This page is divided into sections devoted to Bruce Pencek's handouts on planning and doing effective, efficient searching; guidance on citations and ethical use of others' work (including some video tutorials and links to Tech's honor codes); and effective scholarly communication. (For sources of help from library vendors see the How do I...?" tab, above.)
Think of these handouts as lecture notes for what Bruce Pencek said (tried to say... meant to say...) in class or a research consultation.
Be a goal-directed, situationally aware searcher
Bruce Pencek's system of search techniques to discover and acquire relevant research sources efficiently -- so you can manage your time and effort.
I. When to search "the literature"... for the feasibility of the research plan, for primary and secondary sources relevant to the research question, and for making sure you've covered all bases on your answer to your question when you write your paper.
II. Situationally aware (re)searching. We suffer from too much information. So identifying your goal, planning ahead, and then applying what you learn in each stage are vital to research success. This handout offers prompts and a sequence of stages -- and the appropriate tools for each -- to keep your research on target.
III. Operationalize and organize. A one-page grid framework for laying our your search as part of your research design, aligned with social science concerns for identifying concepts/variables, relationships, explanations, and evidence.
IV. Get tactical. Tips to give you better search results in less time.
(Re)search planning. Research, and thus literature searching, is planned, guided by a hunch that your work will test. Here are some considerations about planning your (re)search before you plunge into library tools. Read slide deck.
See also these related handouts:
Power searching subject databases. Walk through using subject-oriented databases in the VT Libraries -- the most important tools and efficient tools for finding academic literature. Example illustrates the ProQuest platform specifically (using Worldwide Political Science Abstracts), it but refers when appropriate to similar functions in EbscoHost databases. Read slide deck.
See also these related handouts:
Exploit 'Factiva' for global news. Introduction to browsing current news and to searching the very large, very powerful Factiva database of global news reporting from major newspapers and broadcasters. Read slide deck.
This related handout also applies to searching most historical news archives:
Odyssey, our "learning object repository," offers a growing list of how-to videos and handouts, about the mechanics of using Virginia Tech Libraries' digital and physical resources, including
Orient yourself -- alternative map to VT Libraries website. In case you get lost in the various platforms mashed together in the library's online presence.
Fine print: Pencek's handouts are published in this guide under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license. So you can adapt, slice, and dice the files for reuse, provided that you give me appropriate credit, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests that Bruce Pencek endorses you or your (re)use of his content.
Virginia Tech's University Libraries supports participation in the scholarly conversation at every stage of the research life cycle, from planning to publishing (including journals and proceedings we host) to curation and archiving ... and even records management services to help university units comply with legal requirements and university policies.
Underneath good citations are good practices to manage your notes and evidence (qualitative or quantitative alike). Data management plans, long required by most major funders in STEM research grants, are increasingly expected for empirical social science and interdisciplinary humanities funded research as well.
Scholars working in those domains will find are some good tips in Data management plans for historians: How to document and protect your research by Susan L. Collins, a librarian at Carnegie Mellon University. (Perspectives on History, October 2017).