This term I have been putting off a paper for my digital communications class — a class that introduced me to the language of doing research using scholarly databases. Like all languages, becoming fluent in effective research takes guidance and practice. I found myself procrastinating on this paper simply because of the intimidating task of tackling the research.
One-on-one librarian consultations have always been offered on the second floor of Shields when classes are in person, but the service was recently moved to a virtual experience during the COVID-19 transition to online learning.
I chatted with librarian Melissa Browne to learn more about this service and how librarians offer academic support to Davis students (including how she could help guide me in researching my own paper). A few examples of recent students’ questions that librarians have answered virtually include:
- How to search for digital autobiographies.
- How to write a literature review for a UWP class, including choosing relevant databases, identifying search terms and creating a search strategy.
- How to research data on epoxy materials that could be used near a laser without melting.
As for me, I inquired about the language of research that I was briefly introduced to in my communications class. It turns out that this is a language that UC Davis librarians happen to be fluent in. The idea is that how one uses quotation marks, commas or connectors, will make a difference in the search results that appear — for example, using an “and” or an “or” or a comma between terms can narrow or expand a search — customizing the thousands of results to fit your research needs. Using connectors correctly will return much more specific and relevant results than the same phrase without the added symbols and connecting words. No question, that 15 minute Zoom call has saved me hours of work.
For many of us, an assignment like this is the first time we have had to search through online databases and archives to develop a research question or gather evidence — and with this unprecedented virtual spring term, the idea of spending hours researching a paper in your living room instead of the library or in a study session with friends can feel like a daunting task.
But as isolating as the current situation can sometimes feel, you don’t have to struggle through this challenge alone.
Regardless of your major, class year, or whether you are quarantined at home or in Davis, the library staff have an open invite to support you in your research. So, what questions do you have?
Fiona Micoleau is a senior at UC Davis majoring in communications and professional writing, and a student employee of the UC Davis Library. She transferred from the University of Oregon as a junior in 2018.