Doing Research with the Library
The College of DuPage Library is a high-quality resource with an impressive array of domains, from the traditional library materials (books and periodicals) to high-tech resources that can be used for research.
Specifically, the Library’s website is an elaborate tool that allows full interactivity and service delivery over the Internet. These resources would be useless without the extremely competent personnel always willing to help a student in distress with a research project. This invaluable combination of material and professional quality is best summarized by the Library's mission statement.
These general remarks about the Library and the Library’s website also apply to sociology. The catalog of books and periodicals for sociology is quite extensive and up-to-date. If you take sociology classes, it is very likely that, at some point, you will be required to complete an Internet Research Project. The objective of these projects is to initiate you to sociology as a professional activity and to sociological research through direct application.
But first, the department needs to outline what kind of information can be found on the Internet that is of interest for sociological research.
Using the Internet in Your Research
As part of a sociological research project, the information found on the Internet can be used as the topic of the research itself. For instance, if your research project is about revolutionary movements around the world today, you can surf the Internet to find websites of these different movements. Then, your sociological work would be to examine these movements, through their websites, just as if you were conducting an ethnography (check your textbook for the definition of "ethnography"). You would focus on the way these movements define their political goals and how they expect to attain them, the different symbols they use, where in the world they are active, etc. You could even contact these movements (providing that this is safe) and ask them about the importance of the Internet for them, as part of their objectives, compared to, say, distributing fliers or starting a hunger strike.
Another related way of working with the Internet is to focus on a controversial issue, like the death penalty or the War on Drugs. On these issues, and many others, there are many facets and social groups involved (basically, pros and cons). Your work would again be to surf the Internet, look for these social groups, and examine how they present and discuss the issue. You could then identify the lines of fractures in society on these specific issues and, once you have figured out who the social groups involved are, you may be able to see why things stay as they are or change.
Sorting Through Information
This type of work involves more than just surfing the Internet. It requires the competent use of a search engine (like Google) or of a Web subject directory (like Yahoo!). The other thing required is a capacity to evaluate the information presented on the different websites. Believe it or not, certain social groups may not be completely truthful when they report information. You have to sort out what is information and what can be downright propaganda.
How do you do this? First, the fact that you are writing a project means that you are taking a sociology class, and this should be your first source of information on a given topic. The second way of learning how to get the information you need and evaluate its value is to follow the great tutorial available on the Library’s website.
You can use Internet tools to find professional information or articles in peer-reviewed publications. In that case, the information you find is the product of scientific research; that is, obtained through the use of systematic procedures that guarantee the validity and reliability of the information.
Your Internet Research Project may require that you build your work around professional sources on any given topic. In that case, you will have to conduct a search through different electronic indexes and database to find these sources and articles. Most of them work by keywords and subject search, which makes your life easier if you know exactly what your research topic is.
To help you in that search, the Library website has a special page on how to conduct your search, specifically designed for the Sociology program. The materials you find may be available in the library. If not, you have the option of requesting them through interlibrary loan.
Ask the Librarian
In addition to these tools, if you are really at a loss as to how to conduct your search, a librarian is attached to the Social and Behavioral Sciences Division.
Diana Fitzwater is an extremely devoted and competent librarian. The use of electronic databases and indexes is no secret to her.
In addition, the Library regularly offers workshops specific to conducting research over the Internet and evaluating information. These workshops are free and flexible in their format.
Again, the Library website is a great tool for any sort of research projects you may be required to design. Feel free to bookmark these essential pages of the website:
- The Library website
- The "Doing Research" Tutorial
- The Library Catalog
- The Articles and Databases Page
- The Sociology Research Guide
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