Archive for January, 2007

Blog Assignment #2: Reference books and LC Subject Headings

What are the three most appropriate reference books (print or electronic, not including electronic bibliographic databases such as Academic Search Premier) for your topic? For each reference book, list also the Library of Congress subject headings that appear as links to the right of the title in the individual record.

In this example, the LC subject headings are “Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900–Encyclopedias”; “Authors, Irish–19th century–Biography–Encyclopedias”; and “Gay men–Great Britain–Biography–Encyclopedias.” Remember that LC Subject Headings are the most specific level of the LC Classifications.

In your commentary, please tell exactly how you found these reference books, explain why you think they are appropriate for your topic, and tell us anything that’s on your mind about these reference books, these LC subject headings, or your research process so far. Try using the LC subject headings to find other works on your topic and to generate new keywords for searching.

Please submit your assignment as a comment to this post before 3pm on Monday.

Library catalog / book-finding links

Library catalog and book-finding links from class on Monday, January 29:

  • NCSU Library Catalog — Our catalog lists the 1.7 million-plus books, eBooks, DVDs, etcetera owned by the NCSU Libraries; as well as the databases, journals, newspapers and magazines we subscribe to. Our catalog has special interface features (notably the browse capability) that other library catalogs do not. The NCSU Libraries catalog is freely available on the open web.
  • Open Worldcat — Open WorldCat contains the library catalog records of hundreds of major research libraries around the world. It allows you to find books at other libraries, which you can then borrow using NCSU’s TripSaver. It is freely available on the open web, and it provides permanent links to book records. You can send any NCSU catalog search to Open WorldCat by using the “Send Search to” dropdown box.
  • WorldCat — WorldCat is a much larger version of Open WorldCat. NCSU pays to subscribe to WorldCat, so it is only available to users with a Unity ID. By using the paid version of WorldCat, you can essentially search the library catalogs of most libraries in the world, including small county libraries in the United States. References are easily exported to RefWorks.
  • Google Book — Google Book allows you to search the full text of books that are fully online. It is chiefly useful for finding books that mention your topic but are not primarily about your topic. Google Book does not yet index as much as a library catalog, because many books still exist only in print. Because many books indexed by Google Book are still under copyright, you may not be able to read the whole book. Always check to see whether a book you find by using Google Book is available to you through the NCSU catalog; we subscribe to eBook services such as netLibrary that might let you access the whole book.

Again, use TripSaver to order books and articles that you’ve found using WorldCat or Open WorldCat.

Please register to use RefWorks

Before class on Wednesday, January 31st, please register for a RefWorks account. Registration is free. You can get to the registration page by using the link above or by going through the RefWorks FAQ on the NCSU Libraries’ website.

Blog Assignment #1: LC Classifications and Academic Disciplines

What are the three most appropriate Library of Congress Classifications for the topic you are most likely to research? Find the narrowest, most specific classifications that you can by using the browse function of the NCSU Library catalog or by using the Library of Congress Classification Outline.
In your commentary, please tell how you found these classifications and explain why you think they are appropriate for the topic you will probably be researching (tell us what that is).
When reflecting on the process, you might discuss one or more of these questions, or anything else that’s on your mind: How close is your major (your academic discipline) to these classifications? Does your topic have a lot of “scatter” — in other words, does your topic fit into several academic disciplines? Does it really fit well into any discipline? Are you thinking about several different topics to research? How different are those topics from each other? Is there anything weird or inadequate about these classifications? What might be the reason for that?
Please submit your assignment as a comment to this post before 3pm on Monday, 1/29.

Blog Assignment and Rubric

Blog Assignment
Due every Monday before class at 3pm beginning Monday, January 29
20% of overall grade

  • To identify a wide variety of relevant, timely, and authoritative information sources related to a particular field.
  • To become more aware of the research process through reflection

Every week, you will find particular kinds of information related to your research question. You will list at least three (3) sources for each heading, and you will include about three paragraphs that describe

  • exactly how you found these sources
  • why you think they are the most relevant, timely, and authoritative sources available, and
  • your reflection on the research process went this week: What was hard? What was easy? How sure are you that these are the best sources? What other strategies could you use?

Weekly Assignments (rough preview)

  1. List important Library of Congress Classifications for your topic. Do they match your academic discipline (major)? Is your topic difficult to categorize?
  2. List important Library of Congress subject headings for your topic and the titles of any potentially useful reference works.
  3. List important books (scholarly monographs or collections of essays) for your topic.
  4. List the names of any potentially useful databases for finding information on your topic and give full information about scope, size, frequency of update, and special interface features.
  5. List potentially important keywords and phrases for finding information about your topic in proprietary scholarly databases. Be sure to include synonyms, broader terms, and narrower terms.
  6. Who is doing the work on your topic? List specific examples of people, university departments, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, etc.
  7. List the names of some scholarly journals that are particularly important for your research topic.
  8. List scholarly articles important for your topic.
  9. What information on your topic is available on the free web? Please emphasize reasoned assessment of the quality of this information.
  10. What other specialized resources are important for your topic? Examples might be government documents, special collections, conference proceedings, pre-print archives.
Blog Assignment Grading Rubric


A+, A, A-

B+, B, B-

C+, C, C-


Sources are properly and fully cited. Sources are of the highest quality possible in terms of authority, objectivity, verifiability, currency, and relevance.

