Tag Archives: research

Research Therapy: Controversial Topics

Welcome back to another session of Research Therapy. This session is all about researching controversial topics.

Are vaccines safe enough? Should there be more gun control? Does government surveillance conflict with privacy?

As a student, you might be assigned a writing prompt in which you are asked to write about a controversial issue, or a “hot” topic. Once you have chosen a topic, this type of assignment requires you to include outside knowledge in addition to your own interpretation and opinion. Knowledge about your chosen topic can be found almost everywhere, but remember the different types of sources: books, newspapers or magazines, and public information on the Internet. In this tutorial, we introduce three academic databases that can help you find reliable sources for a writing assignment on a controversial issue.

Why does this matter?

As a consumer of information, it serves you to be well aware from where you’re obtaining your news—that is, what sources are you accessing to feed you information. A “hot” topic is controversial because the issue must be socially complicated, must have more than one point of view, and probably stirs debates among people with opposing opinions. Due to the controversy, the media and sources that report on the current events of a social issue have difficulty reporting information that is completely objective—that is, without a subtle bias, political beliefs, or commercial interests. Since it’s almost unrealistic for journalism and the media to report information without some degree of media bias, you should think and reflect about how accurate and fair the sources are presenting you with news. If we measure the objectivity of the source by how accurate and fair that source presents information, then we can learn about the many sides of an issue and its opposing points of view.

How do we distinguish between objective and unreliable sources?

Just because a news source is opinionated or espouses a possible agenda—like a political leaning or corporate backing—that does not mean it is unreliable. But sources that show multiple views and allow rebuttals to their own stated opinions are more likely to provide a well-rounded examination of current events and social issues. As a researcher, you should try to find those type of sources—so that even if you’re writing about your interpretation of an issue, your viewpoint will present opinions that are well supported and aware of all the other points of view.

Links to databases featured in videos:

Opposing Viewpoints in Context
Gale Virtual Reference Library
CQ Researcher

 -Mario Macias

Check Out These Tips for Improving Your Google Search

You probably have been using Google your entire academic life.  But there is more to this search engine than typing in keywords.  Improve your Google search by utilizing some of these recommended tips useful for all types of research.

Google Searching Image

Improving your Google Search: Tips and Tricks to help you master the simple search

1. Site: To find pages within a specific site type “site:” followed by a website or domain. Example: site:latimes.com

2. Exclude words: To exclude a term from your search use the minus (-) sign in from of the term. Example: Taylor Swift –sucks

3. Similar words: Use the tilde (~) sign in front of a word to search synonyms. Example ~college will also retrieve university.

4. “Quotation Marks”: Searches the exact phrase instead of individual words. Example “Global Warming”

5. Number Ranges: Include two periods when you want to search within two number ranges. Suitable for years, prices or series of numbers. Example: Oscar winners 2000..2014

6. Document Type: To search for a particular document type such as a pdf, PowerPoint, doc, jpeg. Example: filetype:pdf

7. Definitions: Put define: in front of a word for a quick definition. Example: define:impetuous

8. Calculator: For simply math problems consider using Google (+,-,*,/). Example: 365/5*12

9. Unit Converter: Easy unit converter, just type what you would like to convert such as temperature, volume. Mass, area, speed, length, or time. Example: 3 quarts to cups.

Have questions? You can always Ask a Librarian for help!

- Jamie Johnson

Create Three Avatars for a Chance To Win a $100 Gift Card!


Note: Submissions are no longer being accepted.

Help researchers out by taking 20-30 minutes out of your day to create three avatars using the website Pick-a-Face.*  All participants who complete the ­­­avatars will be entered into a drawing to win a $100 Visa gift card.  You must be 18 years or older to participate.

To get started:

  1.  Go to http://moodle.csun.edu/course/view.php?id=11648.
  2. Login into Moodle using your CSUN id and password
  3. Enter enrollment key “csunSTUDY”
  4. Click on the link “Avatar Study Consent Form”
  5. Here you will find links to the following documents: Informed Consent and Experimental Bill of Rights. You will also find directions on how to submit your consent and begin creating avatars.

