"This Research Guide was developed as part of the "E&PS 522 Teaching and Research Methods in
E&PS" class by Kash Heitkamp (Reference Librarian, Centennial Library) and Penny King (Research Scientist, Institute of Meteoritics)."
My thanks to Kash and Penny! Guide now maintained by Karl Benedict, Subject and Data Librarian
Library skills are an important component of research - typically,
professional research scientists read the literature in their field on a
more-or-less continuous basis. This LibGuide aims to introduce you to
library skills that will help you with literature searches. The more
productive your search time is, the faster you'll be able to review the
literature relevant to your projects.
When you start a new project, a good literature review is essential for
designing a good scientific project with appropriate testable
hypotheses. In order to best design original research, you need to
understand what research has been done in the past so that you
don't waste time 'reinventing the wheel'.
A good literature review is necessary so that you can become familiar
with the jargon and important advances in your field.
Early in a project, your literature review is likely to start off being
fairly general because you are familiarizing yourself with a new field
of study. For example, you may search on "New Mexico" and volcan* and
Jemez. At this time you should also search databases that cover related
subjects. More and more, multidisciplinary research is important.
When writing up a project, the earlier literature review is critical
when trying to place your research in the context of your field (e.g.,
in writing the introduction to a manuscript). However, later in the
project you will have much more specific knowledge of your field. It is
a good idea to do more literature reviews on more specific aspects of
your research. For example, you may wish to compare your study area with
other similar areas, or you may have specific research questions about
some of the details of your project. As you become more familiar with
your subject area, you will likely find that certain researchers have
written many papers on your topic of interest and that you'll want to
use databases to read their new research papers. (These might also be
people that you should try to meet at conferences or who might have jobs
available so it would be good to know about their body of work!)
You may want to keep up on the current literature by periodically
checking new citations to seminal papers in your field of study.
It is critical to have a good literature review in grant proposals that
will be reviewed by experts in your field. Proposals must show that you
have a good grasp of important published ideas. Therefore, the library
skills that you learn now will likely help you throughout your entire
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