The Berkeley library system is arranged by subject -- what materials are in which library, how they're shelved, the Library website, where to get help....
Most libraries names tell their story. Doe, Moffitt, and the Gardner Main Stacks (which connects them) share the broadest subject focus in the UCB library system. Because they are named after people, the focus is less immediately apparent.
- Many topics are examined through the lens of a variety of disciplines
- Often GENERAL databases are a good place to start; they are interdisciplinary.
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.
- Sometimes finding materials is a matter of deconstructing your topic. Examining its various aspects, finding research on those aspects, and then connecting the dots by proposing your own connections/conclusions
- The more facets there are to a research question, the more specific your topic gets, the more likely the need to extrapolate
- For topics not already written about, new/original research may be required (time consuming, generally undertaken by those with long-term research goals)
The "right" tool for the job
It's hard to find what you need, if you're looking in the "wrong" place. Choose a resource that includes the kinds of materials needed.
Books & articles: You're likely to need the library catalog and an article database for your assignment. Which one, and when, depends on what you already know and the kind of materials sought.
if you already have a citation for an item, or you want to find books on your topic, you can start with the catalog
if you need to isolate articles or essays on a topic, you will want to use an "article" database
Each article database contains a unique aggregate of sources (though, any source may appear in several different databases).
- some databases contain scholarly articles, some magazine literature, some news. Some contain it all. - often include more than articles (chapters in books, etc.)
A few more things you should know about article databases...
- results identify where articles were published (name of publication and any associated volume/issue/date info.) - results do not equal what UCB owns - sometimes results link to article content online - Use UC-eLinks feature when a full text option is not provided
Where is the article?
Many library databases incorporate the UC-eLinks feature. You use it when a result's text is not provided by the database searched. It checks the UC-wide collections to see if the source is available elsewhere...
Encyclopedias provide background that helps when searching for other materials: identify people, events, issues, etc. Entries may have an associated bibliography that identifies other materials related to a topic.
review information in electronic resources section, above
link to e-resources by Subject > then use left sidebar menu to link to (subject specific) encyclopedias
or...link to e-resources by Type > Encyclopedias and almanacs (to see all of them)
To find print encyclopedias use OskiCat (for tips of searching OskiCat, see Putting It All Together tab)
This free encyclopedia is publicly editable and not a scholarly resource. Because anyone can write or add to an entry, the information may be innacurate or untrue. Through the very structure of its creation, it has dependability issues. Yet, it can still be a useful tool, if used wisely.
Like other encyclopedias, it can be helpful in obtaining topical background, and entries often list sources for further reading (which you can see if UCB has in its collections). Use Wikipedia as a starting point for information you will verify in the course of your research via scholarlysources.
Scholarly or popular ?
Some research databases contain popular as well as scholarly content. Depending on your needs, you may want to limit results to just scholarly content. You can...
choose a resource that only contains it
if using a resource with mixed content, limit to the scholarly material
Unsure how to start a paper or research project? Think maybe you could stand to brush up on search strategies?
If this sounds familiar, Library Workshop: Research 101 has you covered. This interactive tutorial explores six stages of the research process. You can view it from start to finish, or focus on specific sections as needed:
help developing search strategies (for humanities and social sciences topics)
Schedule (view/edit) an appointment online [CalNetID required]
How to use this tab
This course guide is created as a teaching tool and designed to be read as a unit. Doing so will provide the context for selecting the "right" resource and the techniques for manipulating it -- knowledge and skills that will support immediate and future research needs.
The notes in this putting it together tab contain suggestions about how to proceed with research based on your assignment. These suggestions build upon, and presume familiarity with, the general concepts addressed in the other tabbed sections of this course guide.
A research trajectory
Review information in the My topictab to determine who is likely to be writing about your focus, and where
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)
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.
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
Examine promising results.
remember to note the information you'll need if you end up citing them
Suggested resource types
find books on your topic
find the periodicals you've already identified as having articles on your topic
find encyclopedias to get background information
Article databases (by SUBJECT)
to identify article and essay content on your topic
to identify current research
to identify research focused on a specific aspect of a topic
to search for publications from a specific discipline
sociology. education, women's studies, history, etc.
Article databases (GENERAL)
often have popular sources (magazine & news) as well scholarly
Academic Search Complete is one recommended resource
popular and scholarly content (good for popular culture topics)
some results available online
has UC-eLinks feature
Google Scholar is one recommended resource
strength is scholarly journal literature
use UC-eLinks to get full text
you must enable UC-eLinks to display in Google Scholar [set via Options gear > Scholar Preferences > Library links]
JSTOR is one recommended database
full text resource
use advanced search mode (to narrow to specific discipline. and/or limit your search)
search 2 or 3 terms representing key concepts of your focus
try different combinations of term, synonyms, related terms
look at the complete record for a relevant result -- do its subjects suggest other search terms to try
try adding terms for specific types of materials to your search: encyclopedias, biography...
Sample keyword searches...
prison and gangs prison violence privatization and prison contracting and corrections child* and prison child* and educat* and prison encyclo* and prison* leonard peltier and biography
subject links (found in relevant results) narrow in on materials about a subject. For example... Prison Gangs -- United States, Children of Prisoners, Prisoners -- United States -- Family Relationship, etc.
for a person...finds books by, interviews with, correspondence...
[use the correct search syntax last name, first name]
an organization's name...finds materials by an agency, government body...
Limit by material type - change default search of Entire Collection to seach by type or location -- i.e. Films/Videos
Limit by language - use modify search button
If your search is too broad - use Modify button for available limits