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LIBA 150 - College Success and the Mercy Experience: Research & Libraries - Helpful Things to Know

This resource guide presents links and information to assist you in meeting the course objectives and learning outcomes of LIBA 150 - College Success and the Mercy Experience.

College Success and the Mercy Experience

Research & Libraries - Helpful Things to Know

Top Ten Things to Know about College Libraries

Transitioning to College: Helping You Succeed

Top 10 Things First-Year Students Should Know about Using College Libraries to do Research

10.       The book collection in a college library doesn’t look like the one in your local public library.
College libraries need to support students and faculty doing work in many different areas of study.  The books in college libraries are added to the collection because they support the curriculum, the courses that are being taught at a specific institution.  There are no engineering courses taught at Mount Aloysius College so there are very books in the college on that topic.  On the other hand, there are many nursing books on the shelves as there are many students who are studying nursing here.
9.         Research is a process.
Research involves looking in several places, taking careful notes, asking questions, and sometime dealing with a few false starts.  No kidding, research is usually hard work.  It involves a lot of small steps.  The information you find might range from one small detail that makes your paper perfect to the discovery of new information that eventually helps you with a career choice.  You never know; the information you find today could change your life tomorrow.
8.         Know your ABCs and 123s.
That’s all you will need in order to understand the Library of Congress (LC) classification system that is used to organize materials in the main collection of our library.  LC numbers can seem confusing at first because they begin with letters instead of numbers.  Just take it one letter at a time.  There is a Juvenile Collection, in support of the Early Childhood and Elementary Education programs, that is classified in the Dewey system like books in high school and public libraries.
7.         Ask questions.
Library catalogs will lead you to items that are physically on the shelf and online.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how to find what you need.  No one can be expected to navigate the complexity of the library on his or her own.  Librarians are available to help you in person, on the phone, and via email.
6.         Become familiar with citations.
A citation is a listing of the key pieces of information about a work that make it possible to locate it.  Think of it as an address for that particular items.  The elements of a citation normally include author, title, and date of publication, and depending on the type of material (book, article, video, etc.) other elements will be present such as volume, issue, and page numbers for journal articles.  Citations represent a basic element of scholarly research.  You will use citations to locate information and also to give credit to the works of others when you write about them.  Different disciplines use different citation styles – become familiar with the one used in your subject area.
5.         Evaluation is key!
Your ability to evaluate the information you use is more important than ever, especially because the Web has become so popular.  Since anyone can post information on the Internet, it is important that you turn a critical eye to the information you find and use.  Ask questions such as, “Who wrote this?  What are their credentials? How old is this information?  Are there any errors of fact or logic in the information?  Does the author display bias in any way?”  You probably already know how to do these types of evaluations.  Just don’t assume that because you are now in college you will always be dealing with information that is credible.  This habit of evaluating needs to become a life-long habit.
4.         Learn to avoid plagiarism.
Plagiarism is intellectual theft.  Your professors take it very seriously.  Simply stated, to plagiarize is to use another person’s ideas or expressions in your writing without giving credit.  Turning in another person’s paper as your own is a blatant example of plagiarism, bu something accidental like failing to correctly cite a source because it isn’t clear from your sloppy notes is also plagiarism.  So be careful and be aware of the rules.
3.         Get an early start.
With all the technology available today, you might think that getting an early start on your research wouldn’t be that important, but it is.  Sometimes you expect to be able to find information on your topic and discover that it is more difficult than you thought.  By starting early, you can avoid the frustrations that can arise when you hit dead ends.  Besides, when you give yourself a head start with your research, you will most likely have the time to make use of Interlibrary Loan. You’ve probably heard this many times already, but getting an early start really will make things go more smoothly.
2.         Everything is not on Google.
Many students have the misperception that they can find everything with search engines like Google or Yahoo.  But the truth is – search engines have certain limitations.  Using library resources will give you access to licensed information that has been reviewed by publishers, editors, and librarians and that is not freely available on the Internet.  A librarian is often your best search engine – her or she can point you to the best databases for your topic as well as reputable Internet sites.
1.         Focus on scholarly literature.
Time magazine and Sports Illustrated are not considered scholarly journals.  Scholarly journals report research.  Your professors will expect you to focus your investigations on these types of sources.  Most scholarly articles include an abstract (summary) of the article, are written by faculty members and/or researchers, have charts or graphs but not colorful graphics or ads, and include the citations for their research.  Scholarly journals are also known as peer-reviewed.

