Using a university library for research requires some creative search strategies, according to Elaine Fabbro, Acting Director of Library Services at Athabasca University’s library. Students need to think of the best way to narrow down their search criteria in order to return the most relevant results, Fabbro says. “If students are having trouble tracking down resources,” she says, “they can contact us.”
As well as books, the AU Library has a “huge collection of online resources that students can access at home,” says Fabbro. Students should not feel shy about contacting the library for assistance in tracking down resources for any reason. E-mail the library at firstname.lastname@example.org with your question, or phone them (toll-free in Canada and the United States) at 1-800-788-9041, ext. 6254, or locally at 780-675-6254.
We online learners can sometimes be an independent lot. It’s often difficult to ask for help, or even to acknowledge we need it. Recognizing this, AU Library has several tutorials and guides on their site to support those who can’t bring themselves to ask for assistance. Here are a few to check out:
AU Library Catalogue (AUCAT) Tutorial
Start with the basics. This tutorial will take you through the steps to find books, audio-video materials, course materials, and e-books. The library catalogue (AUCAT) can be accessed from this webpage. The tutorial is a series of pages that describe how to: navigate the AU library catalogue; search using keywords, title, author, for example; access and use your library account; request a single item; and request multiple items.
Only physical items need to be requested?electronic resources are linked directly from the library catalogue. For physical items (books, A/V materials, etc,) once the library has received your request, they will mail available items to you. The parcel you receive will include a return mailing sticker (postage-paid for Canadian students.) When you are finished with the materials, pack them up in the same package you received them, apply the return mailing sticker and drop it off at a postal outlet. Students outside of Canada should contact the library for details on how to order/return library materials, and they’ll need to add postage for the return.
Guide to the Research Process
Even if you think you know how to research, your first step in the process should be AU Library’s Guide to the Research Process. This guide will take you through the research process, step-by-step. First it describes how to size up your assignment, select a topic, and develop a search strategy. Then it demonstrates how to choose your research tools, search for information, and request materials. Finally, the guide walks you through evaluating your results, writing your research paper, and citing your sources.
The Guide to the Research Process demystifies the stages of a research paper and will help put you on the right track. Even experienced students can benefit from a review of research strategies. As always, students can contact the AU Library for assistance with any stage of the research process.
Tips for Searching (Boolean Search Guide)
Subtitled “Learn how to develop effective search phrases” this guide helps students develop research strategies that bring the most relevant results. Boolean searches employ the terms “and,” “or,” and “not” to refine their searches for relevant information. This guide goes much further and describes nesting to use alternate terms that explain the same concept (for example, youth, young adult, and teenager are different terms for similar concepts.) The guide also covers phrase searching and truncation, the latter employing wildcard characters so that a search for teen* would broaden to search for teen, teens, teenager, and teenagers. Finally, this guide wraps up with choosing a search tool and conducting a comprehensive search.
The Tips for Searching guide is an invaluable resource. Consider it an investment: the time you spend reading the guide will save you time that you might have spent wading through results that proved to be too broad.
This tutorial gives you a less-than-four-minute walk-through on how to perform scholarly research using Google Scholar. Because it draws from academic articles online, you may find more current information than those returned in print resources. You can access Google Scholar at http://scholar.google.ca. This quick tutorial also includes instructions on how to import your search results into RefWorks. we’ll take a closer look at RefWorks in next week’s article.
Students can find these and other tutorials on the AU Library’s Get Help page, which is available from the horizontal navigation menu of the Library’s site.
An essential resource for AU undergraduate students, the AU Library is here to serve you. If you have any questions, You’re welcome to contact the library directly by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 1-800-788-9041, ext. 6254.
Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario