English Research Process: Academic Research

Aren't all libraries and research the same?

In short: no.  Academic libraries are specifically created to support a university or college.  This table, created by librarians at Kent State University and Bowling Green, gives a quick overview of some of the differences.  BGSU and KSU also created this handout, listing the top 10 things it's important to know about undergraduate research.

Academic research requires that you not only read materials and report your findings, but also that you develop and express your own ideas on the subject beyond what you've read, heard, or seen.

It's all about the content

Some of the main things that are unique to academic libraries are:

  1. Size - academic libraries can be huge.  Newman Library has five floors that are open to the public, and holds over 1 million volumes.
  2. Call numbers - academic libraries use the Library of Congress Call Number system, rather than Dewey. Literature (fiction, poetry and drama) will not be shelved alphabetically by the author's last name.
  3. Holdings -  academic libraries do carry some popular materials, but their main focus is on helping students and faculty with research.  The majority of an academic library's "stuff" will be academically oriented.
  4. Online materials - academic libraries spend millions of dollars every year for subscriptions to databases containing everything from videos to newspaper articles to peer-reviewed materials.  The libraries pay for the subscriptions so you, the user, don't have to pay for individual articles. 

VT University Libraries

Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus actually has three libraries on it.  Newman is the main library.  It holds the vast majority of our physical collection.

The other two libraries are the Art and Architecture Library in Cowgill Hall, and the Vet Med Library in the Veterinary Medicine Building.

In addition to the three library buildings, VT Libraries also have an online space where you can search for books and other physical objects, hunt through databases for online articles and journals, and access many other library services from whereever you have internet access.

Picking Your Topic IS Research

One of the big differences in college versus high school research is the process involved.

This video by NCSU Libraries does a great job of describing that process.

Using Sources in your paper

Now that you understand what plagiarism is, how citations work, and why they are both important, how do you tie all this together in your paper. This 5 minute video will help to properly incorporate sources into your paper at an academic level.