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Peninsula College Library Research Guide

An overview of the research process and resources available here at the Peninsula College Library.
by

Tim Williams

on 26 September 2012

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Transcript of Peninsula College Library Research Guide

7 Steps for Research Success Select a topic. Gather background information. Create your research question. Make a list of keywords/search terms. Search library databases or reputable websites. Critically evaluate information. Use accurate, objective, current, and relevant information as evidence to advance your research question toward a conclusion. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 For further assistance, contact: Tim Williams, Instruction and Reference Librarian
twilliams@pencol.edu
(360) 417-6285 Resources: course textbooks (check the index or table of contents), lecture notes, instructors, and your interests. Librarians can guide you to reliable information sources such as books, articles, and websites. Some of these sources list popular topics in an index (for books) or an internal link (for websites). The National Institutes of Health, for example, have a website with a huge list of health information topics: http://health.nih.gov/see_all_topics.aspx

Action: read your assignment carefully! If your topic has not been assigned, consult all of the resources listed above. Pick two or three potential topics related to your assignment, and move on to the next step. Resources: in addition to those listed above, try a combination of Wikipedia and Credo Reference, which is available through the Peninsula College Library website. http://www.pencol.edu/library/looking-article-subject
Scroll down to “Credo Reference” under All Disciplines.

Action: use your resources, including Wikipedia, Google searches (plural!), and Credo Reference to define your topics and locate subtopics. Click on and explore internal links within each wiki and Google search result; investigate multiple links in Credo Reference.

If you are brave, click on an entry in Credo Reference and look along the left-hand side of the page. You will see links to databases such as Academic Search Premier. Click on one or two of these, and you will open new pages with journal articles on your topic. Feel free to read any of these that seem interesting and relevant to your assignment. Once you have enough information to make your decision, you should select the topic that interests you most, or move back to step 1. Resources: see topic and background information resources. To create a specific research question, you will also need to use a process such as PICOT or SAC/OT (see below).

Action: choose a specific subject. This could be a group, individual, object, event, or phenomenon (such as Olympic Marmots). Choose a specific action that subject performs (such as whistling). Choose a specific cause or outcome related to that action. For example: “Do Olympic Marmots (subject) whistle (action) when frightened (cause/outcome)?” Finally, choose a specific time, occasion, frequency, or instance. For example: “Do Olympic Marmots (subject) whistle (action) only when (time) they are frightened (cause/outcome)?” Call this process SAC/OT. A related process for students and professionals in the health sciences, PICOT helps you form specific clinical questions. Like SAC/OT, PICOT requires researchers to select a specific Population (such as infant males), Intervention (such as breastfeeding), Comparison intervention or group (such as bottle-feeding), Outcome (such as weight gain), and Time (such as one year).

Either SAC/OT or PICOT help you gather the pieces of the puzzle, which you must then assemble into a question or claim (thesis). “Over the period of one year (T), do infant males (P) gain more weight (O) from breastfeeding (I) or bottle-feeding with formula (C)?” Resources: your research question

Action: referring to your research question, select the subject(s), action, and/or cause/outcome. Consider synonyms or other words related to your search terms. Often times you will need to try multiple searches to find the most and best information on your topic. Here are some potential searches for our first topic:

Olympic Marmot
AND
whistle
AND
cause Olympic Marmot
AND
whistling
AND
fear Resources: http://www.pencol.edu/library

Action: Under “Looking for an Article?” on the PC Library homepage, click on “Subject List.” Scroll down to the subject that most closely relates to your topic. If you have trouble, visit, call, or email the PC Library during its hours of operation: http://www.pencol.edu/library/hours

Once you find the best database for your topic, enter your search terms in the search boxes. Scan the search results for relevant articles. Resources: “Critically Evaluating Information and its Sources” handout.

Action: determine the Accuracy, Bias, and Currency (ABC) of the chosen articles. Consider the following questions:
a. Are all claims and conclusions supported by sufficient evidence and/or statistics?
b. Does the author objectively examine the subject matter?
c. Is the information up-to-date, or have breakthroughs in science or technology made it "old school"?
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