ENGLISH 101.  ACADEMIC WRITING
 14. Meet the Librarian


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Instructions for Lesson 14

1. Look at the TC3 librarian's basic classification of periodicals 
2. Read this page.
3. Add three more sources to your research journal (assigned in Lesson 12.)

 


Lessons 

Module 1

1: Orientation  
2: Goals   

Module 2

  3: Euthyphro  
     4: The Library
 5: The Apology   
    6: Citation   
    7: Crito
    8: Phaedo  
    9: Exam Prep   
10: Plato Exam
   

Module 3

11: Research Project 
12: Research 101   
13: Books   
14: the Librarian   
15: the Web   
16: conferences  
17: Joy of Research 
18: Reasoning 


Module 4

19: Outlines 
20: Review the Plan:
21: Language 
22: Dr E's Grammar
23: Peer Review  
24: Hit Parade 

Module 5

25: About the Exam
26: Mock Final 
27: Exam Prep
28: Graduation 

 

1. Our search continues 

Aristotle (figure left) spent twenty years with Plato at the Academy, so he must have figured that when the old man died, he would become the new head of the school. Blood is thicker than water, however, and at his death Plato left the place to his sister's son, Speusippus. Speusippus! Undeterred, Aristotle founded his own school at Athens, the Lyceum, and he seems to have competed very successfully with the Academy. He and his students ambitiously undertook to catalog all of human knowledge and publish summaries of it.

Apart from possible hints in Plato's dialogues, the little that we "know" about the Academy comes almost entirely from Aristotle's writings, from the period after he founded his own rival school. How much of this knowledge about the Academy do you suppose is true? What's your proof?

2. Introduction of Barbara Kobritz

Today we have honored with a guest lecture from TC3 Librarian Barbara Kobrits. It's always a pleasure to take "live" English 101 classes for her tour of the TC3 library, because she always makes the most key point of all, that research is all about proof. Whatever discipline we are researching, our search for truth is actually a hunt for the most persuasive evidence that we can find. Anecdotal evidence carries little or no weight. As the Yiddish proverb says, "for instance" is not proof. 

I hope that you have taken Barbara's tutorial on evidence and tutorial on database searches. I hope that you also have seen her basic classification of periodicals. Barbara is an exceptional person and a great resource for student researchers who are clever enough to ask her for help. When you are not sure where your next source is going to come from, get help from a librarian!

3. Top 10 things you need to know about using the library:
by TC3 librarian Barbara Kobritz

1. Librarians are here to help you. Everything we attempt to teach you will make your work easier if you learn it and apply it. Our goal is not to create hoops for you to jump through. Our goal is to make this research business easier.

2. Most of the information that has ever been generated by humankind is not on the Internet and never will be. No one is going to pay to digitize the millions of books that sit on library shelves and put them up on the Internet.

3. You need to understand how scholarly publishing works. Professors at large research universities do not teach a lot, maybe two or three classes a semester. Their main goal in life is to conduct research in the areas that interest them. When they are first hired by the university, their employment is provisional. The goal is for them to get tenure. Once you get tenure the university canít fire you. (Nice, huh?) Tenure is not easy to get. Professors have to meet a lot of requirements, one of which is that they must conduct research and publish the results Ė in the form of articles that appear in scholarly journals. These journals are the gold standard of quality information as far as your teachers are concerned. Elsewhere in the world, you can use whatever kind of evidence you want to make whatever claim you want. But for college papers and presentations, when you make a claim, you had better have the research evidence to back it up. It is our sincere hope that you will learn to like this idea of being able to back up your claims with facts. We consider it one of the hallmarks of an educated person. However, we have no control over what you do outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, support your claims with facts.

4. The research that professors publish has a recognizable and consistent structure.

ß REFERENCES: At the end of the article you will always find a long, long list of references (Works Cited). Although they come at the end of the written article, they are the beginning of the process. Our researcher/professor has some sub-, sub-, sub- specialty that she is interested in. For example a biologist might decide at some point to specialize in insects. She might get some grant money from the National Science Foundation (or someone) to travel to the Amazon Basin and catalog bugs. She might get interested in some particular species or genus of bugs that occur only in the Amazon and then, of course, she would be interested in reading anything thatís published about her favorite bug. If she wanted to publish a paper in a scholarly journal she would have to know all about everything thatís been written in the field and she would have to write something original. The list of references represents her understanding of whatís already been said about this bug.

