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Amandajean Nolte

Seminar in Teaching College Writing

Balancing the role of scholar and teacher means constantly reminding oneself of the goals of each role.

The research skills I practice with my graduate students are different than the ones I present to our introductory students. Like most disciplinary pursuits, information literacy is best learned across time and context with increasing levels of difficulty and nuance. 

Graduate-level Research Skills

How to start?

Start with a question or a problem and go looking for ALL of the answers or solutions. Don't limit yourself to a predetermined thesis. Allow those that came before you to guide you. You're entering a conversation that began long before you started asking questions. Be humble. 

Where to search?

Everywhere. That's not fair. Everywhere is overwhelming, but definitely in multiple places. As an undergraduate, cherry-picking a few sources from one place might have worked okay. As a graduate student, however, the goal is different. You are trying to become an expert in an area of scholarship which means locating the depth of what has been written. This requires time and ingenuity.

Databases: English Language and Literature
Databases: Education
Databases: Multidisciplinary/Other

College Writing and Research-level Skills

How to start?

Lower-level undergraduates generally believe they must start their research with an answer and a definitive thesis. They developmentally do not yet see research as a learning process. Helping them view research as an inquiry process that shapes their topic is incredibly helpful, but can be incredibly difficult.

Where to search?

In three very specific places. At this level, we want to help students find general resources, and the best places to find those are in our two big multidisciplinary databases and our library catalog. Sure, we have more resources than that, but you don't want to cause overwhelm my offering too many choices.

Other Resources to Know

Interlibrary Loan (is your friend)

Contrary to what Google would have you believe, most information is not free. Rod Library pays a lot of money for the resources you access through our databases, unfortunately, budgets never go as far as we wish they would. If we do not have access to the material you need, our Interlibrary Loan staff will try to get it for you. 

In addition to filling out the form, many of our databases include a yellow "Find It" button. yellow find it button

This button will sometimes open the article's full-text from another product to which we subscribe. However, if we do not have full-text access, it will take you to a library catalog (OneSearch) screen where you can "Request from ILLiad."

NOTE: You must sign in to your Rod Library account using your CatID to see this option in the library catalog.

Google Scholar (may or may not be)

Google Scholar search bar

There are some things I love about Google Scholar, but like most things, there are downsides.

  1. Because Google doesn't make money off of this product, I'm always afraid one day we will wake up and they will have decided to shut it down. (RIP Google Reader 2005-2013).
  2. Google Scholar indexes metadata from the free web. It does not actually have permission to share this scholarship. This means returns are often nothing more than abstracts and paywalls. DO NOT PAY FOR ARTICLES. Check Rod Library, use Interlibrary Loan, or reach out to your librarian for assistance.
  3. Google Scholar does not vet the journals it indexes and has been known to include predatory journals. It also includes links to school repositories which often include undergraduate research projects, which are not peer-reviewed. 
  4. Google Scholar sorts results by popularity, not relevance or date. 

When you use it, use it with your eyes wide open and always do three things:

  1. Access it through the Rod Library homepage, to also access UNI-accessible PDFs.
  2. Evaluate the results (including checking the credibility of the journal in which the article was published).
  3. Use Google Scholar IN ADDITION to other databases, not in replacement of them. 

Rod Library Google Scholar search bar