This list was adapted, in part, from a work by the same name.

Thinking about Information

What is information literacy and why do you need to know about it?

Information literacy is a set of skills that includes:

  • Understanding what your information needs are
  • Knowing how to locate different kinds of information in a variety of formats, including both print and electronic
  • Developing the necessary technical skills to accomplish these tasks
  • Being able to identify relevant sources
  • Knowing how to evaluate and be discriminating about the information you retrieve
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and

Why does any of this matter?
All of these skills are increasingly important because of the vast amount of information available and the variety of sources providing the information.

  • ​UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, a specialised agency of the United Nations) managed to collect figures from 123 countries. The latest (2017) available numbers total to approximately 2.2 million books published per year
  • There were 7,218 magazines in the United States in 2018, up from 7,176 in the previous year. The number of magazines in the United states was at its highest in 2012, when 7,390 consumer magazines circulated throughout the American market
  • Google indexes more than 30 trillion unique individual web pages (2016 estimate)

Working to become information literate does not end with graduation from college:​
Being information literate 

  • Helps in solving particular problems
  • Aids in making informed decision
  • Is considered to be the basis of democracy
  • Requires time, patience, and ongoing refinement
  • Is the hallmark of a lifelong learner

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Source: Volunteer State Community College

ACRL Information Literacy Framework

Created by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), (2015), the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education outlines key concepts and best practices of information literacy instruction. 

"The Framework is organized into six frames, each consisting of a concept central to information literacy, a set of knowledge practices, and a set of dispositions. These are the six concepts that anchor the frames, presented alphabetically:

  • Authority Is Constructed and Contextual
  • Information Creation as a Process
  • Information Has Value
  • Research as Inquiry
  • Scholarship as Conversation
  • Searching as Strategic Exploration"

Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, Introduction

Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

The Human Tools

Reference Librarians are trained professionals whose job it is to assist you with your research and, more importantly, to guide you in developing and fine tuning your own research skills.

Here's a short list of some of the research processes with which they can assist you:

  • choosing a topic
  • narrowing a topic
  • identifying keywords
  • developing a research question
  • determining the best database
  • evaluating information
  • citation formatting
  • avoiding plagiarism
  • ... and much more!

The Reference Desk is usually staffed from 9:00 a.m. - noon and 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.  You may make an appointment by calling 886-6478 or emailing us at if you need to come at a particular time.  Please bring a copy of your assignment with you.

Learn the Lingo

Here's a list of research-related terms that you will probably begin to hear from your first day in class.  If you don't know already what they mean, look them up and make an effort to incorporate them into your vocabulary.  Be careful, some of these words have more than one meaning.  Pick the meaning that relates to research.  For example, the word citation, in an academic context, is not a traffic ticket.  Rather, it is the "address" of a book on the shelves or an article (newspaper, magazine, journal) in a database.

These terms are important words in the new language that you will learn in College - the language of research.

  • citation
  • periodical
  • journal
  • abstract
  • database
  • index
  • MLA/APA formatting
  • search engine
  • Boolean Logic
  • thesaurus
  • archives
  • plagiarism
  • full-text
  • keywords
  • peer-reviewed
  • html
  • PDF
  • Library of Congress
  • subject heading
  • reserves

PA Forward

What Is PA Forward?

The Pennsylvania Library Association’s 21st Century Literacies Initiative, PA Forward, was conceived to give voice to what the library community already knows, and what other states throughout the nation are also recognizing:

With the right support, libraries are ideally positioned to become the community centers of information, technology, and learning that will fuel educational and economic opportunity for all of our citizens.

 Libraries have moved far beyond just being book repositories. They’re agile institutions serving real-life needs. Libraries are the key to powering progress and elevating the quality of life in Pennsylvania by fueling the types of knowledge essential to success: Basic Literacy, Information Literacy, Civic and Social Literacy, Health Literacy, and Financial Literacy.

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Cross of the Sisters of Mercy, from a devotional print, ca. 1920

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