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Middle East Studies: Finding & using library resources for assignments: 1. What information do I need?

Think about your assignment task and consider what sort of information/materials will be useful in exploring your research topic.  

You are likely to use a combination of different types of resources - and this will vary by topic.

In all cases you will be using scholarly material such as books and journal articles, but for some topics you may find primary sources, news sources or official publications are useful research sources.

It is worth thinking about this before you jump in and start searching. If you can pinpoint the sort of information you require, you can target your searching in the appropriate place. 

1. Consider your research topic

2. Types of information sources

Research material can be drawn from from a wide range of different information sources. As well as using traditional sources such as books and journal articles, you may want to use news items, government reports, statistical or audiovisual material.

Some materials such as scholarly books and journals go through a rigorous 'peer review' process where they are analysed by experts in the field for reliability and quality. However, it can be more difficult to establish the provenance of other sources of information - for example anyone can create and disseminate information via the web. 

In an information rich society, it's crucial to remember that not all information resources are equal! As a researcher, you must evaluate the information you find and decide whether the content is scholarly, accurate and authoritative research material.

Books, such as textbooks, are good for providing an overview of a topic. They undergo an editorial process and are usually written by experts in the subject or professional authors. They contain reference lists or bibliographies so that you can continue to broaden your research.

Many books at the University are available in digital format as e-books. 

Books take time to produce, so may not always contain the most up to date information. 

Journals can provide you with up to date discussion of research topics as they are published more quickly and regularly than books e.g. weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually, depending on the publication.

Journal articles are written by researchers and experts in their field. Scholarly or academic journals go through a "peer review" process, where a panel of experts assesses the article before it is approved for publication, giving you reassurance that the information is reliable. Like books, the more scholarly articles also contain reference lists or bibliographies so that you can broaden your research by following up leads to related publications.

The majority of the journals available via the library are in digital format.  This means they are available to you any time, any place and ensures you can access the latest journal issues as soon as they are published.

The papers that researchers deliver at conferences and symposia around the world are often published after the event, in print and/or digital format. They may be published as a book, in a special issue of a journal or on an organisation's website.  Some may not be published at all.

Published conference papers are often the first time that research findings are publicly presented and debated so they can be sources of cutting edge research.

Many are subject to peer review, just like scholarly journals, which acts as a quality assurance check.

Subject databases may index major conference proceedings as an aid to their discovery. The following tools will also enable you to find conference papers and proceedings in your area.

 

Web of Science: Conference Proceedings Index 

Web of Science indexes the most significant conferences and seminars since 1990 in  the Science and Social Sciences & Humanities.  Select the proceedings indexes from More Settings on the Web of Science search screen.

Zetoc provides a search and alert service via the British Library's electronic table of contents database. To search for conferences, select the Conference Search option and complete the search form.  

 

Google Scholar

Use the Google Scholar search tool to find conference papers and information that hsa been indexed on the web. Search for your research area, add conference and a year if you wish to pinpoint a particular period.

A thesis or dissertation is a document submitted in support of candidature for a higher degree or professional qualification, presenting the author’s research and findings. Theses are extremely valuable sources of information, as they consist of substantial primary research in specialised topics and provide very detailed data and analysis.

They will also have extensive bibliographies, detailing the published literature on the given research topic.

Use the Finding Theses Quick Guide to learn more about tracking down theses in your field of study both at the University of Exeter and elsewhere.

One of the principle forms of primary sources: archival material can come in almost any format; such as letters, reports, minutes, registers, maps, photographs and films, digital files and sound recordings. Archives can be created by official bodies such as governments, businesses or professional organizations, or equally by individuals. Archives can contain records with a local focus, or specialise in a particular subject or theme.

The university has access to a number of archives and special collections, with many available as online resources. However,  you can click here for more information on Exeter's physical archival and special collections for Middle East Studies.

News sources can be invaluable research resources. There are various types of news sources you can choose from, including:

  • newspapers
  • newsreels
  • newswires
  • news magazines
  • news monitoring services etc. 

They provide contemporaneous accounts of events as they emerge and unfold, affording a snapshot of developments at a point in time.

By using news archive services, you can also engage in historical research by tracing commentary on issues over time, to identify and track changing political, economic and social trends.

However, remember that many newspapers and their editorials, columns and analysis may have particular political biases. As they are written with a different audience in mind, news articles will not follow the same conventions as academic articles and will usually not contain detailed references.

There is a huge amount of news research material available to you at the University. Explore the Using news resources for research LibGuide to find out more.

Search engines such as Google have made it very easy to search and find information via the internet and it is highly likely that you will use the web to find information for your research.

However, the sheer volume of material available means that sometime it can be difficult to find the information you want. Most search engines offer advanced search options that allow you to refine your search i.e. Google Advanced Search.  If you want to find academic materials, search using Google Scholar.

When using material from the internet, you need to exercise caution as anyone can publish information on the web so the quality and reliability of the information is highly variable.  Always evaluate the sources to ensure the material is trustworthy, accurate and authoritative.

As well as the sources outlined earlier, there are a range of other information sources that you can consider drawing on if appropriate during your assessments. These include:

Official publications (see our guide) Legal sources (see our guide)
Reference materials (see our guide) Data / Statistics (see our guide)
Social Media content Audiovisual material (see our resources)
and much more!

3. Activity: Types of information sources

4. Explore your LibGuide

Use your LibGuide to access Library Search, key research databases, and information on our archival collections.

 

We also have separate LibGuides on Arab & Islamic Studies and Politics & International Relations

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