ß PROBLEM STATEMENT: On the basis of whatís been written about her bug she would figure out some question scientists havenít answered yet about her bug and research that. Hereís a real-life example:

A few years ago at Cornell there was a study about genetically engineered corn and monarch butterflies. The theory was that the pollen from the genetically modified corn was getting on the milkweed (the monarchís only source of food) and eventually killing the little larval butterflies when they ate it. This is the researchersí problem statement. They want to find out whether the pollen from genetically modified corn is threatening the habitat of the monarch butterfly. (By the way, this research caused quite a furor. Researchers in the big corn states out in the Midwest immediately got to work criticizing the Cornell research and doing their own research to prove the genetically modified corn was perfectly safe. They pointed out that the dosages the larvae were exposed to in the laboratory were way more than they would ever get in the field, that the amount of exposure wasnít standardized and so on. According to their research in the field, the corn wasnít a problem.)

ß METHODOLOGY: Once the researcher tells us what she wanted to find out, she tells us how she went about it. In the Cornell study they said how many larvae they were working with, and how the exposure to the corn pollen happened within the laboratory. They also had to have a control group, a group of larvae for whom everything was identical to the first group except the exposure to the pollen. This was to make sure that the results they got were due to the variable they wanted to study, i.e. the pollen exposure. Think of it this way: If you had only the group of larvae exposed to the pollen, and they did die off rather quickly, without the control group you donít really know why. Itís possible that monarch butterfly larvae donít like being inside a laboratory and died because of the air conditioning or some such thing. But if you have a control group held under the same conditions (except one) and you get different results for the two groups, you now have evidence that the one condition youíre trying to isolate is responsible for the effect you see.

ß DATA/RESULTS: So what happened? The pollen-exposed larvae died much faster than the control group. In a typical research study this will be expressed in some very complex math using standard statistical techniques. If you donít understand this section, donít worry about it. Someone who knows what theyíre doing (sometimes many people) reviewed this piece of research to make sure that the methodology made sense and that the data were correctly analyzed.

ß CONCLUSIONS/DISCUSSION: On the basis of the data, what do we think we know? Where does this research point us? This section should be easier for you to understand than the mathematical data or results.

ß SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH: Not every article has this, but itís quite common. This closes the loop. The scholar is part of a scholarly community. She has studied everything thatís gone on before, added her own bit of research to the topic, and she is now saying to the community, "This is what I think we need to find out next." As a matter of fact, in the Cornell study cited above, the authors duly noted that this was simply a preliminary study, done under laboratory conditions and that more research was urgently needed under field conditions to find out if the danger is real. This discussion and research is continuing. Different studies point in different directions and the scientific community has not reached a consensus. This is how scientific knowledge develops. It is a conversation that lasts for years, or even decades, among a community of scholars in a discipline.

ß ABSTRACT: The abstract is the last part of the article to be written, but it is the first one you see when you look at the published article. It is a summary of the research and usually will tell you the three key things youíre looking for: What was the problem studied? What was the methodology for studying it? What were the results? (BIG TIP: Find all the articles you can on your topic and READ THE ABSTRACTS. Thatís how you start finding out what the research community is learning about your research question. You will learn more about your research question by spending an hour reading 30 or 40 abstracts than you will by struggling through one 20-page article. This will give you better results in less time. For example, if you were researching monarch butterflies and you came across the Cornell paper, but didnít find all the research that came after it, you wouldnít have much. Get your feet wet! Donít look for the first three articles the teacher will accept! Look for a vein of research thatís interesting to you and pursue it!)

5. Research articles, along with newspaper articles and magazine articles, are gathered by the millions for you into databases. Databases are quite expensive; you could never afford to have them available at home. SUNY and TC3 maintain database subscriptions for you as part of your library resources. In most databases, all kinds of articles are all thrown in together. Itís up to you to recognize this research model. Thatís why we are spending so much time going over it. Understanding this concept will give you better results in less time.

6. You can get to the databases from the Library Gateway at www.tc3.edu/library by clicking on "Find Articles and Databases." I suggest that you start with ProQuest or InfoTrac to get going. 

7. In databases, you will get better results if you use the same language the database people use to describe things. Duh! Hereís how it works (a real example from my work with a student a few days ago):

Youíre looking for information on "cyberlaw." You type in "cyberlaw" and hit the search button. You get a few hundred hits. You scroll down until you find a title that looks like what youíre after. You click on the title to look at the article. You look for a list of subject headings. (Theyíre at the top in ProQuest, at the bottom in InfoTrac; in some databases theyíre called descriptors.) Looking at the list of subject headings on a relevant article, you quickly learn that the subject heading you want is "Internet Ė laws, rules and regulations." So you go back to your search screen and type that into the search box (actually all we typed was "Internet Ė laws"; that was enough.) Hit search again and this time you will get several thousand articles to look at. In other words we missed almost everything the database had to offer by typing in the first word that came to mind. Several thousand articles is far too many to look through. So we went back to the search screen and, in the second search box, added the word "jurisdiction," which is what this student was interested in. This brought us down to a nice small focused search. By finding one or two subject headings that this particular database uses (and they vary from one database to the next) you can focus, focus, focus your search. This will give you better results in less time. That cyberlaw guy was one happy student!

