Before beginning your research project, it is recommended that you think about how comprehensive your research must be, how current your sources of information need to be, and your intended audience's level of expertise. Then define your research topic as specifically as possible and don't be afraid to refine your topic as you learn more about it. Suggested guidelines for doing library research follow and may be adapted to fit your needs.
Table of Contents
- How do I find out if the Library has books and theses on my topic?
- How do I find articles in journals on my topic?
- Another way to do research -- Citation Searching!!!
- Keeping Current
- How do I find out if the Library has the item I need?
- What if the Library doesn't have the item I need?
- A final caveat: Evaluate what you find!
The HSU Library Catalog is the guide to books, periodicals, videos, compact discs, DVDs, etc. in the HSU Library. Most government documents are not included in the library catalog. Beginning in March 1998, U.S. government documents are included in the library catalog. California state documents published after mid-1999 are also in the library catalog. For information on how to search HSU Library Catalog, see HSU Library Catalog: Help Contents. The default screen is for the Basic Search. You may conduct more complex searches using the Advanced Search option - simply click on the Advanced tab.
- If you are not looking for a particular book or if you do not know the author or title, you must look by subject. The best way to search for a subject is by doing a keyword search. Brainstorm and use synonyms to describe your topic. When you find one really good book on your topic, you can look at the Subject(s) portion of the record for that book and use the link(s) to find other books on the same subject.
- If you browse the shelves around the book you want, you may find other books of interest. This is because the Library of Congress classification system used in HSU Library is based on the subject of the book.
- Reference Materials can provide you with background information, major theories or researchers, and definitions of key terms. There are print and electronic reference sources in HSU Library. Print and selected electronic reference materials are listed in the HSU Library Catalog and may be located by adding terms such as encyclopedia?, director?, dictionar?, etc. to your search. You might also try searching for electronic and print reference materials by choosing Reference Collection (including Eref) from the pull-down Optional Limits menu (Title and Keyword Searches Only).
- Books tend to treat a subject in depth but are generally not the most current source of information, especially in the rapidly changing areas of science and technology.
- Master's theses done at HSU may be found by using the HSU Theses search option. You may use the pull-down menu to browse by department/degree area and/or the optional search box to search for keyword(s), author, year, subject, title, etc.
- Journals (aka periodicals) are usually the most current sources of research information and may appear in print and/or electronic formats. However, journal articles are not indexed in the HSU Library Catalog. You must use Databases/indexes/abstracts to find articles on your topic.
See also Theses and Dissertations with an Emphasis on Natural Resources for more information on finding theses in the HSU Library. Two print copies of all HSU theses are housed in the HSU Library. Since 2005, electronic copies of HSU theses have been added to Humboldt Digital Scholar, with links to the full text from the HSU Library Catalog.
Articles in journals may be found by using Databases that index the literature related to environmental systems. Most of these databases (or indexes) also provide summaries (abstracts) of the articles as well as links to the full text of the article. For this reason, databases may also be referred to as Indexes/Abstracts.
The databases most appropriate for research in environmental systems may be found at Articles & Databases: Environmental Systems.
In addition to journal articles, indexes/abstracts may also index articles/reports published in conference proceedings, government documents, technical reports, dissertations, and other sources. Indexes/abstracts vary in scope, depth and breadth of subject coverage. The Search Strategy Worksheet gives a step-by-step description of how to develop your search. There are also search strategy guides tailored to science: Identifying Concepts and Generating Search Terms and AND, OR, NOT (Boolean Operators).
Most electronic indexes/abstracts/databases are available only to HSU faculty, students and staff. To access them from off-campus, see HSU Library - Off Campus Access to Databases
In addition to Articles & Databases: Environmental Systems, there are databases that only contain the full text of journals or books. These may be of use depending on your research topic.
Full Text Databases - These are only a few of the databases that contain full text of journal articles or books.
- ACM Digital Library - This database of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has the full text of every article ever published by ACM.
