What happens when you need to look it up?

I wrote this post for anyone who doesn’t know everything off the top of their head. You have to look things up from time to time, don’t you? Once upon a time, we all looked up addresses and phone numbers in a phone book. We probably all still have them. You can still use print to find a wide variety of information, but nowadays, you most likely look things up online more often. What happens between you typing your search query and the results appearing on the screen? … Continue reading

How search engines and library catalogs work

You know how to use a search engine. Decide what keywords you want to search and type them into the search box. Then see if the results returned the information you expected. Do you know how to use a library catalog? Even though you will probably see a single search box like a search engine’s, if you expect it to work the same way you will be frustrated. That single search box is not the only way to search the catalog. It’s not even the best way. If you see a link to “advanced search,” click on it. Once you … Continue reading

Something old and something new in a recent research project

I concede: Real research can be done using only web sources. Just not much. Since this month is Earth Month, I want to look back at the first Earth Day in 1970 for one of my other blogs. Can I find enough information on the web to write something about it? Sure. And I’d produce a post every bit as disappointing as an online article I wrote about last fall, which appears to have started out as an undergraduate honors paper. So I had to use some very old research methods. Along the way, I found a new piece of … Continue reading

Bad news from a good undergraduate paper

Ever since I came across an online article claiming Benjamin Franklin as America’s first environmentalist, I have been looking for information that I can use in one of my other blogs. I just took notes on another online article called “What Would Ben Franklin Do? Influences of America’s First Environmentalist “ by Lauren Siminauer and noticed that at the time of publication she was “finishing her bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology at the University of Virginia. I have written quite a lot about research, sources, and using the library for writing term papers. Since Simenauer has essentially gotten one … Continue reading

Controlled vocabulary: the key to using a library catalog

Search engines and online library catalogs differ fundamentally. The catalog is a database–a very special kind of database where all names, all subjects, and even some titles have been selected from a controlled vocabulary, or list of authorized headings. You can search a catalog using key words, but that’s not the only way to search, as it is with a search engine. Have you ever used a search engine and wondered what on earth the results have to do with what you were looking for? I remember very well the day (some time before Google) I was cataloging a book … Continue reading