F. Selecting Research Tools

1. Problem:

Once your students have tentative research paper topics, they need to decide where to search for information on their topics. Many turn to Google and Wikipedia first.

See Expected Learning Outcomes and Methods for help with this problem.

2. Expected Learning Outcomes:

After going through an exercise or watching a video or going through the Road to Research tutorial on how information flows from event through various media, all students will identify where to start searching for information on a topic in the media continuum.

3. Methods:

A. Questions for learners to ask about databases:

1. What topics do they cover?

2. What sorts of materials do they index or provide?

3. What time period do they cover?

B. Flow of Information exercise*:

  1. Pose a fairly current well-known topic to the group--e.g., the election of Barak Obama as 44th U.S. President.
  2. Instructor: "Where did you first hear that Barak Obama had been elected President?"
  3. Responses may include the web, radio, TV, friends.
  4. Write those responses on a board or flip chart, in a column on the left
  5. Instructor: "Where did you hear more about it later?"
  6. Write those responses under the first responses, in approximately timeframe order--e.g., newspapers, then magazines.
  7. Add "journals" under "magazines," and then add "books," followed by "reference books"
  8. Instructor: "What we're doing is illustrating a timeline from event through media reporting on it."
  9. Instructor: "Tell me an approximate timeframe for each of these types of media, from occurrence to reporting on it."
  10. Write those times in a second column, to the right of the first column. (See "Road to Research: Starting Points: Research Materials for details.)
  11. Instructor: "Now, let's say you want to revisit this even at a later time and do a research paper on it. Where would you search for each of these types of items?
  12. Write responses in a third column on the right (See "Road to Research: Starting Points: Research Materials for suggested research tools. You may wish to add Google Scholar, but warn students that Google does not fully identify the scope of this research tool. In addition, articles they find through Google Scholar may only be free if the UCLA Library subscribes to the journals in which those articles appear.
  13. Instructor: "It is important to keep this flow of information in mind, as it can save you lots of time. If you want to research a fairly current topic, you should probably start toward the top of the columns, or broaden your topic to include context and historical background. For established topics, sometimes an encyclopedia overview can be a good starting point, though you should compare the information you find in any encyclopedia with other reliable sources".

*Adapted from Sharon Hogan's orignal 1980 "Flow of Information" conceptual approach to library instruction.

4. Assessment:

"Road to Research: Starting Points: Research Tools":

Note: Links above are to archived copies of pages in the Internet Archive, as the "Road to Research" is temporarily unavailable as of 16 Sep 2015 due to revision work on the UCLA Social Sciences Computing Center's website.

 In addition, this tutorial has not been maintained by the UCLA Library since Summer 2011, and some portions may be out of date. It is used here as an example.