What is Research?The Savvy Information ConsumerInformation LiteracyResearch Glossary
Different Kinds of Information ResourcesHow Academic Information is OrganizedThe GSC Discovery ServiceMobile Apps for the GSC Discovery ServiceEvaluating InformationUsing Resources from other NHCUC Libraries
Citing Your SourcesCitation ToolsAvoiding PlagiarismCopyright
Understanding the AssignmentResearch TimelineOrganize Your ResearchDefine Your Topic & Search TermsA Simple Search ProcessEnhance Your Search StrategyPutting It All Together
This is the "Library Research Assignments - Student ed." page of the "GSC Research Guide" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

This guide is intended to lead students through the research process.
Last Updated: Oct 22, 2014 URL: http://libguides.granite.edu/libresearch Print Guide RSS Updates

Library Research Assignments - Student ed. Print Page
  Search: 
 
 

Introduction to Common Research Assignments

Below are outlined directions for completing some library research assignments. The directions should serve as a guide. In all cases you need to query your instructor first about the assignment. Not sure what questions to ask? See the Research Guide page on Understanding the Assignment.

We are interested in hearing from you- if you found these directions helpful, let us know. If you were presented with a particularly hard or interesting research assignment, we would like to know that too. E-mail the College Librarian.

 

Assignment 1: Find Peer Reviewed Articles

The Process

You have been asked to find peer-reviewed (sometimes called scholarly) articles on a topic. Here is what you do:

  1. Go to the library homepage
  2. Click on the GSC Discovery Service
  3. Enter the UserID and Password - If you do not know the UserID and Password (this is different from your single log-in WebRock and e-learning+/Moodle credentials). Please Contact the GSC Librarian if you need the log in information.
  4. This will take you to the Basic Search page
  5. Under the search field note Search Options- click on the link
  6. The information box that appears will contain a number of search options: Check Peer Review. It is also recommended that you check Full Text, so that you can read all the articles retrieved from your search. 
  7. Enter your keywords in the Basic Search field and click on Search
  8. The Discovery Service will retrieve peer reviewed articles based on your search criteria. You can use the Cite tool to create a citation, or the permalink tool to submit a permalink to the article.

For More Help

The above directions are the basic process steps, to learn more about aspects of the assignment see also:

 

Assignment 2: Find Key Journals in Your Field of Study

Introduction

While there are many different ways to find journals in an academic subject, this guide walks you through the process for finding journals in the GSC Discovery Service. The first step is to understand what a journal is. Most professions produce publications that contain articles, news of the organization, and sometimes new research. A journal is simply a publication that is produced on a regular schedule, with articles written by experts, and those articles are generally reviewed by other experts before they are accepted for publication.

Why This is Important

You may be asked to find journals and use articles published in an academic area (sometimes known as an academic discipline).  Following are the directions for finding journals.

Find Journals in an Academic Subject

  1. Log on to the GSC Discovery Service: If you do not know the USER ID and PASSWORD Contact the GSC Librarian
  2. At the Basic Search Page note the top navigation bar. There is a link called A-Z Publications Locator. Click on it
  3. This will bring you to the Granite State College Resource List page, and a set of tabs
  4. Click on the Subjects tab
  5. This will take you to a page with a drop-down menu called "Select a subject to view."
  6. Use the chevron (arrow) to expand the menu
  7. You will immediately see that there are broad categories of subjects followed by number in parenthesis. An example: Business and Economics (4690). That means GSC has access to 4690 journal titles in Business and Economics. It does NOT mean we have full-text access to articles in all those journals.
  8. Each of these broad categories can be expanded to narrow the subject. An example: Business and Economics can be expanded to a large number of sub-topics, and the sub-topics might be further expanded.
  9. Once you find the subject that is closest the journals you want click on the subject link.
  10. You will then get a list of journal titles. The list also contains some other information: the database the journal is indexed in, and the subject(s) under which you will find the journal
  11. Click on the database link- a meta-record about the journal will appear with ALL ISSUES appearing along the right. To see individual volumes of the journal click on the year you want, then the issue. You might also note that a field in the meta-record contains information about how often the journal is published or if it is peer-reviewed.

