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Research Process Assignment

The Research Process assignment will take you through the process of finding a topic and examining the information literacy landscape of that topic in the Library Database.

Below is the topic list from which you can choose a topic to research for the duration of this course. Note that you must be logged into MyCommnet to be able to access these materials at Issues and Controversies. So it’s best to do this from inside Blackboard. This assignment will show you how to do everything, so be patient.

You should read the Introduction to the Tunxis Library Database and the How to use Issues and Controversies to Choose a Topic which can be found in this course’s Course Content folder in Blackboard first to familiarize yourselves with the significant systems and to understand the steps below.

Do This First:

Completing this section requires that you’ve read How to use Issues and Controversies to Choose a Topic in the Course Content folder in Blackboard. So, before proceeding, do that reading now or what follows won’t make much sense.

Choose a topic from the list of Topic Families below for this assignment and for the duration of the course.

Race, Rights, and Liberties

Economics, Money, and Business

Energy and Environment

Society, Culture, and Religion

Media, Journalism, and Social Networking

(You can also choose from any of the recent controversies)

Do This Second:

Prior to continuing, make sure you’ve read and studied Introduction to the Library Database in the Course Content folder in Blackboard. Before proceeding, you should do that reading now.

Assignment Description:

In a legible narrative paper (I don’t know how long it will be), you should describe how your topic meets a few information literacy standards: the subject is current (topical), substantive, and debatable. You’ll turn the narrative in on the due date on the Course Calendar at the beginning of class.

Once you’ve decided on a topic, you’ll examine the information literacy landscape for the topic by using the Tunxis Library Database and some basic web searching. You’ll want to determine whether your topic is Debatable, Substantive, and Topical. You’ll organize your search narrative around these three standards.

Part 1: Is the Topic Current?

By topical I mean is the topic “currently” being debated and is it generating recent or up-to-date material: in other words, is the topic hot, warm, or cold judged by date?

1. Use the tools discussed in the Introduction to the Tunxis Library Database to explore the date ranges and publication dates of search results. Find a few books, articles, newspaper articles and describe how the topic ranges from past to present in terms of publication date. Play with the Date Range area of the Database sidebar.

2. Sometimes a search can be too general or the computer will poorly-translate your intention. For example, isn’t Climate Change a bit too general? Try different variations of the topic in the search field to see what happens to the date of publication of your search results. Note how the results are being listed in the search results. Do the results go from newer to older?

3. Here’s something else to think about: is there a lot of material being published or added to the database recently? Can you identify this easily?

A Brief Note on Topicality: The topic you’re writing about and researching will most likely be current. But think about how things might be playing out in reality. Just because something is “hot” might not always mean that it’ll be interesting.

Hints for how to blend this section with the previous two: This is a hot/warm/cold topic because . . . and then summarize your investigation as appropriately as you are able.

Part 2: Is the Topic Substantive

Is there sufficient and enough variety of material to research on the issue? Going into the Library Databases and doing a search on the topic will give you an idea about this aspect of the topic’s information landscape. For example, for any given topic search, you’ll probably see a listing of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of resources: books, articles, reference articles, and so forth. This is pretty good evidence that the topic is substantive.

In the Library Database, play with the Resource Type, Subject sort, Show Only, and New Records limiters using your chosen topic or several topics.

1. Describe what happens when you click a Resource Type or several of them. How does the search result list change?

2. Describe what happens when you choose different Subjects in the Subject area to your search results. Can you determine what one of those subjects “means” given the alteration to the search results? What happens when you click only on Books as Resource Type and then start playing with the Subject sort? What happens when you choose Articles as the Resource Type and then play with the New Records limiter, sifting down to the last week or last month?

2. Finally, try to find a good Reference article on the topic, a Book, and a fairly recent article on the topic and post their bibliographic records in your narrative.

There are a few other things you should do to complete this section of the narrative. Using a search engine like Google or Bing, type the topic or the “debate question” into the search field and see what’s delivered. Make a short list of search items. In addition, type your topic into the search field of Google Scholar or Bing Academic and make a list of potentially useful sources, identifying titles of articles, books, and their authors. Don’t overwhelm yourself with this. Make a short of list of items to accompany your normal search engine materials. Describe what you’re finding by boiling things down.

Describe much of this work in your Process Narrative.

Part 3: Is the Topic Debatable

There are two ways of thinking about debatability. Who are the people actively taking positions or making arguments about the topic? The question is: can you describe the debate and who the major players (authors, experts, groups) may be in the debate? Use the Tunxis Library Database search to determine whether your topic (for example: Job Creation) is in active debate. By skimming, can you describe in general what the debate is? For example, Author A has an idea about how best to create jobs. Author B, C, and D may see things differently.

For this section of the narrative:

1. Dig into the Author/Creator area in the Library Database sidebar. Who are the people publishing a lot on the topic or who have the highest totals of publications? Can you ascertain whether people are publishing a lot in magazines, journals, or books? Are the people in the Author area journalists, academics, other kinds of professionals?

2. Take some of the authors you find in the Author area and search for them on the Internet. Describe what happens and what you find.

3. Thinking about and exploring a few of the Author/Creators, can you describe an overall debate given their published work? Poke around in some of the articles or studies and see what you can ascertain.

Hints for writing this section: This is the debate on this topic and this is how I know . . .

Improvement Notes

In the narrative, make sure that you identify the types of sources you’re finding: books, informative articles, opinions by columnists, studies by experts. Emphasize the “players” involved in the debate.

A Set of Instruction for Alternative Topics

In extreme cases, some students might not be comfortable with the topic list. In this case, students must find a viable/workable topic that demonstrates the same standards described in this assignment, however using different technology. In this case, rather than using the Issues and Controversies format, student will be required to use the standard available internet browsers, such as Google or Bing in order to develop their narrative.

1. The first standard above is introduced as a question: By examining the topic, can you determine whether there is sufficient material to research on the issue in the form of books, articles, and other related media? Students going the alternative route will have to construct a set of debate questions without the assistance of the Issues and Controversies format, which provides a tailored set for the student.

2. Given this problem, you would need to construct a narrative from scratch and be able to answer the sufficient material problem from raw internet and Tunxis Library Database searches.

3. From a raw search, you still need to solve this problem: The question is: can you describe the debate and who the major players (authors, experts, groups) may be in that debate? Through your examination of the topic, do your best to determine what the debate is on the issue, describe a variety of points of view on the issue, and identify people who hold these points of view? This problem cannot be avoided.

4. Et cetera et cetera . . .

Submission Format

1. Submit the results of your work at the beginning of class by the due date in a narrative format with proper MLA header.