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Writing a College Research Paper? Step 2: Research and Other Disasters

Classic student concern:

“AHHHH!! I have to find 3 scholarly journal sources for this stupid paper, and I can’t find anything, and I’m going to fail!!!”

Fear not, brave soul. Follow the steps.

Step 1: Calm down.

Step 2: Go to http://library.tamu.edu.

Step 3: Click “Articles” on the menu tab.

Step 4: Type in a keyword that describes your topic.

Step 5: Enjoy the glory of full-text articles.

Except for that whole having to write a paper thing, the resource above should make you feel better. Research is an important step in composing a persuasive essay – it provides the foundation on which you build your thesis and the evidence that backs your claim. Research is not always a hunt for the diamond in the rough that will elucidate your position, but rather a synthesis of existing perspectives in the academic field you are researching. I know, that sentence had big words – here’s a picture to make you feel better.

 

Your research will not be this cool.

 

Here are some helpful hints about finding academic sources. All of these resources are available through http://library.tamu.edu.

Academic Search Complete is good and comprehensive.  Enjoy with caution.

  • Most of the content is provided in .pdf format and, as such, is searchable.
  • Using the Advanced Search tab, you can limit your search to specific databases or publications as well as by date or language.  In addition, you can search by cited reference.
  • After you perform a search, you can limit your results by document type or refine your search using the suggested subject categories.
  • Next to each result, a folder icon will appear on the right.  If you click this icon, then the citation for that source will be saved in a folder that appears above the search results on the right-hand side.  If you click on this folder, then you can print or email the complete citations to yourself for later use.
  • If you really like colorful bubbles, consider the visual search option.

LexisNexis is incredibly useful for searching periodicals, which is a clever way to say newspaper and magazines, and can be found in the library’s online list of databases.

Your best bet is probably to use the EasySearch because it’s easy.

  • Input your topic into the massive search box.
  • A list of results will appear, and on the left hand side you will find a breakdown of your results by medium.
  • If you are looking for newspaper articles only, then you can click the link to narrow your search to that medium only.
  • For more advanced research, be sure to check out the special search categories (People, Legal, Business, et hoc genus omne) on the main page.

CQ Research wins arguments. It’s the greatest search engine imaginable for controversial issues.  If you have to present an argument about a contemporary social issue, use this resource and thank your lucky stars.

For most topics, the CQ will provide a series of reports. Each of these will have a background summary of the issue as well as expert opinions and a pro/con section.

  • You can also access a host of cited references from these reports.
  • If you are writing a paper on immigration, abortion, gun control, Iraq or any other topic that you shouldn’t discuss on a first date, use this search engine.
  • At the top of each report is a CiteNow button that will allow you to print or email yourself the entire article with citations.  Use this so that you don’t get eaten by the plagiarism monster.

 

Classic student concern:

“My prof is so old-school! I have to actually use book sources for this paper, and I can’t find any good books!”

Ha! You’re just not looking under the right rocks! Follow the steps.

Step 1: Calm down.

Step 2: Go to http://library.tamu.edu.

Step 3: LibCat is selected by default. You may also open LibCat’s interface by clicking LibCat under the search bar.

Step 4: Specify a search type by category.  You can use author, or title, or keyword, ad nauseum!

Step 5: Select any of the results to see the brief view.

Step 6: Click the author’s name to see a complete list of her/his works.  You can also select the call number to see related materials.  You can also get a map of the library to determine how to find your book.

Step 7: You can save or print your search records by using the Bookbag feature at the bottom of each search page.

Step 8: If you get stuck, then use choose the “Ask Now” link on the bottom of the new search page to chat live with a librarian.  You can also visit them in person in the library. They want to help you. Really. The phone lines are open. Call now.

Well, there you have it.  Armed with these resources, you’re ready to make defensible claims – impregnable bastions of logos and ethos steadfast in the wake of any pedagogical assault.

Sorry, I got carried away. Move along to Step 3: Citations, not warnings.