The Academic Subject I am Searching is Not Included in the Subject List

There are two possibilities for why this might occur. 1) The subject term you are using is not the one used by the profession 2) GSC does not have access to any journals in the subject area. The first situation is far more frequent than the second. Here is what you can do:

  • If you know of an article or journal that is in the subject, search for it in the discovery service. If you are looking at a journal record, note the Subject assigned to the journal. That is the subject term you should search under to find more journals.
  • If you know of an article, search for the article. Note in the meta-record the name of the journal it was published in. Now search for that journal title and repeat the previous step.
  • If this seems like way too much detail to absorb, contact the GSC College Librarian. She can help.

 

 

Assignment 3: Create a Literature Review

A literature review is not an annotated bibliography in which you summarize briefly each article that you have reviewed. While a summary of the what you have read is contained within the literature review, it goes well beyond merely summarizing professional literature. It focuses on a specific topic of interest to you and includes a critical analysis of the relationship among different works, and relating this research to your work.


The Basic Process Steps

The Preliminaries


    1.    Determine the topic for your literature review
    2.    Identify the key words, major authors/researchers in your topic
    3.    Log into the GSC Discovery Service
    4.    Set the search options to Full Text and Peer Reviewed
    5.    Using your key words and authors search for relevant resources

Assess the Resources You Found: (Use Evernote to keep track of your notes and resources)

  • Read the text and summarize the author's main points by making notes
  • In academic writing, you also need to be fully informed about the sources that look relevant to your research: for example, who is the writer and what are his/her credentials,
  • what is the purpose of and audience for the publication
  • how does a particular source fit into the larger, ongoing conversation about this question.
  • look at the factors external to the source in order to help you determine its credibility and authority. Answer the following sets of questions for each of your sources:
  • AUTHOR: Conduct a brief search on the author to determine his/her expertise, reputation, and credibility. Look at citations, articles, and books by this author to find information about who the author is, what his/her credentials are, and what occupation or position s/he holds.
  • PUBLICATION & AUDIENCE: 1)Examine the publication for which the author is writing to determine the author's intended audience, and the publication's reputation, credibility, and target reader/researcher. 2)Look in the text for clues to what audience the author is addressing, e.g., specialized or general vocabulary, types of sources cited, explicit references to the audience. 3) Look at the publication itself: front/back cover, submission guidelines, editorial board, etc., for an indication of audience and types of articles. Once you're satisfied that your source is credible and reliable, you are ready to analyze the text itself.
  • ARGUEMENT & EVIDENCE: 1) Carefully read the text, looking at the evidence the author is using and the structure of the argument (e.g., whether it moves logically from point to point). 2) Identify the range of evidence (personal opinions or observations, research, case studies, analogies, statistics, facts, quotations, etc.). 3) Assess how the author presents and discusses alternative perspectives in relation to his/her thesis. 4) Locate any gaps or inconsistencies in the development of the argument.
  • RELEVANCE & CONSISTENCY: 1) Analyze the text in relation to your question and developing thesis, and in relation to other sources you've been reading. 2) If it supports your thinking, identify the assumptions/biases/perspectives influencing the writer, and how they compare to your own and those of other writers with whom this one agrees. 3) If it is an opposing perspective, identify the assumptions/biases/perspectives influencing the writer, and how they compare to your own and those of other writers with whom this one agrees? 4) Determine how this source contributes to your understanding or to generating new questions in your thinking?

Create a Matrix in Evernote

From your initial forays into the sources, you should have some sense of the range of ways authors answer your question and that there are, in fact, several reasonable and defensible answers to your question. It is important to begin understanding what influences different writers to answer your question differently. You will want to start identifying the perspectives, schools of thought, sets of variables, etc., that influence the question you're trying to answer. You will also want to organize your readings into categories that will help you choose the main arguments in support of and in opposition to your thesis.

Write the Literature Review

  • Describe the kind of search that was conducted
  • Summarize, analyze, and organize the various responses found in the scholarly conversation regarding the question
  • Explain why different scholars provide different answers for the same or related questions (i.e. accounts for the debate/tension in the literature)
  • As a result, the literature review does more than report the conclusions of researchers; it accounts for HOW those conclusions are reached.

The literature review plays an important role in research projects because:

  • It locates our research question within the scholarly debate relevant to our concerns
  • We don't need to reinvent the wheel, so we need to discover what has been done and represent it
  • We let the reader see the history of the question and demonstrate that we have done our homework We identify what has not been done, or what has not been done well


Use the Following Steps in Writing Your Literature Review:

  1. Organize your sources by detecting a pattern that helps you explain why one group of sources comes up with one answer and another group comes up with another answer. Creating a matrix is a very effective way of doing this.
  2. Summarize these different groups of sources in terms of how they address the question: what methodology, evidence, critical concepts, etc. do they employ?
  3. Analyze the content of these sources in terms of the answer they provide to your central question or in terms of the question they raise (which may be slightly different from your question). Show how they offer important insights. Show how they neglect particular areas.

This information is based on "Integrating Writing: Assessing Sources/Writing a Literature Review," (http://www.bothell.washington.edu/writingcenter/writing/reviews).

 

Assignment 4: Produce an Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

ANNOTATIONS VS. ABSTRACTS

Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they expose the author's point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and authority.

THE PROCESS

Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.

  • Locate and record citations to books, articles, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic.
  • Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.
  • Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.
  • Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.

Evaluate the Book or Article

Select the Correct Format for Your Citations

  • Check with your instructor to find out which style is preferred for your class. Use the Research Guide Citing Your Sources page to help you format your citations

Samples Annotated Bibliography Entries

The following example uses the APA format for the journal citation.

Waite, L. J., Goldschneider, F. K., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51 (4), 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

This example uses the MLA format for the journal citation. NOTE: Standard MLA practice requires double spacing within citations.

Waite, Linda J., Frances Kobrin Goldscheider, and Christina Witsberger. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review 51.4 (1986): 541-554. Print.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.
 

Assignment 5: Summarize or Analyze an Article

Perhaps your instructor has given you an article, or you have found one on your own. The assignment is to summarize or analyze the article. Summarizing and analyzing are not the same activity. Below are outlined the steps to take in fullfilling each type of assignment.

 Summarize an Article

A summary is a report of author’s viewpoint. A summary is rewriting what you have read in your own words. One can think of the summary as the short version of the original writing. You should tell the reader what were the main and important points of the writing. Your summary should include the thesis or the main argument of the paper. In the summary, you should not include your opinion or what you think the author is trying to imply by writing it. It should only focus on what the author has written. Summary should also not include any kind of evaluation by the reader. You should not write what you think are the author’s strong or weak arguments.

One of the other important information the summary should include is the name of the book or article, the author’s name and the publication information. The publication information is when that piece of writing was first published (Date or year) and where was it published? This information usually goes in the introductory paragraph which is also going to include the thesis statement of the writing you have read.

The summary should also be formal. You should not address the author by their first name; use only their last name of the author. It is typed and usually only one paragraph depending on what you are writing about. I have only listed some of the most common factors that need to be included in the summary. Your instructor could give you a different structure they want you to follow and other guidelines.

What Your Summary Should Address: A brief paragraph describing and informing the reader on three or more of the following elements:

  • Who: those involved
  • What: the event or topic being covered
  • When: time, period, era, night or day
  • Where: the location, distance, place
  • Why: the cause or causes
  • How: the process(es)

 Analyze an Article

An analysis is breaking a large topic into smaller pieces to better understand the subject. In an analysis you are not telling the reader about the main viewpoints of the author or what the writing is about, it is examining the structure and the details of the writing. You break the story into smaller parts to understand it better. Many instructors do not want you to express your opinion about the subject discussed in the paper. You can only give your opinion on how well the author did to convince the reader.

The first paragraph should be the introductory paragraph and it should include the title, author’s name, and publication details. You can also give the reader some background information on the subject being discussed in the writing and then give the thesis statement of the paper. First paragraph can also have a short summary about the paper.

In your analysis paper, you should address what is the main argument that the author is making and how well do they support the argument. The other factor to address is how reliable are the sources, and the authority that the author cites to make their argument strong. An analysis paper can also include the strengths and weaknesses of the paper and how they affect the argument being made by the author. You should also examine the tools like statistics, examples or citing of an authority to analyze the author’s reasoning for writing the paper. The other points one could address in their analysis paper are does the author address the opposition’s view point and does he/she attempts to refute it. Many instructors do not want you to express your opinion about the subject discussed in the paper. You can only give your opinion on how well the author did to convince the reader.  However, depending on your class level and your instructor it might be different and you might be allowed to express your opinion on the subject matter and tell whether you agree or disagree with the author.

What Your Analysis Should Address: Examine the summary elements described above in order to look for their meaning in the following contexts:

  • Relationships, trends, patterns
  • Roles of people, places, objects, situations
  • Consequences or results of events, decisions and processes
  • Causes and their effects
  • Advantages and disadvantages/ gains and losses
  • Strengths and weaknesses

Adapted from: The Writing Center. College of the Sequoias

 

Assignment 6: Write a Book Review

From the Univeristy of North Carolina Writing Lab

A review is a critical evaluation of a text, event, object, or phenomenon. Reviews can consider books, articles, entire genres or fields of literature, architecture, art, fashion, restaurants, policies, exhibitions, performances, and many other forms. This handout will focus on book reviews.

Above all, a review makes an argument. The most important element of a review is that it is a commentary, not merely a summary. It allows you to enter into dialogue and discussion with the work’s creator and with other audiences. You can offer agreement or disagreement and identify where you find the work exemplary or deficient in its knowledge, judgments, or organization. You should clearly state your opinion of the work in question, and that statement will probably resemble other types of academic writing, with a thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Typically, reviews are brief. In newspapers and academic journals, they rarely exceed 1000 words, although you may encounter lengthier assignments and extended commentaries. In either case, reviews need to be succinct. While they vary in tone, subject, and style, they share some common features:

  • First, a review gives the reader a concise summary of the content. This includes a relevant description of the topic as well as its overall perspective, argument, or purpose.
  • Second, and more importantly, a review offers a critical assessment of the content. This involves your reactions to the work under review: what strikes you as noteworthy, whether or not it was effective or persuasive, and how it enhanced your understanding of the issues at hand.
  • Finally, in addition to analyzing the work, a review often suggests whether or not the audience would appreciate it.

Becoming an Expert Reviewer

Reviewing can be a daunting task. Someone has asked for your opinion about something that you may feel unqualified to evaluate. Who are you to criticize Toni Morrison’s new book if you’ve never written a novel yourself, much less won a Nobel Prize? The point is that someone—a professor, a journal editor, peers in a study group—wants to know what you think about a particular work. You may not be (or feel like) an expert, but you need to pretend to be one for your particular audience. Nobody expects you to be the intellectual equal of the work’s creator, but your careful observations can provide you with the raw material to make reasoned judgments. Tactfully voicing agreement and disagreement, praise and criticism, is a valuable, challenging skill, and like many forms of writing, reviews require you to provide concrete evidence for your assertions.

Developing an assessment: before you write

There is no definitive method to writing a review, although some critical thinking about the work at hand is necessary before you actually begin writing. Thus, writing a review is a two-step process: developing an argument about the work under consideration, and making that argument as you write an organized and well-supported draft.

What follows is a series of questions to focus your thinking as you dig into the work at hand. While the questions specifically consider book reviews, you can easily transpose them to an analysis of performances, exhibitions, and other review subjects. Don’t feel obligated to address each of the questions; some will be more relevant than others to the book in question.

  • What is the thesis—or main argument—of the book? If the author wanted you to get one idea from the book, what would it be? How does it compare or contrast to the world you know? What has the book accomplished?
  • What exactly is the subject or topic of the book? Does the author cover the subject adequately? Does the author cover all aspects of the subject in a balanced fashion? What is the approach to the subject (topical, analytical, chronological, descriptive)?
  • How does the author support her argument? What evidence does she use to prove her point? Do you find that evidence convincing? Why or why not? Does any of the author’s information (or conclusions) conflict with other books you’ve read, courses you’ve taken or just previous assumptions you had of the subject?
  • How does the author structure her argument? What are the parts that make up the whole? Does the argument make sense? Does it persuade you? Why or why not?
  • How has this book helped you understand the subject? Would you recommend the book to your reader?

Beyond the internal workings of the book, you may also consider some information about the author and the circumstances of the text’s production:

  • Who is the author? Nationality, political persuasion, training, intellectual interests, personal history, and historical context may provide crucial details about how a work takes shape. Does it matter, for example, that the biographer was the subject’s best friend? What difference would it make if the author participated in the events she writes about?
  • What is the book’s genre? Out of what field does it emerge? Does it conform to or depart from the conventions of its genre? These questions can provide a historical or literary standard on which to base your evaluations. If you are reviewing the first book ever written on the subject, it will be important for your readers to know. Keep in mind, though, that naming “firsts”—alongside naming “bests” and “onlys”—can be a risky business unless you’re absolutely certain.

