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Research Help

Booth Library offers a variety of library tours and classes to promote information literacy among the students, faculty, and staff of Eastern Illinois University.  The following provides information about these services as well as a guide for the library research process.

The Library Research Process Guide below will lead you through the research process from locating a single article to finding information for a term or research paper. Other links take you directly to Web-based instruction for locating books, articles in periodicals, Internet information and selecting information sources.

EIU Faculty can request specific services. These include: consultation with subject Librarians, library instruction for specific classes, library sponsored workshops, and Reserve services for class-related resources.

Scheduled Library Tours, Instruction Sessions, and Workshops

Tours of Booth Library are held early in the Fall and Spring semesters.  Call Reference Services (581-6072) for information about tours and scheduling library instruction classes.


Library Research Process Guide

1. Choose a topic in which you have an interest. Remember that if your topic is too recent or too narrow in scope you may have difficulty finding information on it. If your topic is too broad you will retrieve a lot of information about various aspects of the topic and it will be difficult to choose related articles. In this case you will need  to narrow the focus of your topic.

2. Gather background information about your topic. General or specialized encyclopedias are useful for getting basic information. General encyclopedias can be found in reference reading room, just to the north of the Reference Desk. Specialized encyclopedias are located throughout the Reference collection. Find them by searching the Online Catalog. You can use "Quick Limits" to limit your search to items in the Reference collection. You may also be able to gather background information using Web resources.

3. Plan your search strategy to find relevant information.

Choose keywords that describe your topic. These will often consist of a broad term such as "special education" and secondary terms, which describe some aspect of your topic such as "academic achievement." Other secondary terms can limit the scope and further refine your search, such as "elementary education." Each keyword represents a concept and concepts can be combined using using a Positional Operator such as AND, OR, NOT, ADJACENT, NEAR, or WITH (Boolean Logic). Now, refer to How to find periodical articles at Booth Library.

4. Evaluate sources for appropriateness or quality. Use this guide How to Critically Analyze Information Sources from Cornell University to help you with some critical questions to ask about the information you have found.

5. Learn about determining whether your source is a scholarly journal or a non-scholarly periodical such as a magazine. Use the guide Distinguishing Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals from Cornell University Library.

Selecting the Right Source

Newspapers, Magazines, Journals, Books, and Web Resources

It is important to think critically about possible sources of information for a paper or project. Who has written the item? Why? What would be credible to a professor or colleague?

It is not uncommon to be confused about when it is appropriate to use newspaper articles, magazine articles, journal articles or books as information sources. The use of Web resources presents a whole new level of consideration. This is addressed below under Web resources.

For more information about selecting and using these various sources, follow through these links:

Consult with a librarian at the Reference desk if you need additional help using these resources.

Selecting the Right Source: NEWSPAPERS

Examples of Newspapers: Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times  Audience: General public
Coverage: Any subject of interest; newsworthy events; local coverage
Written By: Professional journalists; some articles by specialists
Timeliness: up-to-date coverage (in the most recent issues)
Length: 50-2,000 words
Content: Dependent upon the type of article: analysis, statistics, graphics, photographs, editorial opinion; no bibliography or list of sources
Slant: Tends to be mainstream/neutral
Try a newspaper for (example topics):
  • Local statistical information, such as the number of children growing up in single- parent homes in Chicago, or the divorce rate in New York.
  • Local coverage, such as legalized gambling on river boats, how the Congressional representatives from Chicago or Illinois voted.
  • A recent story about a topic of interest, such as new drugs for Alzheimer's Disease.
To locate newspaper stories:
  • Use Lexis-Nexis, a full-text database that provides access to a large number of newspapers. (From the library homepage, go to Newspapers / Lexis-Nexis).
  • Use one of the other newspaper databases listed under Newspaper Articles on the Magazine and Journal Articles page.
  • Use a print index such as the New York Times Index, the Wall Street Journal Index, Chicago Tribune Index, and other print indexes which are located in the Reference Indexes section, 1000 level north.

