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The Elements of Library Research:
What Every Student Needs to Know
Mary W. George

Paperback | 2008 | $14.95 | £12.95 | ISBN: 9780691138572
224 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 6 line illus. 24 Tables.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400830411 |
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To do solid academic research, college students need to look beyond the computer search engine. This short, practical book introduces students to the important components of the information-seeking process. The Elements of Library Research provides a foundation for success in any research assignment, from a freshman paper to a senior thesis.

Unlike guides that describe the research process but do not explain its logic, this book focuses entirely on basic concepts, strategies, tools, and tactics for research--in both electronic and print formats. Drawing on decades of experience with undergraduates, reference librarian Mary George arms students with the critical thinking skills and procedures they need to approach any academic project with confidence.

  • Ways to turn a topic into a research question
  • Techniques for effective online searches
  • How to evaluate primary and secondary sources
  • When and how to confer with reference librarians and faculty
  • How to avoid plagiarism
  • Glossary of key terms, from Boolean search to peer review
  • Checklists, timelines, and hints for successful research projects


"George (reference, Princeton Univ. Lib.) has created a research guide for undergraduates. While the focus is on library research, George also briefly covers other methods of research students will encounter in college, such as experimental, field, and observational. The author makes excellent use of checklists and charts, along with 15 'Mary's Maxims' (e.g., 'Don't Settle for What's Handy') to highlight the steps students should take in the research process, as well as explaining important key research terms and how to evaluate sources. The book includes four appendixes, two of which, 'Research Timelines' and 'Questions To Ask Your Instructor,' would be extremely useful for students who are feeling overwhelmed by the research process. While aimed toward students, especially those inexperienced in the research process, the book would also be helpful for any librarians teaching introduction to research courses at their institutions. Recommended for high school and college libraries."--Julie Elliott, Library Journal

"Diving into research can be a daunting task, whether the quest for information is conducted by a first-year undergraduate or an experienced graduate student. Realizing that professors may assume a higher level of research proficiency in their students than exists in reality, George offers a fresh, comprehensive, enjoyable discussion for readers of all levels and abilities. . . . Engaging in successful research may be difficult for a novice, but readers of this work will possess a new confidence as they work through their undergraduate or graduate coursework."--C.D. Vidas, Choice

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Table of Contents:

Preface xi
Chapter 1: Introduction to Research as Inquiry 1
Chapter 2: From Research Assignment to Research Plan 14
Chapter 3: Strategy and Tools for Discovery 64
Chapter 4: The Fine Art of Finding Sources 90
Chapter 5: Insight, Evaluation, Argument, and Beyond 126
Appendix A: Good Habits, Helpful Hints, and Wrong Assumptions 145
Appendix B: Mary's Maxims Compiled 147
Appendix C: Research Timelines 149
Appendix D: Questions to Ask Your Instructor 161
Appendix E: Research Appointment Worksheet 163
Glossary of Library Research Terms 165
Selected Bibliography 191
Index 195

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