GBK 101 Thompson

by gratz_ae — last modified 2016-04-28T16:30:15-04:00

This guide is designed to help you complete your research assignment in this class. If you need more assistance, please don't hesitate to contact Amy Gratz, the librarian for your class (contact information on right).

Scholarly and Popular Sources

(For more information, see this guide)

Most sources of information fall into one of these two categories. Here's how they're different:

"Scholarly" (aka "academic" or "peer-reviewed") periodicals are usually published by an association, institution, or scholarly press. They contain articles written by scholars, professors, and researchers in a particular discipline, and are intended for other scholars and researchers in the field. Articles published in these journals are sent to other experts in the field to be reviewed prior to publication.

“Popular” periodicals are publications that are intended for the general public, and whose main purpose is usually entertainment. Articles in these publications are generally written by paid journalists or columnists, and reviewed by an editor.

Reasons to use Scholarly Sources:
  • They are generally the most highly valued source of information in academic circles
  • They are written by and reviewed by experts in the field
  • The information they contain critically examines some aspect of the world

Reasons to use Popular Sources:

  • They are easier to understand because they are written for the general public
  • They are more likely to contain information on recent events
  • They can give you an insight into what type of information is available to the general populace on a subject

Evaluating Sources 

 In addition to knowing what type of source you have, there are several other criteria for deciding whether or not to use a source in your paper. Start with the C.R.A.P. test to do a basic evaluation:

Currency: is the information recent enough for your topic?

  • Not sure? Talk to your professor or a librarian

Relevancy: does the information relate to your topic, either directly or indirectly?

  • Directly relevant sources are better, but you may need to use less relevant sources and make the connections to your topic for your reader

Authority: who wrote the information, and are they an authoritative source?

  • For this assignment, you want to use works written by scholars who are experts in an appropriate field

Purpose: what was the intent of the author when writing this information?

  • Most scholarly sources are informative, but the author may also be trying to persuade you to agree with them. You should also consider whether or not they agree with the majority of scholars on the given topic

Once you have done a general overview of the source, you will need to do a more in-depth evaluation of the source information. At this point, you will need to do a close, critical reading of the source, somewhat similar to what you do with Great Books and annotating your reading. Most importantly, you need to apply your own critical thinking skills: does the author's argument make sense? can you think of any counter-arguments or points they failed to consider? Do they seem to be manipulating the data in any way?

In-Class Activity:

Article #1         Article #2        Article #3       Article #4

Brainstorming Keywords

A key first step in researching is brainstorming search terms, or keywords. This will help you think of different aspects of your topic and flesh out possible directions to take when researching or writing, and gives you a pool of potential terms to go back to if your first few tries don't yield relevant results. At this point in the research process, it is often useful to do some pre-research by looking at resources like Wikipedia to get some idea of the scope for the topic. Consider some of the following questions as you generate your list of terms:

  • When did Great Books originally come about as a movement?
  • Who are/were some of the main players in the Great Books movement?
  • Where are Great Books programs currently offered?
  • What are some alternate terms for Great Books?
  • What are some related/broader terms for Great Books?

Search Strategies

Once you have some search terms to start with, there are several ways you can combine them to be more effective. For two of the databases I recommend for this assignment, it is essential that you know how to do research, because these databases expect you to know what you're doing.

Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT

Use Boolean Operators to combine your keywords into a more effective search, as indicated below. It is important to remember to put these operators in all caps, so the database knows that it is a command.

AND searches for multiple words and requires that all the words appear. This narrows your list of results.

OR searches for multiple words, and requires only one of the words appear. This broadens your list of results. 

NOT blocks certain words from your search. This narrows your list of results.

Phrase Searching

When you're looking for a specific phrase or set of words, it is extremely helpful to put those words in quotation marks. This tells the database that you only want results where those words appear exactly as typed, in that order. This narrows your list of results.

Nested Searches

Nested searching is a strategy where you group similar search terms together into a more complex search. This builds on the strategies above, and is essentially letting you conduct multiple searches at the same time.

Nested Seach

Finding Sources

JSTOR — Perhaps the best database to use for Great Books research topics, this online archive contains back issues of scholarly journals in many disciplines. Be sure to use the Advanced Search page and the skills discussed above to maximize your searches!

Academic Search Complete (EBSCO) - Another general database providing access to thousands of scholarly journals and popular magazines from a wide variety of disciplines. The search strategies outlined above will also be useful here, but this database provides more tools to help you narrow your search. 

Research Library (ProQuest) - This is a general database that provides access to thousands of scholarly journals and popular magazines from a wide variety of disciplines. The search strategies outlined above will also be useful here. 

Education Full Text (EBSCO) - This disciplinary database focuses on educational topics and includes a wide range of contemporary education issues, including government funding, instructional media, multicultural education, religious education, student counseling, competency-based education, and information technology. I have included it here because Great Books are most often discussed as a curriculum, particularly in higher education.

Wiley Online Library - Another good database for Great Books, Wiley Online Library is a multi-disciplinary database that includes full-text journal articles and some full-text reference sources. As with JSTOR, you need to know how to use the strategies above to search effectively in this database.

Library Catalog - Search here for items that can be found in the University Libraries. Books may well be more useful for this topic than articles, because they will generally be written at a more basic reading level. Books will also provide a more general overview of a topic, whereas most articles have a very specific focus. Remember that you do not need to use or read the entire book!

Course Reserves

Because another GBK 101 class will also be doing research on this topic over the next few weeks, I have placed two of the most relevant books for this topic on course reserve for your class. These items may be checked out at the circulation desk and used in the library for up to 2 hours at a time. 

The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom
This book is one of the most influential works on the debate over great books. Since it was published in 1987, thousands of other articles and books have cited this work, with many authors vehemently agreeing, or disagreeing, with Bloom.  

Beyond Cheering and Bashing: New Perspectives on the Closing of the American Mind, edited by William K. Buckley and James Seaton 
This book contains a number of essays sharing multiple perspectives in the debate on Great Books. Published in 1992, many of these are directly in response to Bloom's book. While you may wish to use more than one essay from this book for your paper, please remember that if you use more than 2, you should cite the book as a whole, and count it as a single source.

While I do think these works were important enough to make accessible to all of the students researching this topic, please keep in mind that this debate extends beyond Bloom! These works make a good jumping off point, but are not the only sources you need to use for this assignment!