Valuing Content Over Format
What kind of resources should you be using for your research project? Your primary concern should be the CONTENT of a resource, not the FORMAT of the resource. For example, do you need in-depth information? Analysis? Statistics? Should you use original research? Would an editorial provide the details you need? Do you need information that has been peer reviewed? What about using primary sources? After considering the types of content you might need, then you can think about format and where to locate the right resource.
The boxes below describe the various types of content you might encounter when doing research. Lingering in the background, however, are the different formats this information can take, as well as the types of tools we use to search. After reading through the boxes detailing content types, use the Checklist below to help determine the format that would be valuable for your project. Finally, look over the table comparing typical Google searches with searches in the library databases, this makes it a little more clear exactly what you can find using each tool.
Sources of Government Information
A wide array of content can be found using government documents and resources. Many government documents can be found freely on the Internet. You can limit a search in Google to government documents and websites by adding "site:.gov" to the end of your search terms.
The following list of links to government websites may help get you started with your search and give you a general idea of what government resources are available:
Primary Sources vs. Secondary Sources
Primary sources are unfiltered information about an event. These are sources without interpretation, often coming from individuals who experienced the event. Examples of primary sources include statistics, novels, eyewitness newspaper accounts of an event, photographs of an event, the results of a study, the text of a speech, or an original painting.
Secondary sources interpret existing information. These sources explain what other sources mean, they interpret data, or present existing data in a new way. Examples of secondary sources include a journal article which discusses the results of a study, an article arguing the meaning of statistics, an analysis of a speech, or a critique of a painting.
Scholarly vs. Popular
Television, radio, newspapers, and news magazines are some of the major sources of news but, anymore, the majority of news content is accessed via the Internet. News websites, social media sites, and blogs are all sources of news and the content of these sites can be generated by actual news outlets or regular citizens who are monitoring an event as it happens. All news should be evaluated for bias.
It is important to get news from a variety of sources. Google News can provide variety, including an international perspective on current world events, but consider using one of the news databases from the library's list of Databases A-Z. In addition to current news sources, these databases can provide historic sources which offer a unique perspective of events in the moment they occurred.
What can you eliminate as a potential resource for your assignment? For example, if your topic is related to medical research, would a Twitter feed be a trustworthy source for medical facts and data? If not, click the box and eliminate the resource.
- Social Media
- Other Websites
- Reference Books (e.g. encyclopedias, atlases)
- Academic Journals
- Government Documents
- Popular Magazines
Why can't I just use Google?
|Google searches websites and the text content of those websites. It DOES NOT search the content of files on a site.||Content is generally a specific type and databases often focus on a single discipline. Content types can include journal articles, books, images, and videos. The Vann Library offers discipline-specific databases for Nursing, Business, Education, and many additional topics.|
|You can search using normal language and phrases. You can even search for a specific image.||Searches can include keywords, subject terms, author names, and specific titles.|
|Search terms are general and common language is used.||Search terms are very specific.|
|Searches text and metadata for every webpage on the Internet (see the website INTERNET LIVE STATS for an idea of how much information is added to the Internet each day...).||Searches individual records for each article or item in the database. This is helpful because the fields provide a framework for you to structure your search. If you know a specific piece of information about a specific item, you can find it.|
If you have any questions about the Research Process, using library resources, or completing these modules, please contact one of our Reference Librarians via the contact information below. You can always call or text our Ask-a-Librarian phone number for help as well. That number is 260.638.VANN (8266).
Cindy Kump, MLS
Reference & Instruction Librarian
260.399.7700, ext. 6056
Celia Price, MLS
Reference & Instruction Librarian
260.399.7700, ext. 6066