Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reference Universe Instead of Wikipedia

A recent study of research habits among college students resulted in both a research report and a YouTube video. Under the heading of "Everyday Research" the video has a slide entitled "Wikipedia as the First Step: The Power of an Un-Citable Source."

When used for the proper purposes, Wikipedia has undeniable value. The problem is that students working on research papers need sources that they CAN cite.

Let it be said though that in their rush to get the project "finished" those students often skip right past the real value of Wikipedia -- to immerse themselves in the subject and the issues enough to be able to fashion a well formed focus. In other words, to be well enough acquainted with their topic so they can research intelligently and write confidently.

So how can they get started with sources that are citable?

Any librarian worth his or her salt will usually direct those students to subject encyclopedias. And the best tool to identify which subject encyclopedias treat the desired subject is something entitled Reference Universe.

But there is one catch which is well captured in the byline of the Reference Universe publishers:

"Hint: The best article for your particular topic may be on your library shelves and not online."

So for now at least you'll have to get out of your chair and visit the library to lay hands on the research gold uncovered by Reference Universe.

PS. Electronic sources are being slowly added to Reference Universe but their expense prohibits the library from acquiring all but the most essential. Clicking on the button labeled E-Content will sometimes pay off.

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