- ACS Publications This database contains the full text of articles in over 40 journals published by the American Chemical Society.
- BioOne (2000- ) Full text of 86 high-impact bioscience, environmental science and ecology research journals published by scientific societies.
- ebrary (2000- ) A searchable collection of over 41,000 electronic book titles and 1000 maps. Printing is limited to 10 pages per print job and 40 pages per browser session. See more information for technical specifications and instructions on downloading the ebrary Reader plugin.
- National Academies Press "National Academies Press publishes over 200 books a year on a wide range of topics in science, engineering, and health, capturing the most authoritative views on important issues in science and health policy." Over 3,600 freely accessible online books are available from the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council at the National Academies Press website.
- Oxford Journals (1996- ) Full text version of 168 journals published by Oxford University Press in the areas of arts and humanities, social sciences, sciences including medicine, and technology.
- Safari Books Online Database of over 2800 full text searchable technical books (Title Coverage List) from important publishers including Addison-Wesley, Adobe, Microsoft, Prentice-Hall, SAMS, Que, New Riders, and more.
- ScienceDirect Elsevier's full text database of over 1100 journals in 24 fields of study.
- Scientific American Archive (1993- ) A full text database of the complete editorial pages of the magazine, including the current newsstand issue. Articles and features include all text and graphics in color PDF files, and are fully searchable. HSU Library also has Scientific American in print format (periodical T 1 S55).
- SpringerLink Complete contents of more than 2100 journals published by Springer and Kluwer in subjects including science, technology, humanities, and law.
- Wiley Interscience Fulltext Internet access to over 1400 Wiley-Blackwell journals online as well as searchable contents listings, abstracts, and related web sites. Journals are volume 1 to present.
If you know of a particularly relevant or "classic" article on your topic, you may use Citation Searching to locate more recent articles which cite that relevant or classic article. Google Scholar is useful when searching citations. The Advanced Scholar Search option is the best way to search for articles which cite a known article. Please see How to Use Google Scholar and the HSU Library for more information. More ways to search citations may be found in the Citation Searching section of Searching the Scientific Literature.
Listed below are several databases that will send you the table of contents when a new issue of a key journal is available. Some of these databases will also run your stored search strategy periodically and send you any new references that result from the search. Also see Current Awareness in the Sciences for more ways to keep current.
- ACM Digital Library - The database of Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) publications has fulltext of every article ever published by ACM. You may sign up to receive the table of contents via email as new issues become available.
- ACS Publications - This database contains the full text of articles in over 40 journals published by the American Chemical Society. You can sign up for free email alerts which are of two types: (1) ASAP (As Soon As Publishable) Alerts of articles posted to the web before being assigned to an issue; and (2) Table of Contents Alerts sent when the complete issue is posted on the web.
- CSA Alerts - Receive weekly notification of new research indexed in the BioOne Abstracts and Indexes, Environmental Sciences and Pollution Management or GeoRef databases. To set up your profile, click on the Alert me link at the top of the Results List. You may also set up an alert by clicking on the Search History link in the upper right hand portion of the search screen and clicking on the Save OR Alert link for the search statement(s) you wish to have searched automatically.
- Energy Citations Database (ECD) - Sign up to receive weekly alerts in topic(s) of interest via email by clicking on the Alerts link. You will need to register before you can receive alerts.
- National Academies Press - Sign up to receive e-mail notices of new titles published in subject categories that interest you as they are released.
- Oxford Journals - Use the My Account link to set up keyword, author, or table of contents alerts for individual Oxford journals. You may also set up a citation alert to be notified when a specific article has been cited by another author.
- ScienceDirect - Elsevier's full text database of over 1100 journals in 24 fields of study has three types of alerts: (1) Search Alerts of articles added that match a saved search strategy; (2) New Issue Alerts which send tables of contents as issues are published; and (3) Citation Alerts which send a notice when new articles that cite a specific article of interest are added to the database.
