Dissertation Calculator (University of Minnesota) "is a tool that helps demystify the process of completing your dissertation or thesis. The Calculator breaks down the dissertation process into manageable deadlines and provides you with important resources and advice. Using this tool can help you develop your specific process in collaboration with your department, advisor, writing group and others." NOTE: Resources identified in the schedule may link to a login for University of Minnesota students, but the UCF Libraries provide access for our students to many of the same resources; contact UCF Ask A Librarian for assistance.
The process of developing and writing a research paper can be intimidating. The following steps will help you organize your research, make the process less intimidating, and create good quality research papers.
Develop or Select a Topic
(Try to choose a topic that interests you.)
What are the main concepts?
(Keywords, synonyms, related terms)
Find overview or background info on the topic
(General or subject specific encyclopedias)
Review your topic
(Your topic needs broadening – it is too narrow not enough information available)
(Your topic needs narrowing – it is too broad, too much information, cannot be knowledgeable on all aspects of the topic)
Locate and retrieve materials
(Library Catalog, databases for eBooks, databases for scholarly journals, Internet resources)
(Save time - Make notes of what and where you find your information)
Evaluate your sources and select best sources
(Review sources by authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage)
Organize, Write and Revise
Document your sources
*Having trouble – Check with a librarian
*Be willing to use a Thesaurus or Subject resource (encyclopedia, subject heading list in a database or catalog)
There are several strategies you can use to search for information using online resources. An overview of these strategies is discussed below. Be aware, however, that each database you use will probably apply these strategies differently.
Boolean Operators – Use the words AND, OR, NOT to connect your search terms logically. AND means you want both of your terms and you are narrowing your search (anxiety AND children). OR means you will take either term and it expands your search (personality OR behavior OR character). NOT excludes a subject or search term (violence NOT war).
Nesting – Use parentheses to group your search terms and Boolean operators in the order in which you would like them processed. Using Advanced search screens in a database or on the Internet is another way to group your terms so that you retrieve more relevant documents on your desired subject. An example of nesting: (doping or performance enhancing drugs) and sports
Truncation Wildcards –Using truncation and wildcard symbols (? * !) is a shortcut strategy for retrieving records that contain a variation of a word. Using a truncation symbol enables you to include different word endings and spellings without having to list them all as search terms. For example, educat* will retrieve education or educator or educated or educating or educational. Wildcards typically are used to find alternate spellings of a word, such as wom*n which will retrieve either women or woman. Be careful when using truncation and wildcard symbols because different databases use different symbols. Using a ? in some databases may result in retrieving one or more characters but other databases may have different uses for a question mark. To determine which symbol is used in the database you are searching, find the Help screens and look for information on wildcards, truncation, or word variation.
Synonyms – Think of synonyms or related phrases that are relevant for your search. For example, if the topic is capital punishment, you could also search for death penalty. If you are searching for the emotional stress related to hurricanes, you could structure your search like this:
Stress or depression or anxiety
Hurricanes or storms or cyclones
If you find a relevant article, look for additional synonyms or related phrases to expand your search.
Field Searching – A field is a specified section of an electronic record. Try searching specific fields like Author, Subject, Title, or within Full-Text to either limit or expand your search. A keyword can usually appear in any one of a variety of different fields.
Controlled Vocabulary – Very few databases have a thesaurus, but some use assigned Subject Headings. If the database you are using has either one, it is worth investigating to see how the database groups subjects and uses language. Searching for a Subject Heading is more precise than searching for Keywords.
For More Help:
Be sure to read the Help sections. Many databases have very useful Help resources that can save you time. Information provided by Help should tell you the rules and how to apply them. Checking Help is particularly useful to determine what the truncation/wildcard symbols are; if the resource uses “AND” or “+” to link terms; and whether the system interprets multiple terms as a phrase, connects them with AND, or connects them with OR.
The UCF Library Catalog can be used to search for any item the library has access to, such as books or journal titles (not individual articles), and to determine which journals are available online.
To begin your search in the library’s catalog, start at the UCF library homepage (library.ucf.edu) and click on the tab Books/Catalog.
Basic Search – this is the default screen
Advanced Search – Click on the Advanced search option to allow you to search more precisely
Click on Help in the upper right hand corner.
Distance learning students may obtain both UCF and non-UCF library materials such as books, journal articles, etc. using the UCF Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service. UCF’s Interlibrary Loan Service uses Illiad. You can sign up and request to borrow books and retrieve electronic versions of journal articles by visiting the ILL website: http://library.ucf.edu/ILL . If it's your first time requesting an item, then click on the link Login to ILLiad to establish your Illiad account.
