IAS 102: Scope and Methods of Research

Questions? That's my job.

  • Lynn Jones

  •  

  • Office Hours: by appointment
  • Office Location: 212 Doe Library
  • Contact Info:

    510 768-7643

How to Narrow Your Topic

"I'm writing a paper on World War II." 

Often students start their research with a very general topic, even though they may realize the topic is too large to deal with in a 10-15 page paper.  Faculty and librarians tell them, "You have to narrow this down."  But how do you narrow a topic?

Ask yourself--

You can combine these ideas, "What were the major impacts of WWII on women in France, in the decade after the war?"

More ideas in our brief tutorial on topic selection and narrowing. 

The Research Process

Choose a topic.  

Do a brain dump: Note down what you already know about your topic, including

Fill in the gaps in your knowlege: get background information from encyclopedias or other secondary sources.  Wikipedia can be good here.

Select the best places/ databases to find information on your topicLook under the History Databases tab of this guide for article database suggestions. Or use a catalog like Oskicat or Melvyl to search for books and other resources.

Use nouns from your brain dump as search terms.

Evaluate what you find.  Change search terms to get closer to what you really want.

Refine Your Topic - Using the information you have gathered, determine if your research topic should be narrower or broader. You may need to search basic resources again using your new, focused topics and keywords. 

Take a look this short tutorial on beginning your research for more ideas.

Build and refine your search

Library catalogs and article databases offer several ways to narrow or broaden, or otherwise control your search.  Below are common methods; if they don't work, look for a "Help" link!

Most default to a quick keyword search (somewhat like Google) that assumes you want items containing all the words you type.

Example:
passions shakespeare

Most let you truncate a word with a wildcard symbol (usually * ) to get plurals and other variant forms.

Example: 
passion*
gets passion, passions, passionate

Most offer an Advanced Search with more options, such as searching on an author's name, or words in a title.

REFINING YOUR SEARCH
If your search retrieves too many items, use more specific terms, or put in additional keywords.

Example: 
eros shakespeare

gets fewer items than love shakespeare

Example: 
love poetry shakespeare

gets fewer items than love shakespeare

If your search gets too few items, use more general terms or remove some keywords.

You can also combine terms with OR to get more items.

Example: 
love OR eros
gets items containing either term.

FINDING RELATED ITEMS
In library catalogs and most article databases, click on the title of an interesting item and look in the detailed display for links (blue underlined text).  These may include the author's name, "Subjects" or "Subject headings".  Clicking on one of these links will do a search for items tagged the same way.

MANAGING RESULTS
Many catalogs and databases allow you to save items to a list/folder/etc. and e-mail, print or download the citation.  Some will allow you to output citations in a particular citation style (ex:  MLA or Chicago).

B.E.A.M.

What sort of articles and data do you need to find for your paper?  Scholarly, for sure, but there are many others:

It's helpful when doing your research to think about how you will use what you find.  The acronym BEAM helps you make sure you find materials that will do the job you need in your paper. Research papers need materials in all four categories.  

B = Background information.    Do you know the seminal works, major scholars and theories in your topical area?  What about the actual definitions of the disciplinary jargon you're using?  Scholarly encyclopedias are the best source of background information: look in Oskicat under your discipline, with the word encyclopedias, [sociology encyclopedias]. Could also use Wikipedia, a textbook, a newspaper, or any source that fills you in on your big topic. 

E = Evidence   Often called primary sources, evidence is the stuff you are studying in your research.  Evidence could be news coverage, laws, court cases, personal interviews, statistics or data... whatever helps you prove your thesis.

A = Analysis  Here are the secondary sources-- analysis is usually written by faculty scholars or technical experts, who are themselves analyzing evidence that they may include or cite.  As a student writing a paper, you are doing analysis, so it's important to refer to the work of others studying the same topic

M = Methodology  This means the methods and questions you will use to analyze your evidence.  Each discipline has its own favorite ways of asking questions and its own ideas about what sort of information can serve as evidence.  You must know which methods are suitable to the disciplines you are working within.  To find methodology, search for books by using the name of the discipline and the word methodology.  E.g. Sociology method*.

