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College-Level Research Tutorial

This tutorial models and and teaches users how to navigate and reflect on the research process.

Research In Real Life-3

By the end of this Module, you'll learn strategies for:

  • Making choices about searching and selecting sources in order to achieve a specific purpose and help build credibility with a targeted audience
  • Building confidence navigating and participating in scholarly conversations​

Even people who know a lot about a topic may struggle to find the "right" sources for their purposes, like Mary in this example:

Mary has been a Registered Nurse for six years, most of that time working at a local clinic, but she's returning to school to complete her bachelor's degree. This semester, she's taking a Sociology class, and her first research assignment is to examine an issue that affects her community. Her analysis must be informed by scholarly sources. ​Her professional experience has taught her a lot about the everyday factors that influence people's health like jobs, families, stress, access to food, and environment. Because of this she's focusing her research on food deserts—regions where communities have little or no access to affordable, fresh food. ​

As a nurse, Mary is an expert in caring for her patients, but she is new to the ways Sociologists study and approach the issue of fresh food access. Web searches and searches in the Libraries' main search tool return tons of sources, but few of these results have anything to do with the themes and ideas she's learned in Sociology class. To find scholarly sources about food deserts, created by Sociologists, Mary needs a search tool with a more specific focus. ​

Have you ever been disappointed by a source that looked perfect but turned out to be about something barely related to the topic you're investigating? Have you ever struggled to organize your ideas or arguments in a paper or presentation? Researching at the college level is not easy; it take perseverance and experimentation. In this module, we'll learn how to use library search tools to find and select more useful sources. ​

Practical Skills-3

Watch the three videos: 1. Who are stakeholders, 2. Using library databases, and 3.Where's the source? Use the arrow commands below the media player to move on to the next video.


Try it out-3: Searching like a Stakeholder

In this activity, you'll practice searching in different library databases and comparing the ways different expert stakeholders (scholars) explore the same issue. You'll also get to practice brainstorming search terms. Important: You will use your search results from Part 1 to complete Part 2.  ​

1. Compare Search Results

In this activity you will compare your search results from two search tools, each designed to support the research of different expert stakeholder:  CINHAL Plus (for healthcare providers) and Sociological Abstracts (For Sociologists). ​Complete steps A and B before moving on to Part 2 of the activity.

A. Open both CINHAL Plus and Sociological Abstracts and conduct a search in each using the same terms: rural food insecurity

B. Review the title and details for the first 4-5 sources that appear in the search results generated by each tool. Note differences and similarities you see in the language and descriptions of these sources. Ask yourself or discuss with a partner: What common research interests do these three stakeholders share?​

Tip: Keep your search CINHAL Plus search results open while completing Part 2​

2. Brainstorm Search Terms

If you were going to conduct a new search for scholarly healthsciences sources--created by and for Healthcare professionals--about rural food insecurity, what search terms could you try?

21st Century Skills-3: Expert Stakeholders Outside of Academia

Scholars aren't the only credible stakeholders contributing to the conversation around a given issue. Although scholarly research is rigorous and focused, the systems behind it are designed to privilege certain ways of knowing over others. Understanding the world around us requires considering a variety of sources. Some information can only be sourced from stakeholders whose expertise is based on cultural knowledge or personal experience.

1. Compare the Maps

At the turn of the 20th Century, the Belcher Islands--an archipelago in Hudson Bay, Canada--were unknown to Western Geographers despite 200 years of sailing expeditions in the region. Inuit people, however, were intimately familiar with this large cluster of islands.

2. Reflect

These two images are different geographic representations of the same land mass. Neither is a scholarly article, but both offer unique information that could be analyzed or interpreted in scholarly research about Sanikiluaq/The Belcher Islands.Take a few minutes to think about the different types of information each image represents, and discuss:

  • Describe the different types of expertise Wetalltok and NASA, as creators of these two sources, might bring to research about the Belcher Islands
  • Which scholarly stakeholders might use Wetalltok's hand-drawn map? How about the NASA image? How might they use it in their research?

Instructions for Reuse

UWM College-level Research Tutorial 2020 by Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System is licensed under a Creative Commons License
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.