Friday, November 21, 2014

The Elements of Library Research

Mary W. George, The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know. Princeton University Press, 2008.

The Elements of Library Research aims to provide the tools that every college student needs to do college level research. It is intended for the undergraduate student but would be helpful to other groups. The author says her "intended audience includes novice researchers in any rigorous academic setting" (xii). I believe she is right but I think even experienced researchers can retool their toolbox or learn new skills that will be helpful.

When Mary George wrote this book she was acting head of reference and senior reference librarian at Princeton University Library. She has several years of experience helping students and faculty to do research.

The Elements of Library Research does a good job in presenting the key elements of the process of the research. It show how to determine a topic to finishing the research project. She does a great job of showing the reader how to interact with sources. George not only describes the process of research, she also describes the "logic" of the process. George's book "focuses entirely on basic concepts, strategies, tools, and tactics for research." In addition, the author draws on decades of experience of her own personal research. She has taught a range of groups to do research from college freshman to doctoral students.

The author provides a chart of the research process and describes each step:

Motivation or assignment--Topic Selection--Imagination--Research Questions--Research Plan--Reference Works & Databases--Sources--Evaluation--Insight--Thesis--Argument & Outline--Drafting & Revising

The reader will find this book as an excellent tool on the process of research. It is reader friendly, even a high school student could understand it. The author writes well and the book is a quick read. The book is divided into five chapters:

1. Introduction to Research as Inquiry
The author argues that "library research is a form of structured inquiry with specific tools, rules, and techniques" (1). A big part of this research is our interaction with sources.

2. From Research Assignment to Research Plan.
George does a good job of defining the concepts she uses in this text. In chapter two she gives a basic map that the book will follow.

3. Strategy and Tools for Discovery
In this chapter she discusses different search strategies for finding the sources you need.

4. The Fine Art of Finding Sources
This chapter provides additional strategies for finding sources.

5. Insight, Evaluation, Argument, and Beyond.
This is a very helpful chapter. It shows different ways of interacting with resources. In addition, it describes the process of getting insight from the sources. Thirdly, it teaches how to evaluate sources. Last it distinguishes between an outline and an argument.

The Elements of Library Research is a well-written manual on the research process. It provides many tips on improving one's research. It also provides a road-map that can guide the research of the reader. This book is recommended for those who want to improve their research or if the reader struggles with the research process.   

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