Friday, January 30, 2009

Research Skills: A Learning Process that Never Ends

Coming to the library for our class session Wednesday morning, I have to admit that like some other class members, my expectations of what I would learn from this session were not too high. This being my sixth semester at Rollins, I have had several library sessions ranging from the basic session in my RCC, exploring the digital archives in the basement, and a special session on how to find electronic resources on the Middle East. In addition, I spent the last semester in Washington working as a research assistant focusing primarily on legal research. To be honest, my original thought Wednesday morning was “How much more can there be to learn about research?” I quickly realized that this assumption was wrong.

I already felt pretty confident using electronic resources due to my internship in the fall. Nevertheless, Professor Svitavsky was able to teach me some important techniques of how to narrow down search results. I consider it especially helpful that he did not only list relevant Rollins databases on the handout we received, but also provided us with the Internet addresses of several organizations and databases that we can use to look for primary sources in U.S. History. This makes the research process for our projects considerably easier as these databases are a good starting point.

While the electronic resources were certainly very helpful, Professor Svitavsky’s introduction to several reference books in American history left a far more profound impression on me. I just have to say that I was impressed and astounded by the amount of information in the books he showed us – and he pointed out they were only a small selection. I guess in today’s information technology age, the electronic aspect of resources is stressed so much that I sometimes catch myself forgetting about all the information that exists in print. In addition, the library session corrected a misconceived notion I had of reference books. Thinking of reference books simply as lexica or encyclopedias, I always thought they were not an appropriate source to find detailed information on a topic but rather only gave a more general overview. Seeing the books that were passed around on Wednesday, I now know that this is certainly not true. Also, I was most impressed by the book “The Timetables of History,” arranging historic events by year. This book might be especially helpful to me given that I have a really hard time remembering historic dates. Overall, I learned how much there is to be found in the reference section. From now on, I will most certainly use this part of a library as a starting point before moving on to the general section of the library.

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