I took a research class a few weeks ago and had several people asking for me to share some lessons learned (some of which I wish I learned 10 years ago!). Some of this is tailored towards seminary-type research but the same principles apply no matter the discipline...hope it helps!
Lesson # 1 - Citation/Reference Management Software
• These programs will help you pull bibliography information off of library search engines or online bookstores (Amazon through Zotero). They then store this info so when you make a citation they can generate endnotes, footnotes, and bibliographies in the format/style you need.
• FREE – http://www.zotero.org/ , www.tinyurl.com/zoterosummary
• PC Purchase – http://www.endnote.com/ , http://www.refworks.com/ (note: some of these work on Macs as well)
• Mac Purchase – Sente (http://www.thirdstreetsoftware.com/ ) , Bookends ( http://www.sonnysoftware.com/ )
• Wikipedia Comparison
Lesson # 2 – Meet with your Librarian
• Ask your librarian to help you. Schedule an appointment with them. Often they can direct you to specialized dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc. that might be a good starting point for your paper. They can also assist you with searching their catalog or in borrowing resources from other libraries.
• Residents of Kentucky can check out from any public library (i.e. UK, UL) in Kentucky with a KY Driver’s License.
Lesson # 3 – Online Library Resources
• Invest some time online in searching your library’s website. Often you will find things prior to your library trip that can save you valuable time. Depending on your school’s library, you may be able to find entire journal articles, book texts, and dissertations that you can read and search from the comfort of your own home.
• My library has a great explanation online of how to do quality research
• Free online books catalog
Lesson # 4 – Google Books & Scholar
• Google has done an incredible job, despite lots of opposition and legal troubles, at scanning and uploading tons of articles and books. You can search against the text, and if you do it well (see lesson # 5), can find exactly what you are looking for. If you search for a particular book and keep scrolling beyond it on the search page, you will also see citations of other works to it…which then provides you other relevant works applicable to your paper topic.
• Google books & Google scholar
• Google search - “google limiters”
Lesson # 5 – Searches – Boolean & Subject
• Use Library of Congress subject headings to search for works (sometimes easily found on online searches of your website...if not, ask your librarian)
• Use Boolean logic to search online and within your library’s search engine
Some other Boolean tips:
• Boolean search: AND OR NOT (all caps)
AND = + (plus sign)
AND = & (ampersand)
OR = | (pipe sign)
NOT = ~ (tilde)
( ) – multiple searches simultaneously, nesting
" " – exact phrase
without quotes assumes ("word" AND "word")
• e.g. (dictionary OR encyclopedia) AND (ecclesiology OR sanctification)
o Instead of “mentoring” -> “mentor*”
o All words with “mentor” as root will show
Proximity Searching – use % plus a number (sometimes use ‘NEAR’ plus a number)
o Family %3 Discipleship (words w/in 3 words of each other)
# symbol can be used to find variant spellings, eg. arch#eology will find both archaeology and archeology.
o (“Spiritual Warfare” AND evangelism AND missions)
o (“Spiritual Warfare” AND evangel* AND mission*)
o (“Spiritual Warfare” AND (evangelism OR missions))
o ((“Spiritual Warfare” AND (evangelism OR missions)) NOT (charismatic OR Pentecostal)
o ((evangelism %4 missions %4 “church growth”) AND (“Spiritual Warfare”))
o ((missions OR evangelism) AND (demonology))
o ((missions OR evangelism) AND (supernatural))
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