- SpringerLink - Complete contents of more than 2100 journals published by Springer and Kluwer in subjects including science, technology, humanities, and law. You can sign up for table of contents alerts and/or keyword search alerts to keep up in your field of interest.
- Wiley Interscience - Wiley-Blackwell's full text database of over 1400 journals has a Alerts service which sends tables of contents as issues are published. You may also save a search and have any new content matching your search criteria sent to you via email. Individual users may register to create personal home pages incorporating data files, article links, and stored searches.
Once you have a list of citations or references on the topic you are researching, you must determine if HSU Library has the article, book, report or document cited. While you are searching a database, click on the icon next to each citation and a link to full text availability of that article or book will appear.
If there is no icon, see if there is another link to full text. If not, check the HSU Library Catalog if the reference is to a book, report, dissertation, or other non-serial publication. If the reference is to an article in a journal or other serially published title, the best way to determine if it is available is to use the Journal and Newspaper Finder, a searchable guide to the 15,000 journals, magazines, newspapers and other serials accessible online (fulltext) as well as to the periodicals & serials in HSU Library. The Journal and Newspaper Finder has been enhanced with common periodical abbreviations. Using the contains search option you can search an abbreviation, e.g.,jacs, and retrieve Journal of the American Chemical Society.
If you have a full reference to an article that includes at least the year, volume, issue and starting pages of your article, you may use the Citation Linker to locate it if the Journal and Newspaper Finder indicates that the full text of the journal is available in electronic format for the date(s) of interest.
Indexes and abstracts often use abbreviations in their citations which you *may* need to decipher. Many indexes and abstracts publish separate lists of the abbreviations used. Consult a reference librarian at the Library's Information Desk (hours) to locate an appropriate list of abbreviations or use the reference book Periodical Title Abbreviations: by abbreviation (ref Z 6945 A2 P47) located in the Reference collection on the first floor. You may also use All That JAS: Journal Abbreviation Sources and other resources listed on Finding Periodical Title Abbreviations to locate abbreviations and their full titles. Do not guess at what abbreviations mean!
Remember that most government documents prior to 1998 are not listed in HSU Library Catalog. If you wish to find a government document, consult the guides: How to Find Federal Documents in the HSU Library and How to Find California Documents in the HSU Library. You may also ask a reference librarian for assistance at the Reference Desk on the first floor (hours) or in the Humboldt Room, room 308 (hours).
If the Library does not have the book, report, document, article, etc. which you need, you may request it through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). See Interlibrary Loan Frequently Asked Questions for more information. Requests may be placed by logging on to the Interlibrary Loan System. There are also links to the ILL System from pages when the HSU Library doesn't have full text. This process can take as long as TWO WEEKS for books and ONE WEEK for articles so it is a good idea to begin your research early.
You must critically evaluate the resources found online (as well as in the Library) by asking yourself the following questions:
- Is the author an authority? What are his or her credentials?
- Is the journal or source document (online or print) reputable?
- Was valid methodology used?
- Were valid conclusions drawn?
- and so on...
More detailed information on how to evaluate resources may be found in the following:
- Research Roadmap: Evaluating - The unit of HSU Library's online tutorial that will help you evaluate information sources.
- Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: Evaluating Web Resources - A general introduction to evaluating information on the web by Sharon Chadwick, HSU Librarian. Includes a Checklist you may use when you are looking at web resources.
- Evaluating Information: Applying the CRAAP Test - A list of questions from the Meriam Library at CSU Chico to ask yourself in order to determine the reliability of the information you find.
- Critically Analyzing Information Sources - from Cornell University.
Be especially careful when surfing the Web!! The following references are especially helpful and tell you what to look for (and look out for):
- Evaluating Information Found on the Internet - from Johns Hopkins University.
- Evaluating Internet Resources - from Binghamton University.
- Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources - from UCLA Library.