* The Pick-A-Face website requires flash, so it does not work on an iPad. If you start on an iPad, you can always log back into your moodle later on a different device to complete it.

For more information please contact Laura Wimberley at laura.wimberley@csun.edu.

The Oviatt’s New Discovery Tool OneSearch Is Here

OneSearch ImageYou may have noticed the Library’s new website design. We are excited about its modern look and the way it streamlines finding Library information and resources. One of the new aspects of the website is OneSearch, our new resource discovery tool that searches all of the Library’s subject areas at once. Yes, I said at once. That means when you enter your search terms into the OneSearch search box you will be searching more than one million books, media, and approximately 150 databases. The beauty of this discovery tool is you can narrow your results using custom designed facets. In layman’s terms, that means you can narrow your results to sort through the scholarly articles, full-text records, book reviews and more. Results can be narrowed to specific date ranges, books or journal titles. Searches can be made for authors and subjects as well. For those of you who like to know how the tool ‘runs under the hood,’ all of the Oviatt databases have been pre-indexed by OneSearch and you as a researcher search its index. Because it is a unified index the results are much more consistent than multi-search tools that simply search several databases at once. We invite you to give it a try!

- Coleen Martin

Reference Services: What can we do for you?

librarian with glasses and books

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As we head into the last few weeks of the Fall semester, many CSUN students will undoubtedly be working on final assignments and papers. Those papers often require the use of outside resources, which may include newspaper and magazine articles, books, scholarly/academic journal articles, films, and interviews, among others.

If you’re trying to find research for your topic, but are coming up empty, don’t forget to ask for help! A good rule of thumb is that if you’ve been searching for a solid 30 minutes and are stuck, that’s a really good time to stop and reevaluate what you’re doing. A librarian can help you narrow your topic, guide you towards the best resources for your assignment, and show you where to find guides for your citations. You can get help in the following ways.

 The Reference Desk: Your best bet is to come to the Oviatt, if you can, and talk to a librarian in person at the Reference Desk. Just walk through the lobby and past the coffee cart, and you’re right there in the Reference Room. You’ll see a big wooden desk, and there will be 1 or 2 librarians sitting there, waiting for you and your research questions. It’s staffed most of the hours that the library is open. You can also call and talk to someone at the Reference Desk – (818) 677-2285

Make an appointment with a Librarian: Did you know that we have Librarians who work with specific majors and fields? You can make an appointment with your subject area Librarian for a lengthier consultation than you can get at the Reference Desk. Don’t know who your librarian is? Try this page: http://library.csun.edu/About/SubjectSpecialists. Because we’re not always sitting in our offices, you’ll probably have better luck setting up an appointment with us by email, rather than by phone.

girl on cell phone

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Text A Librarian: Store this number in your contacts, and the next time you have a quick question, just text it to us: (818) 900-2965.

Ask Us!: You can also access our LibAnswers FAQ. Just type in your question at the top of the page in the “Ask Us Anything” box. If it matches a question in our FAQ we’ll direct you to the answer. If it’s not in our FAQ, we’ll redirect you to a form where you can email us your question. We’ll get back to you with an answer as soon as possible. Often, during the week, we respond within an hour, if not 15 minutes.

Live Chat: We know that students often do their research at times when the Library is closed, and we are unable to answer any questions. But you can log into our QuestionPoint Live Chat service 24/7, 365 days a year. No webcams are needed – unlike FaceTime or Skype, this chat service is done strictly through the keyboard. You won’t usually be chatting with a CSUN librarian, but they will know you’re a CSUN student and which databases and resources you have access to.

Research Therapy: Check out our series of short videos explaining different aspects of the research process – it’s Research Therapy! Finally, you can see all your options for getting in touch with a Reference Librarian on our Ask A Librarian page.

Good luck with your final projects and papers! Hope to see you at the Reference Desk!

- Susanna Eng-Ziskin