Comedy as Critique
"Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot." — Charlie Chaplin
Research Stuff

On this page are compiled a set of resources that will hopefully help you with your research. First are materials that will help you find sources, then I’ll give just a few pieces of advice about doing research (we’ll talk way more about it during the semester), and after that are materials that will help you with following style guides (MLA, APA, or Chicago).

RESEARCH SOURCES

  • First and foremost, there’s the Queens library, where you should start for any kind of academic search.
  • If you can’t find anything that is quite what you’re looking for through your initial library search, a good move is to check Google Scholar. It’s basically Google, but only for academic materials, and it’ll give you a sense of what exists in the world outside what Queens has access to. You may not be able to read the full text of everything you find there, but once you find out the thing you want exists, you can use one of the following methods to get your hands on it.
  • If you need a book that isn’t at Queens, try searching all of CUNY — if it’s at any of the campuses, you can get it delivered to Queens in just a couple of days, or you can go there.
    Or, for that matter, remember that you live in New York! With just a public library card you get access to most of the books in existence from the NY Public Library. Make sure if you use the NYPL you’re searching the Research Catalog, where you can find, not only books, but also lots of amazing archival materials. You probably won’t need stuff like that for this class, but just file that info away in your brain in case you want to look at rare stuff later on during college!
  • Or, WorldCat can show you whether any library anywhere near you holds what you want.
  • If what you want access to is a journal article, and it’s not coming up/not coming up as full text when you do a library search, it’s possible that Queens still has access…not everything comes up in the search. Try looking through the Queens journal database for the journal the article was published in. If we have access, you can look at it through that journal’s site (and there’ll be a link).
  • If all the above methods fail, do not fear! You can get access to pretty much ANYTHING through ILL (Interlibrary Loan), it just might take up to a week to get it. You’ll put in the info on the thing you need and your trusty librarians will find it for you. You can do this for books or articles…books take longer because they have to be physically delivered, but they can get articles or book chapters for you really quickly, and they’ll be delivered to you via email.
  • All of the above should work if you figure out what article you want. However, your initial searches may not give you as much as you need, or maybe you don’t know exactly what it is you need. In that case, you may want to browse in an area that is more specific to the field of study you’re looking at (rather than putting search terms into something as big as OneSearch or Google Scholar). Take a look at the different specific databases Queens subscribes to and you can do a much more targeted search within your field. Figure out which ones are relevant to you so you know to check them when you’re stuck.

RESEARCH ADVICE:

  • The main piece of advice I can give you, beyond checking all available avenues (see above), is to keep fiddling with your search terms. Don’t just type in “women’s subversive roles in late eighteenth century drama especially in Scotland” because that’s what your paper is on and expect to get a million results. You should type in very specific terms to see if there’s something exactly on topic, but realize that, even if there is something perfect out there, they may not use the same language as you to describe it. Try synonyms. Try only some of the terms at once. But also, go more general. If you were writing the above paper, you may want to find separate sources on Scottish drama, on eighteenth century drama, on women’s roles in drama, on women in Scotland, on Scotland in the eighteenth century, and then use those more general sources to say something about your specific topic. In a very real way, it’s good if no one has written on your exact topic before! That means you’ve got original research! (Also, just for the record, that topic is made up and I have no idea what women dramatists were doing in Scotland in the eighteenth century).
  • Also, remember that on a lot of academic search engines, you can do things like limiting results by date range, or a specific type of source, or a particular subtopic. So, if you were writing on current college admissions policies in America, and when you did your search you got a lot of stuff published 30 years ago you could limit it to the last ten years. Or, if you got a lot of stuff published in New Zealand, you could limit it by region.
  • Once you’ve found a few articles to start with, another important way to find sources is simply to look at the sources used in the articles you’re reading. It’s a nice shortcut because if you’re looking at published work, you can bet they’ve already done a lot of the research you’re doing now and figured out which materials are most useful.

STYLE GUIDE HELP:

  • Here’s the number one advice I have for you about citation: DO IT! The style guides exist to make it easy for people to find your sources. However, the principle is that, when someone’s reading your paper, they should always know when information is coming from a source, what that source is, and how to find it. If you’re doing that, you’re doing the job…if you’re not, that’s when we get into plagiarism territory. The following are simply systems that have been developed for citing stuff clearly and efficiently. It will be super important for you to learn how to follow these systems in college because, even though they’re somewhat arbitrary, it’s what your professors know how to read and what they’ll be looking for.
    I suggest that once you figure out what style guide your major uses most that you buy a copy of their style guide and keep it handy. But until then…
  • Purdue University has a pretty helpful site they call the Online Writing Lab (OWL), which has fairly comprehensive guides to all three methods: MLA, APA, & Chicago, so that’s a pretty handy source. You may very well have used it before.
  • If you’re using one of these guides for the first time, I think it’s particularly helpful to look at sample papers and see what the end result looks like. Here are Purdue’s for APA, MLA, and Chicago.
  • If you don’t like their guides, many other universities publish easy-to-use guides too. Just search “MLA style” or whatever and keep scrolling — take your pick.
    MLA
  • Or get it from the horse’s mouth. Here’s MLA’s quick guide on how to create Works Cited entries.
  • And MLA’s short guide on formatting papers
  • If you’ve used MLA before, you’ll notice these rules might be different than what you’re used to. That’s because they just published their new, revised rules. Here’s their explanation of what’s changed in the eighth edition.
  • APA
  • Here’s APA’s site…you’ll see that most of the stuff you encounter when you get to the page is trying to sell you copies of their manuals. However, if you scroll down, they have a bunch of links to specific topics on both references and formatting. Click on those and they’ll tell you for free.
  • They also have this little presentation on the basics to get you started.
  • Chicago
  • And Chicago is nice — they provide their whole guide free online.
  • Here’s Chicago’s quick reference guide for citing the most common types of sources.
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