8. Once you have the article you want you can email it to yourself or print it out and use it however you like for your paper. If the database is showing you a citation to an article but not the article itself, let us know. Weíll get you a copy.

9. GIVE CREDIT! GIVE CREDIT! GIVE CREDIT! If you use other peopleís ideas without citation, you have committed plagiarism, and you will flunk.  

10. We also have databases of books which, for arcane reasons, we call catalogs. You can get to them through the Library Gateway at www.tc3.edu/library by clicking on "Find Books and Media." You can search TC3's collection by clicking "TC3 Library Catalog, or you can "Search WorldCat" to do a combined search on 30,000 libraries worldwide. Any book that you locate on WorldCat, but that we don't have in the TC3 library, we can get for you through interlibrary loan in as few as two days. When you search a book catalog the same rules apply about subject headings. Figure out what they are and use them. This will give you better results in less time.

Oh, and one other thing.

11. ASK A LIBRARIAN! Call us! E-mail us! Come in and talk to us! Look at the bottom of every page on our website for the Ask a Librarian link to send us a question form. Reference librarians are different from other people. We have an almost freakish ability to retain the most esoteric information. Our heads are jammed with it, all stored at random, just waiting for someone to ask the right question. In the unlikely event you should stumble on a topic that we havenít already searched several dozen times with previous clients, we will just get even more excited at the thrill of a new hunt!

The biggest problem you will have with librarians is that, once we have the scent of your topic, itís hard to get us to stop. We may be looking for information long after you have slipped out the back door. With a resource like that available, why on earth would you try to do this on your own? If you expect to go anywhere in your academic career, the best thing you can do for yourself is to learn how to use a librarian.

3. Sample scholarly article

For a sample of the scholarly writing that Barbara Kobritz discusses above, read the attached Underage college students' drinking behavior, access to alcohol, and the influence of deterrence policies. This article illustrates the form of professional research writing in the sciences that Barbara describes under heading 4 above.

Assignment: The research narrative essay (due in Lesson 18

As cognitive neuroscience has determined recently, the brain actually has two different kinds of long-term memory--"episodic memory" for personal experiences and "semantic memory" for impersonal or general knowledge. In young minds the episodic memory normally develops ahead of its semantic companion. That's clear to all freshman writing teachers; all of us know that our young students perform much better when writing narratives about themselves than when writing anything else.

Hence, the "research narrative essay," a term coined by my wife Elizabeth, a veteran teacher of freshman writing. The idea is very simple. Now that we have done our research, or most of it, we can begin to reflect on that experience by telling a story about it, a "research narrative essay." Because this essay is a narrative about you, you can engage your powerful "episodic memory" to write about about it, but because it is also about your research, it should engage you as a writer in the serious process of coming to terms with what you have learned from your research. This essay is an easy way to begin our move from "C" to "O" in the COW. It's a first overall reflection on the research that we have collected. Here are the the instructions. 

With your research journal complete or nearly so, write a 500-word (or longer) essay about your experience with the research project to date. Review the research process that you have gone through by telling the story of your investigation. Be specific in telling this story in detail: identify the key sources that you found, and tell how you thought they would be useful in your research report. Conclude by generalizing from the overall experience: based on what you have learned from your research, how can you focus the research question? What thesis might be possible to argue? Be sure to follow MLA citation rules in this essay.

This assignment is due in Lesson 18. 

Hopefully the research narrative essay will be a useful step in preparing us to write the draft research report. We now should have all kinds of content for our COW but also all kinds of questions about how to organize the beast in order to write a coherent, logical, persuasive research report. The research narrative essay can help us to sort through the confusion and begin to find some central meanings in our research.

The sample student research project includes a sample research narrative essay.
See also the sample illustration by Dr. Elizabeth Gutchess on this website. 

Assignment for Lesson 15: add three more sources, and whatever else you want, to your research journal (as assigned in Lesson 12.)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: ancient Roman mosaic showing those noble Romans  "Socrates," "Plato," and "Aristotle."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


gutchess@englishare.net                    Academic writing home page                    Gary Gutchess © 2003