Some sources do not have full citation information. Some sources are not of high quality.

Many sources have incomplete or incorrect citation information. Many sources are of poor quality.


Accounts of how the sources were found name specific research tools (Web of Science), specific search strings (“obesity in children“), and other specific location information, including information about revised strategies and rejected sources. The student has evaluated sources thoroughly (“I googled the organization that published this study and discovered that it is funded by the tobacco industry, so I chose the study funded by the NIH instead”). Reflection on the student’s research process is detailed and thoughtful.

Some accounts of how the sources were found are rather vague: examples of search strings and names of search tools are sometimes omitted. Information about revised strategies and rejected sources is sometimes missing. Reflection on the student’s research process is sometimes cursory.

Most contributions provide only vague, brief accounts of the student’s research and evaluation process.


All ten contributions are present, and all were submitted on time. Each week’s contribution contains at least 3 sources and tells a) how the student found the sources; b) why the student judged them to be good sources; and c) how the student’s research process is going.

Some contributions were submitted late without excuse. Some contributions contain fewer than 3 sources (exceptions will be made if good reasons are given). Some contributions do not fulfill all three parts of the writing portion of the assignment.

Several contributions were at least a day late without excuse. One or more contributions are missing. Several contributions are substantially incomplete.


The writing for this assignment will not be graded; writing can be casual and colloquial and can contain spelling, grammar, punctuation, and style errors. Abbreviations and emoticons are fine, and contributions can be made to the blog that do not relate to the main subject. However, the writing does need to be civil (no obscenity, profanity, insults, or excessively personal comments). Remember that this writing is public: it can be read by anyone in the world with access to the web.

Research Question Assignment and Rubric

Here for your convenience is the Research Question Assignment on the blog.
Research Question (20% of course grade)
Due February 7
Develop a research question to investigate during the semester. Write a document with the following parts:

  • a brief description (2-3 sentences) of the context for your research question (for example, your proposed Capstone Experience, a class for which you have a term paper assignment, a job or assistantship, or anticipated graduate study) and the academic discipline to which it belongs;
  • a one-sentence research question / hypothesis (see Stebbins pp. 2-3);
  • a one-paragraph argument for the importance and interest of the question you wish to investigate; and
  • a bibliography of 3-5 basic reference sources on the research topic (please cite individual entries when possible).

We will discuss the questions in class on February 5. During class, the instructor may comment on the suitability of your question for the purposes of this assignment.
It is expected that the question will evolve during the course of working on the assignment. For example, sub-questions may be developed as more is learned or the question itself may change as your interests change during the process of information retrieval. You may ask the instructor to review revisions of your research question at any time.
Your research question may be a research question you are answering for an assignment in another class. That is acceptable, as long as you get the permission of the instructor in that class. However, you will be expected to write a substantially different paper for the final portion of this project. You may also want to explore a topic for your Capstone Experience.

Research Question Grading Rubric


A+, A, A-

B+, B, B-

C+, C, C-


The question is appropriate for academic research and fits into a recognized (or emerging) academic discipline.

The question is not completely appropriate for academic research, or does not exactly fit the student’s stated discipline.

The question is entirely inappropriate for academic research.


The question can be legitimately answered by an undergraduate Honors student doing research over the course of three months toward a five-page paper.

The question is too somewhat too broad: the question may be more suited for an advanced researcher or for years of research or experimentation. One or more terms are abstract nouns rather than concrete nouns.

The question is far too broad: even an advanced researcher could not answer the question after years of research. Key terms are very broad abstract nouns.

Importance / Interest

Other scholars have found the question interesting; the student is clearly interested in the question; and the answer to the question could generate further academic research.

The question may be interesting to researchers, but the student doesn’t seem to be authentically interested in the question.

The question is neither important nor interesting.

Mechanics and Style

The document is free of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors that distract the reader. The writing is clear, concise, and accurate. The research question is phrased as a question (see Stebbins’s “hypothesis”).

The document contains several mechanical errors that distract the reader; the research question may not be phrased as a question. The writing is somewhat difficult to understand, or the writing is occasionally informal.

The document is riddled with spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. The document uses words incorrectly. The writing is extremely long, tangled, and difficult to understand, or the writing is highly informal. The document omits one or more elements specified in the assignment.

Question re blog assignment

Would you rather post your weekly blog assignments as comments, or would you rather that I add you as authors to the blog so that you can each post an entry?
Advantages to submitting the assignments to the comments: automatic organization by week; easy to see everyone’s contributions all at once; I’ve done it before this way and it worked fine. Disadvantages: you can’t post links in comments; each comment thread might become very long and require lots of scrolling to read.
Advantages to submitting the assignments as blog entries: more space for you to write; you can include links; might encourage your classmates to comment on your weekly contributions. Disadvantages: slightly more technically complex than commenting; it’s possible that others could alter your entries (though I hope no would do that); you yourself could alter your entry later (which is a slight disadvantage for me because I’d like to use the timestamps to make sure you submitted it on time); fifteen posts per week might sort of clog the blog. (Hey, that rhymes.)
Vote and discuss by commenting here, please. Cheers!