[Bizup, Joseph.  "BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing." Rhetoric Review Vol. 27, Iss. 1, 2008]

See also

For specialized encyclopedias and specific databases useful for international and area studies research, see this detailed library  guide to resources for IAS 102

Searching Library Catalogs

oskicat logo Use OskiCat to locate materials related to your topic, including books, government publications, and  audio and video recordings, in the libraries of UC Berkeley. OskiCat will show you the location and availability of the items that we own.

melvyl logo

Use Melvyl to locate materials related to your topic located at other campuses in the UC system, or worldwide. You can use the Request button to request an item from another library, if we don't own it.

Melvyl has changed as of January 2012, and now includes many more articles.  Detailed Melvyl help

Using call numbers to find books

Books and journals are arranged on our shelves according to the Library of Congress (LC) classification system. Each is assigned a unique call number based on its subject matter and other characteristics. Items on the same subject will often be grouped together.

In using a call number to locate a book on the shelf, consider each element in turn before moving on to the next segment.

These call numbers are arranged as they should appear on the shelves. In each case, the element shown in boldface distinguishes the number from the preceding one:

Q
76
K26
QA
17
F75
QA
17.1
C98
TK
3
Z37
TK
29
M49
TK
29
M5
1997
TK
29
M5
2007

Each call number consists of several elements. For example::

TK
7881.6
M29
1993

The FIRST line, TK, is based on the broad subject of the book. Within Class T for technology, TK represents electrical engineering.

The SECOND line, 7881.6, defines the subject matter more finely. When looking for the book, read this as a whole number with a decimal component. In this example, TK7881.6 represents magnetic recording (a subdivision of TK— electrical engineering).

The THIRD line, M29, usually indicates author, but may also represent a further subject subdivision, geographic area, etc. There may also be a fourth line, formatted the same way. When looking for the book, read the numeric component as if it were preceded by a decimal point. In the example above, the numeric part of M29 should be read as ".29" (and the call number TK7881.6 M29 comes before TK7881.6 M4).

The YEAR of publication, such as 1993, may also be present. These file in chronological order and often indicate successive editions of a book. The call number may also have additional elements, such as volume numbers.

ebrary = ebooks

ebrary is our largest collection of full text ebooks, with 40,000 titles on a wide range of subjects. Find them in the UCB catalog, OskiCat (keyword: ebrary or limit to "Available Online"), or search the ebrary site directly:

Search ebrary

 

Getting started with ebrary

Databases To Start

You have access to hundreds of databases in specific disciplines.  Here are a few that work for almost any topic.

Where's the PDF?

Many article databases contain information about articles (citations or abstracts), not the entire text of the article.  Once you've used an article database to find articles on your topic, you may need to use this button:uc-eLinks button in order to locate and read the full text of the article. The UC-eLinks button appears in nearly all the databases available from the UCB Library website.

UC-eLinks will link you to the online full text of an article if UCB has paid for online access; otherwise, UC-eLinks will help you locate a print copy on the shelf in the library. If UCB doesn't own the article in print or online format, UC-eLinks can also help you order a copy from another library.

For more information, watch this video tutorial (about 4 min.)

You can also set up UC-eLinks to work with Google Scholar.  For more information, watch this 40-second demo.

Finding Other Databases

Search an article database to find citations (title, author, title of journal, date, page numbers) for articles on a particular topic.  The Library gives you access to over 200 article databases covering different disciplines.

1.  Think about which academic disciplines might write about your topic.  Examples:  literature, film, anthropology, history...

2.  Find the appropriate article database by subject (academic discipline or department).  Look for "Recommended" databases.

Library home > Articles > Article Databases by Subject

3.  You may need databases that cover diffferent types of materials - historical or ethnic newspapers, congressional information, primary sources, etc:

Library home > Electronic Resources > Electronic Resources, Types A-Z >

Find an Article from a Citation

Here's a citation for an article...how do you find the whole article?

Gaultney, J. F. (2010). The Prevalence of Sleep Disorders in College Students: Impact on Academic Performance. Journal of American College Health, 59(2), 91-97

This citation is for an article by J. F. Gaultney, published in 2010 in the Journal of American College Health, a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal. It's part of volume 59, issue 2 of this journal, and was printed on pages 91-97. There are several ways of determining if the article you're looking for is available at Berkeley, in electronic or printed format:

Option 1: Use Google Scholar to locate a citation for the article, and UC-eLinks to retrieve the full text.