Selecting the Right Source: MAGAZINES

Examples of Magazines: Time, Newsweek, Life, Sports Illustrated, Jet, Ebony, Popular Science, Fortune. Audience: General public to knowledgeable layperson 
Coverage: Popular topics; current affairs 
Written By: Professional journalists; not necessarily specialists in the field; and writers of fiction, essayists 
Timeliness: current coverage (one week to several months) 
Length: 250 - 5,000 words 
Content: General discussion; editorial opinion; graphics; photographs; advertisements; usually no bibliography or list of sources 
Slant: May reflect the editorial bias / slant of the magazine 
Try a magazine for (example topics):
  • A cover story on the state of marriage in the US.
  • An opinion essay on latchkey children.
  • Profiles and rankings of Fortune 500 companies with the best childcare programs and benefits.
To Locate Articles in Magazines:
  • Use InfoTrac (Expanded Academic Index), EBSCO Academic Search Premier or another general-subject database. These are listed on the Magazine and Journal Articles page under General Article Indexes. 
  • For magazine articles older than around 1980, use the print index Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. It's shelved in the Reference Indexes area, 1000 level north.

Selecting the Right Source: JOURNALS

Examples of Journals American Political Science Review, Journal of the American Medical Association, Psychological Review  Audience: Scholars, specialists, and students 
Coverage: Research results, frequently theoretical in nature 
Written By: Specialists in the field; usually scholars with PhDs 
Timeliness: Current coverage (6 months - 3 years )
Length: >2,500 - 10,000 words 
Content: Detailed examination; statistical analysis; graphics; bibliography usually included 
Slant: Supposed to present objective/neutral viewpoint; may be difficult to comprehend because of technical language or jargon; often sponsored by professional associations 
Try a journal for (example topics):
  • Case studies of children growing up in single-parent homes.
  • Comparison study of economic stability in single-father versus single-mother homes.
  • Psychological analysis of children who experience bitter custody battles.
To Locate Articles in Journals:
  • General subject databases like Infotrac (Expanded Academic Index) and EBSCO Academic Search Premier provide indexing for some scholarly journals. 
  • Use a subject-specific database. These can be found in the Resources by Subject menu on the Magazine and Journal Articles page.
  • For specialized research, you may also want to use a subject-specific print index.
It is important to note that not all journals indexed in the above sources are available at Booth Library.  Start early so you can obtain needed articles through ILL (Interlibrary Loan), which may take 7-14 days or more.  

 Selecting the Right Source: BOOKS

Example of Books: University Physics, Internet for Dummies, Closing of the American Mind, Introduction to Economics Audience: Ranges from the general public to specialists 
Coverage: In-depth coverage of a topic; compilation of scholarly articles on a topic 
Written By: Specialists/scholars 
Timeliness: Currency varies (usually 2 years or longer) 
Length: Minimum of 150 pages to multi-volume
Content: varies from general discussion to detailed analysis; usually includes extensive bibliography 
Slant: Perspective entirely dependent on author; may be sponsored or published by professional associations 
Try a book for (example topics):
  • An introduction to the principles of economics.
  • A children's book written to help them cope with death or divorce.
To locate books in:
  • Booth Library or elsewhere in Illinois - use the EIU Online Catalog and I-Share.
  • The World - use WorldCat. Go to Books, Videos and more / WorldCat. This catalog includes records for over 55 million items in libraries around the world.
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Journals
  • Web Resources

  • Selecting the Right Source: Internet (websites)

    Examples of WEB SOURCES: The Whitehouse; Scholarly Societies Project; Ladies Against Women Audience: General public; children to senior citizens; knowledgeable layperson; scholars; anyone 
    Coverage: Popular topics; personal information; current affairs; government information; research; scholarly information; fun and games; and more... 
    Written By: Anyone: professional journalists; children; teenagers (high school students); members of general public; scholars and researchers; poets and writers of fiction; essayists; college students; advocates and activists; and more... 
    Timeliness: Varies wildly: may be very current coverage or very out-of-date information, or undated.
    Length: Can vary greatly.
    Content: Anything; general discussion; editorial opinion; graphics; photographs; advertisements; statistical analysis; detailed analysis; fact; fiction; fraud; and more... 
    Slant: Depends: May reflect the editorial bias / slant of the web page creator; may be objective or neutral; may be geared for academic or professional audiences; may be unsupported personal opinion. 
    Try a web resource for (example topics):
    • Reviewing legislation on family issues.
    • Finding research or other information about single parent families.
    • Locating listservs and newsgroups for single parents.