Welcome to the S.C. Williams Library Research Tutorial. By consulting each of the following links in the order listed, you'll learn the basics of doing library research here at Stevens. Keep in mind that information-gathering skills will empower you in all aspects of life.
The following links will help you navigate your way through some of the vital steps in Basic Library Research:
What Kind of Resource Do You Need?
Tricks of the Trade
|what kind of resource do you need?|
The type of research that you’re doing will influence the type of resource that you need. For example, rarely should you use a daily newspaper to study the details of groundbreaking research reported in its science section. The more accurate details are more likely to be found in a peer-reviewed journal devoted to that kind of research. Following are different types of resources and tips for when they are best used.
Encyclopedias and Handbooks - Encyclopedias provide concise overviews of a variety of topics, which can be helpful if you are just beginning your research and need background information on your topic. Encyclopedias can cover a range of subjects, which is what Britannica Online does, or they may be devoted a particular subject, which is what the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology does. Handbooks are usually devoted to specific disciplines— e.g. The CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics—and they provide concise overviews of procedures, as well as tables and illustrations that are useful to professionals within the discipline covered by the handbook.
Directories - If you need to find a list of companies within an industry, or someone who is a specialist in an area that you’re researching, directories are useful for providing this kind of information. Standard and Poor’s NetAdvantage and Ward’s Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies can be used as directories for industry, while Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Science and Engineering and Who’s Who in Finance and Industry are excellent sources for finding the names and contact information of those who are leaders in their fields.
Books - Use the library WebCat to find books in the Stevens library. Use WorldCat to find books held by libraries throughout the world. In many cases, books located in WorldCat can be obtained through our interlibrary loan service.
Journal Articles - Scientific and technological discoveries are reported in detail in peer-reviewed journals. The library databases page provides resources for locating journal articles on a variety of topics. Some of the databases will provide the full text of articles, while others will give you citations and brief descriptions of the articles. If the full text of an article isn’t available, you can obtain it from our document delivery service for as little as one dollar per request.
Newspaper Articles - Newspaper databases are good for gathering information on product development, industry news, and company histories. From the library’s database page, you can access Proquest Newspapers, which has the full text of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and other national newspapers. Lexis-Nexis Academic contains articles from hundreds of newspapers published world-wide.
The quality of your information sources affects the quality of your research - the conclusions you draw, the material you use to support them, etc. Traditional information sources are in some ways easier to evaluate than online sources because more often than not you are dealing with established publishers, indexing & abstracting services, etc. In contrast, there's a vast amount of uncontrolled information native to the web that gets posted every day.
A helpful checklist for evaluating materials for your research includes the following: (adapted from "Web Wisdom: How to Evaluate and Create Information Quality on the Web" by Jan Alexander & Marsha Tate, copyright1999, published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates).
How reliable is the information? Are there editors and fact-checkers? (Anyone can publish on the web and there are no standards to ensure accuracy.)
Who are the authors? What are their qualifications?
How reputable is the publisher, if indicated?
Is the information presented with a minimum of bias? Is the identification/aim of the author/group clearly stated, if at all? (Be alert to the fact that the Web often functions as a "virtual soapbox".)
Is the content up-to-date? Is the publication date clearly labeled?
(Dates are not always included on Web pages. If they are, do they mean the date the information was written, placed on the Web, or last revised?).
What topics are included? And are they explored in depth?
(Be careful: Coverage may differ when printed material moves to the Web.)
Johns Hopkins University Library has a website on Evaluating Internet Information:
|tricks of the trade|
Know Thy Database
They're all different. To optimize results, learn their idiosyncrasies by referring to advanced searching instructions & help guides.
Never forget to record a complete citation for each valuable source of information that you've taken the time to find - you don't want to have to track it down later.
Know When to Ask
It's ok to ask for help at ANY TIME during the course of your research. And sometimes, it really makes sense to capitalize on people as resources of information. Don't hesitate to consult with your professors, the Information Services Librarians, or to locate experts on your topic who are willing to give advice.
Follow The Source
Save time by following up on the sources cited in someone else'sbibliography.
...for the results in one database. Each database indexes different journals and no database provides exhaustive coverage of all journals in a subject area. For a thorough search, use as many databases as you can.
The Early Bird
Don't wait until the last minute to begin your research. Although some of your references might be found immediately in our full-text databases, chances are that not all of them will be. If you're doing a thorough job with your research, you'll probably have to order at least some of your documents through our Interlibrary Loan/Document Delivery Service. Given a reasonable amount of time, we can obtain almost any document you need for just $1 per item.