Paste or type the citation into Google and pull down the Google Scholar tool. Here's how:

jing thumbnail

Remember to set up off-campus access if you're off-campus. Here's a brief video that shows what to do if you don't see UC-eLinks in your search results.

Note: Google Scholar does not cover all publishers, and many journals indexed by Google Scholar have partial coverage only (some years/volumes missing). Also, not all articles found through Google Scholar will be available online. If you can't find the full text of your article this way, read on for more options!

Option 2: Look up the journal title in OskiCat or Melvyl.

You can also search for the title of the journal (NOT the article title!) in either OskiCat or Melvyl.  They will tell you:

Click this link for a 45-second demo.

Read more

Find a seminal article

Find an influential article, one that has been cited frequently.  Use the multidisciplinary database Web of Science.

  1. Enter your search terms.
  2. Analyze by Research Area [see left side navigation column]
  3. Choose one or more research areas
  4. Rank the new results by Times Cited, most to least.

See also

For specialized encyclopedias and specific databases useful for international and area studies research, see this detailed library  guide to resources for IAS 102

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is an easy way to do interdisciplinary research, and with some settings changes can become even more useful.  You need a Google account to use these features.

Do your search in Google Scholar. Look in the left sidebar for the Create Alert link next to the envelope icon, and click it.  New items will be sent to your email account as they are found by Google.

Open Scholar.  Click on the gear icon gear icon in the upper right corner, and choose 'scholar preferences'. In the next screen, choose Library Links from the left-hand menu. In the search box, type the word Berkeley.  Choose University of California, Berkeley - UC-eLinks, and Open Worldcat Search.

Do a Google Scholar search. Click on the "Cited by" link under a citation and select the "Search within articles citing..." checkbox.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

In order to avoid plagiarism, you must give credit when

Recommendations

 

This content is part of the Understanding Plagiarism tutorial created by the Indiana University School of Education.

Citation Management Tools

Citation management tools help you manage your research, collect and cite sources, and create bibliographies in a variety of citation styles.  Each one has its strengths and weaknesses, but any are easier than doing it by hand!

  1. Zotero: A free plug-in; keeps copies of what you find on the web, permits tagging, notation, full text searching of your library of resources, works with Word, and has a free cloud storage service.
  2. RefWorks - free for UC Berkeley users. It allows you to create your own database by importing references and using them for footnotes and bibliographies. Use the RefWorks New User Form to sign up.
  3. EndNote: may be purchased from UC Berkeley's Software Central.

It's always good to double check the formatting -- sometimes the software doesn't get it quite right.

Using APA 6th? Purdue has produced this very handy quick guide. The fulltext of APA 6th is not available online, but we do have print copies in the EdPsych Library in reference and short term reserve at BF76.7 P83 2010

Citing your sources

Our guide to Citing Your Sources tells how to establish your paper's credibility and avoid plagiarism, and provides links to detailed examples of MLA and other citation formats.

Zotero Tips

If you've never used Zotero before, use the QuickStart Guide to get started.

Change your preferences if you want  Zotero to

To use Zotero to find specific articles in our library's databases, set up the Open URL resolver with this link: http://ucelinks.cdlib.org:8888/sfx_local? 

An in-depth discussion of the relative virtues of Endnote and Zotero,

 

Citing Websites

Citing a website

 The complete citation should look like this:

 Anti-slavery International. "Anti-slavery: today’s fight for tomorrow’s freedom." 4/12/2002. http://www.antislavery.org/ (4 Dec. 2003).

 The components of the citation are [in this order]:

•        Author's name, last name first (if known), or organizational author

•        Title of the page, in quotation marks

•        Title of the complete website (if applicable), in italics

•        Date of the webpage or last revision (if available)

•        Full URL including protocol (e.g., "http")

•        Date you read it, in parentheses

 

Research Advisory Service

Research Advisory Service for Cal Undergraduates

Book a 30-minute appointment with a librarian who will help refine and focus research inquiries, identify useful online and print sources, and develop search strategies for humanities and social sciences topics (examples of research topics).

Schedule, view, edit or cancel your appointment online (CalNetID required)

This service is for Cal undergraduates only. Graduate students and faculty should contact the library liaison to their department or program for specialized reference consultations.

Reference Desks Help

"There are no dumb questions!" 

That's the philosophy of reference librarians, who are here to save you time and trouble. If you get stuck, you can talk to a reference librarian at any campus library

reference librarian

Library FAQs

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