Library and Research Skills
What do library and research skills include?
Library and research skills generally refer to the ability to search for,locate, organize, evaluate, and use the information on a particular topic effectively.
Academic research is a type of research, which refers to a process of detailed and methodological investigation in some research area, which includes conducting a comprehensive literature search, investigating the subject by finding sources, analyzing these sources, and synthesizing them into a position or hypothesis. Doing academic research requires a lot of reading and note-taking.
Before you start your research, please visit the Information Center at Sabancı University and make yourself familiar with all available resources. Also, it may help to check our pages on Effective Reading and Effective Note-takingfor further information on how to develop these skills.
Why do I need research skills?
Library and research skills are essential skills you need in order to be successful at all university life. All courses you take will require a good level of research skills.
More specifically, research skills will enable you to:
- > Locate appropriate sources and information and determine its reliability
- > Use a variety of quality sources for your research
- > Discuss your statement in an academic writing format
- > Find and use the information to answer a question by providing supporting evidence
Finally, research skills foster critical thinking and are easily applicable in work environments, which makes them so valuable to have.
Where and how to apply research skills?
You need research skills for all your writings when preparing reports, essays, articles, or other assignments requiring the use of various sources. In all such assignments, you will have to gather information, assess it, and present it in your own work. The best way to go is to plan a search strategy.
Planning a search strategy
Before starting your research, you should make a plan of what sources you will be searching for and where. Having a search strategy will make your search focused and organized.
There are 7 main steps in the process of planning a search strategy:
Identifying keywords or key terms is the first step you need to do. It is essential that you consider all the keywords (important words) related to your topic. Don’t search for whole titles or long phrases which will limit the results of your search. For example, if your topic is “test anxiety as a factor on test performance on university-entrance exams”, your key terms will be “test anxiety”, “test performance”, and “university-entrance exam”.
When you are choosing your keywords, make sure you also consider including synonyms and related terms (for example, if your key term is “test anxiety” search also for “exam anxiety”, “test stress” and “anxiety in testing”), as well as formal and informal terminology (for instance, if one of your key terms is “hyperactivity”, check also for “hyperactivity disorder” and “attention deficit disorder”). You should also include in your search commonly used acronyms and abbreviations of your key terms (for example, “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder” is often shortened to ADHD). Also, be aware of the spelling (British and American spelling may differ) and plural forms.
You can search for your keywords by using the following research tools, available at Sabancı University:
- Search Box– you can easily find anything you search for (any type of both physical and online items) by using SU Information Center’s single search box.
- Databases– SU Information Center offers free access to various research databases– multidisciplinary databases such as EBSCOhost, SAGE, and ProQuest, as well as subject-specific databases (focusing on one area), for example, PsycINFO and PubMED and Emerald Insight.
- Classic Catalog– this catalog allows you to search the whole book collection of SU Information Center.
- Journal search – this is the source which can help you access various journals (you can choose whether to search for journals which have been peer-reviewed or not)
- SU Research Database – this is the place where you can check previous research conducted at SU
- Websites - although you may be using Wikipedia frequently in your daily life, it is not a suitable source of information when it comes to university research. Therefore, avoid Wikipedia and similar websites (even Google) where anyone can publish/edit information. Instead, search for sources by using academic research engines such as Google Scholar (the academic arm of Google), Google Books, or Microsoft Academic.
After you have set the keywords and have decided which search tools you will use, you can apply some additional search techniques which can help you get more relevant results and increase the number of resources you find.
- Combining search terms - combine multiple topics in one search by using Boolean operators (AND, OR and NOT). For example, teenagers OR youth OR young people.
- Truncation – put an asterisk * after the end of the stem of your keyword in order to find all relevant articles. This way you will retrieve results that include variants of the word including different endings and plurals. For example, technolog* would retrieve results for technology, technological, technologist, etc.
- Masking (wildcards) – use special characters such as ? or # to replace one or more letters/numbers in spelling variations and improve your search. Keep in mind that each database may have variations in the symbols and the operations they do. For instance, in the EBSCOhost database, ? replaces one character, # replaces one or more (m?n would find both man and men, behavi#r will find both behavior and behavior).
- Phrase searching – use double quotation marks “” when you want to search for a certain phrase. For example, if you write communication skills, the search engine will retrieve results with all the terms (communication AND skills) together and separately, however, if you write “communication skills” with double quotation marks, the search results will include only these two words in this specific order.
Proximity – use proximity operators such as NEAR (N) and WITHIN (W) and a number for finding words that occur within a certain number of words from each other. For example, if you write tax N5 reform, the search will retrieve results containing a maximum of five words between the beginning and ending terms (tax and reform), this could be tax reform, tax systems and tax reform, tax legislation reform, etc.
Not all information is good information.
In order to determine the reliability of the sources you intend to use, apply some of these methods for evaluating content:
- CRAAP test – the CRAAP test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose) was developed by the librarians at California State University-Chico as a useful method to evaluate website content but it can be applied to any other sources of information (digital or not), as well. You can access the original test from here.
- RADAR test – RADAR (Relevance, Authority, Date, Appearance, Reason for writing) is another framework used for evaluation of the quality and usefulness of all sources of information, very similar to the CRAAP test.
Sometimes you may find yourself having too many or too few results. In such cases, you need to refine your search.
If your search brings too many results, to narrow it down and decrease the number of results, try limiting the date range to the last 5 or 10 years, limiting the type of material (for example, peer-reviewed articles only) or limiting the language (for instance, only English). You can also consider using proximity searching.
If your search is resulting in too few findings, to increase the number of results, consider making your search criteria/topic broader and including more synonyms and related terms. Use truncation, as well.
You can save your search (all the results and the search itself) by creating a profile in each search tool/database/etc. (for example, create a profile in Google Scholar and save your search in your Library). If you need to go back to your research, it will be much easier to find all your sources, if you have saved both your search criteria and search results.
Further Support and Guidance
References & Further Readings: