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POLIT/AFCNA 234 Black Metropolis: From MLK to Obama: Planning For Your Research Project

Writing An Abstract

An abstract is a succinct summary of a journal article, thesis, or research project that provides a brief overview of the main points or research findings. This link includes tips and tools on how to write a research abstract from the Undergraduate Research Center at UC Davis. 

Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a list of articles, books, or works that includes annotations (brief explanatory paragraphs regarding the quality/significance of what is being cited).  

Click here for information on how to construct an annotated bibliography from Cornell University. 

This resource offers annotated bibliography samples in Chicago Style, MLA, and APA from the Purdue Online Writing Lab.  

Conducting Interdisciplinary Research

Black Metropolis is an interdisciplinary course that crosses various academic fields so it is beneficial to utilize library course and/or subject guides to make those cross-disciplinary connections. For example, if you are interested in how environmental racism impacts Black Chicagoans in Altgeld Gardens, the environmental studiesgeography, or Africana studies guides may be helpful. Here is a link to all of the library guides at Mount Holyoke. 

Locating Sources

Different research sources are best accessed through various types of databases. For example, books are best located through the Five College Libraries Catalog and academic articles are best located in scholarly databases

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Searching in JSTOR, which is an interdisciplinary database, will only bring up articles in JSTOR, so you might miss a helpful article in ProjectMuse (another database). These sources are not cross-searchable. Also, you can't search everything with one search box (even Google has limits---check out the deep web page to learn more) so utilizing various research tools will help you with locating the most suitable research materials.

LITS Tip: Remember: where you search matters. Also, don't stop at the search results on the first page. Explore several pages to find the best possible resources. 

Check Your Knowledge: What Are Primary and Secondary Sources?

Primary Sources provide first-hand testimony, direct evidence, or knowledge concerning a research topic. Some examples: 

  • Original documents such as diaries, speeches, letters
  • Interviews, focus groups, transcripts, survey data
  • Creative works such as poetry, music, art 
  • Relics or artifacts such as pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings
  • Newspapers and popular press articles
  • Government documents 

Secondary Sources interpret or conduct analysis on primary sources

  • Peer-reviewed scholarly articles
  • Peer-reviewed scholarly books
  • Creative non-fiction, novels, other literary works 
  • References Books, including atlases, encyclopedias, dictionaries 
  • Periodicals (magazines or newspapers) that contain articles (that interpret/provided analysis i.e. literary and cultural criticism) 

Determining Quality

Not all information resources are created equal! Be sure you think about what kind of information you are using. Some quick guidelines:

  • Authority - Can you tell who the author is? What are the author's credentials? Who is the publisher and what do you know about the publisher's credentials?
  • Currency - What is the publication date? This is especially important if you need current/up-to-date information.
  • Audience - Is it written/intended for an academic or a popular audience?
  • Bias - What is the author's point of view?
  • Relevance - Is the information relevant to your research question?
  • Accuracy - Does the author cite his/her/their sources? 

See the Penn State University Library's Evaluating Information page for more information about how to ask and answer the above questions and their Evaluating Information Rubric for tips on what to look for in books, periodicals, and web sites. 

Speaking, Arguing, and Writing Center (SAW)

 SAW Mentors are trained to assist with essays, lab reports, creative writing, presentations, senior theses, reflection responses, and more. Research Services can also help with locating research materials, citing and finding sources, talking through your research projects, and more. The SAW Center is on the main level of Dwight Hall in the Mediated Educational Work Space. To schedule an appointment, click here.

LITS Tips: Writing Tools

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