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Information Resources and Services for:
GEO 246: Geomorphology

Fall 2009
Doing Research

With so many information sources available online and in print, simply finding information usually isn't the issue. The true research problem lies in finding quality information sources that are appropriate for your topic. Take time to think critically about your research during this entire semester. Have you utilized the best sources for your topic? Do you have a grasp of the literature in your field? Have you thoroughly explored the nuances of your topic and supporting sources? This approach will not only be useful in this class, it will be invaluable as you head into the workforce or further graduate study. As always, give yourself enough time to do your research and have fun with your topics and the places they're taking you!

Using Secondary Sources Effectively

Effective research encompasses so much more than simply locating books and articles that relate to your topic. Those books and articles are the jumping off point for your research - they are an invitation to enter the scholarly conversation. Read until you understand the argument the author is making. Consider how the author discusses other literature on the topic. Mine the footnotes and references to locate other sources appropriate for your topic. Above else, constantly ask yourself how your research fits into previous research on the topic. How does your research address the ongoing conversation about the topic?

Julie Gilbert
Laura Triplett

Table of Contents:

Finding Books
  • MnPALS Plus
    The online catalog to the library at Gustavus Adolphus College. Choose "All Libraries" in the search options to search other MnPALS libraries (such as Minnesota State schools) and request books through Interlibrary Loan. View our MnPALS Plus tutorial.
  • MnLink
    A shared catalog of Minnesota libraries, including the University of Minnesota. To search a large number of libraries at once, choose "Libraries - Academic" from the "Current Profile" list. Use the "Get it!" button to place Interlibrary Loan requests.
  • WorldCat
    Includes over 40 million bibliographic records representing cataloged resources in 400 languages owned by libraries around the world. Materials date back to the 11th century. Owning libraries can be identified for books, journals, archival resources and electronic resources. Access to WorldCat is provided by the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM); the database can also be searched through its free web interface, at
    1000 CE-present; updated daily
Finding Articles
If you have an article citation and can't find the full text in a database, use the Journal Locator to see if Gustavus owns a print copy of the article OR if it is available through another database. Be sure to search the Journal Locator with the title of the journal, not the article title. Use the yellow FindIt! button in a database to see if an article is available full text in another database or in our print holdings. The FindIt! button will also help you order items from interlibrary loan.
  • GeoRefS
    GeoRefS contains citations to nearly 2 million records about geology and earth sciences. It is international in scope, and citations date from 1785 to the present.
    1785-present; updated twice monthly
  • USGS Publications Warehouse
    a database of citations to USGS publications including reports and thematic maps back to 1880. Some of the more recent entries include links to full text. Others may be available in our documents collection in one of the series listed below.
  • Publications of the Geological Survey
    Government Printing Office
    This sometimes frustrating index lists Geological Survey publications and ceased publication in 2003. When searching by subject in the print version, you may have to look first under state, then physical feature. Though it does not include the Superintendent of Documents number by which the documents are organized, it does cover many series important to the geologist, including the following:

    • USGS Bulletins (I 19.3: )
    • USGS Circulars (I 19.4/2: )
    • USGS Open File Reports (I 19.76: )
    • USGS Professional Papers (I 19.16: )
    • USGS Water Data Reports (e.g. Water Data for Minnesota) (I 19.53/2: )
    • USGS Water-Supply Papers (I 19.13: )

    • Location(s): Print version shelved under Gov Docs Ref QE 1 .U53
  • Annual Reviews
    Online access to the contents of the Annual Reviews: 29 volumes published yearly covering biomedical, physical, and social science disciplines. Full text is available for the complete backfiles of 13 titles, some going back to 1932: the Annual Review of Anthropology, Biochemistry, Cell & Developmental Biology, Earth & Planetary Sciences, Ecology & Systematics, Entomology, Genetics, Genomics & Human Genetics, Immunology, Neuroscience, Physical Chemistry, Psychology, and Sociology.

    • There is a set devoted specifically to Earth and Planetary Sciences that offers full-text access to articles from 2000 to the present on topics such as subglacial processes and feathered dinosaurs. Older volumes of this series are shelved under QE1 .A674.

    tables of contents 1932-present; full text from 1998-present
  • Web of Science (Web of Knowledge)
    The Science Citation Index Expanded, the Social Sciences Citation Index, and the Arts & Humanities Citation Index of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). Besides indexing a wide range of journals in the sciences, social sciences, and history, this resource allows you to search for articles that cite a specific author or published work. Coverage from 1997 to the present. Click on the "Web of Science" tab to limit your search to one or more specific citation databases.
Entering the Scholarly Conversation
  • Cited References Search
    As you find books and articles, be sure to mine their references for sources. By tracing cited works you're drawing on the evidence others have used and may find connections that you would otherwise miss. You will also see patterns emerge: works cited by everyone else are worth a look; authors who write a lot about your topic are worth searching by name, etc.

    Search for cited books by title or author in library catalogs; for journal articles, check the Journal Locator by journal name to see if we have an article you want. Several databases also include features telling you how often a work has been cited. You don't need to find a book or article on the computer to request it through interlibrary loan. Simply use the reference you have to fill out a form for either a book or a journal article. These forms are linked on the Interlibrary Loan page below. (For essays in a book, ask for the book.)
  • Consider the Wider Context
    As you work on your topic, search for information that explores the broader context that serves as the backdrop for your topic. This approach grounds you in the context of your topic and allows you to consider how your topic intersects with other topics.
  • Understand the Argument
    When researchers write articles and books, they are arguing a particular thesis, just as you do in the papers you write in college. Professors rarely ask for a simple recitation of facts; you are typically asked to argue or interpret a set of facts. Scientists do the same thing. When you read articles and books, read carefully until you can fully articulate the author's premise. You are not simply reading for facts but to understand how the scientist is interpreting the facts. This will help you shape your own scholarly argument.
Other Library Resources
We've got several additional resources through the library that you might find useful for your research. Check out these webpages for more information.
  • Documenting Your Sources
    Check out this guide to learn about citing sources in MLA, APA, and Chicago Style. A copy of the Chicago Manual of Style is housed on the shelves behind the reference desk.
  • Evaluating Web Sites
    Use our guide to help determine if a web site would be an appropriate and reliable source for your research.
  • Interlibrary Loan
    For information on requesting books and articles from other libraries, visit our Interlibrary Loan page.
  • Reference Desk
    Visit with librarians at the desk, by phone, email or chat for help with any library or research question. Click on the link for more information about this service.
Contacting Julie
I'm happy to meet with you at any time to chat about your research. I can suggest additional sources, advanced search techniques, and troubleshoot problems you may encounter. Email me at or call x7552.

Page Coordinator: Julie Gilbert
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