Writing the Review

Once you have made your observations and assessments of the work under review, carefully survey your notes and attempt to unify your impressions into a statement that will describe the purpose or thesis of your review. Then, outline the arguments that support your thesis.

Your arguments should develop the thesis in a logical manner. That logic, unlike more standard academic writing, may initially emphasize the author’s argument while you develop your own in the course of the review. The relative emphasis depends on the nature of the review: if readers may be more interested in the work itself, you may want to make the work and the author more prominent; if you want the review to be about your perspective and opinions, then you may structure the review to privilege your observations over (but never separate from) those of the work under review. What follows is just one of many ways to organize a review.

Introduction

Since most reviews are brief, many writers begin with a catchy quip or anecdote that succinctly delivers their argument. But you can introduce your review differently depending on the argument and audience.  In general, you should include:

  • The name of the author and the book title and the main theme.
  • Relevant details about who the author is and where he/she stands in the genre or field of inquiry. You could also link the title to the subject to show how the title explains the subject matter.
  • The context of the book and/or your review. Placing your review in a framework that makes sense to your audience alerts readers to your “take” on the book. Perhaps you want to situate a book about the Cuban revolution in the context of Cold War rivalries between the United States and the Soviet Union. Another reviewer might want to consider the book in the framework of Latin American social movements. Your choice of context informs your argument.
  • The thesis of the book. If you are reviewing fiction, this may be difficult since novels, plays, and short stories rarely have explicit arguments. But identifying the book’s particular novelty, angle, or originality allows you to show what specific contribution the piece is trying to make.
  • Your thesis about the book.

Summary of content

  • This should be brief, as analysis takes priority. In the course of making your assessment, you’ll hopefully be backing up your assertions with concrete evidence from the book, so some summary will be dispersed throughout other parts of the review.
  • The necessary amount of summary also depends on your audience. Graduate students, beware! If you are writing book reviews for colleagues—to prepare for comprehensive exams, for example—you may want to devote more attention to summarizing the book’s contents. If, on the other hand, your audience has already read the book—such as an class assignment on the same work—you may have more liberty to explore more subtle points and to emphasize your own argument.

Analysis and evaluation of the book

  • Your analysis and evaluation should be organized into paragraphs that deal with single aspects of your argument. This arrangement can be challenging when your purpose is to consider the book as a whole, but it can help you differentiate elements of your criticism and pair assertions with evidence more clearly.
  • You do not necessarily need to work chronologically through the book as you discuss it. Given the argument you want to make, you can organize your paragraphs more usefully by themes, methods, or other elements of the book.
  • If you find it useful to include comparisons to other books, keep them brief so that the book under review remains in the spotlight.
  • Avoid excessive quotation and give a specific page reference in parentheses when you do quote. Remember that you can state many of the author’s points in your own words.

Conclusion

  • Sum up or restate your thesis or make the final judgment regarding the book. You should not introduce new evidence for your argument in the conclusion. You can, however, introduce new ideas that go beyond the book if they extend the logic of your own thesis.
  • This paragraph needs to balance the book’s strengths and weaknesses in order to unify your evaluation. Did the body of your review have three negative paragraphs and one favorable one? What do they all add up to?

In Review

Finally, a few general considerations:

  • Review the book in front of you, not the book you wish the author had written. You can and should point out shortcomings or failures, but don’t criticize the book for not being something it was never intended to be.
  • With any luck, the author of the book worked hard to find the right words to express her ideas. You should attempt to do the same. Precise language allows you to control the tone of your review.
  • Never hesitate to challenge an assumption, approach, or argument. Be sure, however, to cite specific examples to back up your assertions carefully.
  • Try to present a balanced argument about the value of the book for its audience. You’re entitled—and sometimes obligated—to voice strong agreement or disagreement. But keep in mind that a bad book takes as long to write as a good one, and every author deserves fair treatment. Harsh judgments are difficult to prove and can give readers the sense that you were unfair in your assessment.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
You may reproduce it for non-commercial use and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Research Help is Available

Profile Image
Patricia Erwin-Ploog, MLIS, MS
Contact Info
Assistant Dean of Library Services
Granite State College, part of the USNH system
Help is available 7 days a week, from 6 AM to Midnight. You may also call 603 728-8140 for research help.
Send Email
 
Description

Loading  Loading...

Tip