Sunday, March 10, 2013

Research Tips: Jersey Shore Edition

SCENARIO: You have a paper due for your Media Literacy class at the end of the semester and have no idea what your paper topic will be. Here are some tips on how to find a topic, conduct research, and access resources:

1. Finding a Topic: To help you find a topic, look through your lecture notes and readings for topics that interest you (Also, when you do the readings, underline things as you go that interest you. Yes, it is ok to write in the margins). They can be as general or specific as you wish, but looking at the notes can give you insight into what topics the prof may be looking for and help you remember the material from the first week.

Ex. After looking through your notes, you see an example you wrote down from Week 2 about Jersey Shore. Your class lecture that day was about reality TV and stereotypes, such as the women seeming to be interested only in guys and beauty, not education or future goals. This makes you think, "Well, we talked about women, how about we look at the men?" *Bing* Here is a tentative topic.

2. Scheduling milestones: Be firm on planning out when you would like to have a certain amount of research completed and what you want to search for each day. This will help keep you sane, especially if you are looking at several databases using several different search terms.

3. Looking at the Databases: My personal favorites are EBSCOHost -> Omni Full Text Mega, LexisNexis Academic, Project Muse, and ScienceDirect. I know that some people also peruse Google Scholar. The Cressman Library also has links for which databases are best for certain disciplines (click here).

When figuring out an argument for your paper, use what you have found in your notes that is interesting and do a general search of the topic (no pressure to find something brilliant or specific right away). Who knows, you may find someone writing an off-the-wall article about the topic or one that combines ideas you never though of before that relate to it.

When in doubt, you can always find the common ground and differences between articles you read, then pick a side; this tidbits/exceptions can help you make a thesis. JUST REMEMBER that when you search, you are NOT necessarily looking for exact terms, but ideas that you can relate to your argument. Too often, people put in exact terms and are disappointed when there are no results. You will have to get creative.

Ex. You can't find anything when searching the phrase "Male stereotypes in Jersey Shore." This is because the search terms are too specific.

Instead, try searching more general terms, such as "Media representation," "TV characters," "media stereotypes," "framing theory," "men in media," "reality TV" or "popular culture." Also try adding descriptive words like "negative" or "positive" to try your luck.

For your paper, perhaps actual analysis of how men are portrayed in Jersey Shore can be your own work (you dont have to find a source to does it for you), but make sure you have general research about these images to back up your opinion on how they are portrayed.

4. Using search cheats: Connect search terms with "AND" to limit results and "OR" to expand the topic. If you are unsure of a phrase you are using, you can use "?" (e.g. TV characters?; TV characters AND men OR media stereotypes) as a wildcard. This can help you be more specific when searching, especially when you get the dreaded "Over 1000 results" message (darn you, LexisNexis!).

5. Utilizing Interlibrary Loaning (ILL): The local colleges, or the LVAIC system (Cedar Crest, Desales, Lehigh, Lafayette, Moravian, and Muhlenberg), allows students to loan books between them...but don't fret! You can still ILL a book even if they is not in our system, but remember that these books may take longer to arrive at Cedar Crest. In this case, ILL them three weeks in advance. You can also request online journal articles from other colleges and they will send you either an electronic or printed copy.

Asking for help at the library is also helpful as far as learning how to do research on our databases, since some articles show that we do not have access to them, but there is just another way to find them on the website. Schedule an appointment to learn more ways to conduct research online...

The Writing Center is also a great resource for help!

6. Choosing sources: When in doubt, use books or academic journals. These are legitimate sources and will look good in your paper. Try to avoid general Google and Wikipedia searches (other than finding general information for your own knowledge). After all, your paper is only as good as your sources.

Tips from, adapted by me.

1 comment: