of asking questions and its own ideas about what sort of information can serve as evidence. You must know which methods are suitable to the disciplines you are working within. To find methodology, search for books by using the name of the discipline and the word methodology. E.g. Sociology method*.
[Bizup, Joseph. "BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing." Rhetoric Review Vol. 27, Iss. 1, 2008]
How can you get books in Washington DC? Not from your campus library, sorry to say.
But you do have access to academic and professional libraries in DC:
Since you are away from your library, electronic books become even more convenient for your research. All campuses purchase ebooks, and there are various ways you can find them, but these differ by campus.
A basic approach is to use your library's catalog. Limit your search results to online resources-- this usually requires an advanced search. Here's an example, using the Santa Barbara catalog [quick video]
You can also use Melvyl and limit the results to your own campus.
These article databases are good for all topics:
Government sources are usually considered primary sources. There are many types of them, including:
Here are some databases that all campuses have access to. Your individual campus will have more. Make sure to check your library's list of databases.
Public Policy and Political Science topics
Do your search in Google Scholar. Look in the green toolbar for the envelope icon, and click it. New items will be sent to your email account as they are found by Google.
Open Scholar. Click on the gear icon in the upper right corner, and choose 'scholar preferences'. In the new window, scroll down to 'Library Links', type the word Berkeley. Choose University of California, Berkeley-- UC eLinks, and Open Worldcat Search.
Do a Google Scholar search. Click on the "Cited by" link under a citation and select the "Search within articles citing..." checkbox.
Our guide to Citing Your Sources tells how to establish your paper's credibility and avoid plagiarism, and provides links to detailed examples of MLA and other citation formats.
American Sociological Association style manual
The complete citation should look like this:
Anti-slavery International. "Anti-slavery: today’s fight for tomorrow’s freedom." 4/12/2002. http://www.antislavery.org/ (4 Dec. 2003).
The components of the citation are [in this order]:
• Author's name, last name first (if known), or organizational author
• Title of the page, in quotation marks
• Title of the complete website (if applicable), in italics
• Date of the webpage or last revision (if available)
• Full URL including protocol (e.g., "http")
• Date you read it, in parentheses
If you've never used Zotero before, use the QuickStart Guide to get started.
Change your preferences if you want Zotero to
To use Zotero to find specific articles in our library's databases, set up the Open URL resolver with this link: http://ucelinks.cdlib.org:8888/sfx_local?
An in-depth discussion of the relative virtues of Endnote and Zotero,
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