When setting up your Illiad account, make sure to identify yourself as a Distance Student by selecting UCF-Distance Learner under Loan Pickup Location. This will ensure that all articles will be sent to you electronically whether the library owns them or not. When you log into the system, you will use your NID number and password.
Illiad provides forms for requesting articles, book chapters, conference papers, standards, books, microfilm and dissertations. You also can review each of your requests and track its progress towards completion. Many of the subscription databases provide direct links to the ILL article request form via the “Get Full Text” icon for those articles that are not available full text online.
Articles less than 50 pages will be sent to your ILL account electronically. The Interlibrary Loan Department notifies you by e-mail when your material is available. To pick up an item, log on to the ILL website http://library.ucf.edu/ILL/default.asp and click on ‘Download Articles’.
Requested items such as books, videos and DVDs will be mailed directly to you. Books, videos, and DVDs can be returned to the UCF Orlando Library or a library on one of the area campuses. If you choose to mail back the material, you are responsible for the return postage. There are some restrictions. Refer to the Interlibrary Loan http://library.ucf.edu/services/borrowing-from-other-libraries/ for details regarding the Interlibrary Loan service and their policies, or contact the Interlibrary Loan office email firstname.lastname@example.org or, by phone at (407) 823-2383.
Instructional Services -- "Library Instruction is beneficial to all students. Learning together as a group reduces some of the stress and anxiety students may have when trying to learn about the libraries' various resources. Our instruction sessions are customized presentations, with hands-on training when possible, specifically tailored to your class's assigned research. Students learn to select, evaluate, and use electronic and print resources for their research. Classes are held in the library's electronic classrooms or, when necessary, your classroom."
Assistance is available at the UCF Library's Research Assistance Desk during all staffed hours. The Research Assistance / Reference Desk is on the entrance level (2nd floor), halfway back as you walk into the Library (Map).
Most questions can be handled directly by the librarians at the Research Assistance Desk. For more complex questions, other librarians with specific subject expertise are accessible through the librarians at the desk most weekdays during daytime hours.
At times when the Research Assistance Desk is closed (e.g., after 9 PM), directional assistance may be available from the staff at the Circulation / Book Return Desk at the entrance of the Library.
Brief questions can be submitted electronically or by telephone (407-823-2562) to Ask A Librarian.
Appointments for Research Assistance
A Research Consultation is a one-on-one appointment with a librarian for extensive, in-depth research assistance. If you need more help than can be provided at the Research Assistance Desk or from the Ask A Librarian service, you may sign up for a Research Consultation appointment.
At least 48 business hours notice is required for all appointments.
Abstract: A short summary of an article, book, document, or non-print item, written by the author or a member of the editorial staff.
Bibliographic: The descriptive components of an item such as; edition, authors, volume, issue numbers, date, etc.
Boolean: The terms AND, OR, NOT, which are used to link groups of concepts when searching online.
Call Number: A representation that indicates an item’s shelf location usually based on subject.
Citation: The information about a book, article, document, or non-print item that identifies it. Pertinent data include author, title, date, and page numbers.
Database: An organized collection of electronic records that are standardized in format and content, which can be searched using specific techniques.
EZproxy: The newest and recommended method of accessing UCF databases from off campus. Requires login with an activated 14-digit UCF library number.
Field: A subdivision of a database record; e.g., Title, Author, Date, or Subject Heading.
Full Text: Articles, books, or other items that can be displayed or obtained in their entirety online. Usually available in either HTML, PDF, or Text format (see related definitions).
Get Full Text: A link that connects a search result in a database to the full text of that article, if available, and/or to other relevant library resources and services. Also known as SFX.
HTML Format Articles: Articles or other items converted to HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) for display or distribution on the World Wide Web. Can include graphics or images from the articles.
Index: A resource that provides access to the contents of a file, document, or group of documents.
Internet: A worldwide interconnected network of computers.
ISBN: International Standard Book Number.
Journal: A periodical, particularly one containing scholarly articles.
Keyword: Words used in database and internet searching that appear in any number of fields which describe an article, book, document, or non-print item.
Magazine: A periodical which contains articles on various subjects designed for general reading.
Online Catalog: A compilation of computer records that provide access to a library’s collection.
PDF Format Articles: Articles or other items converted to Portable Document Format, a file format created by Adobe and which displays as an “image” of the original article. To display PDF documents, you need a copy of Adobe Reader installed on your PC.
Peer-Reviewed Journals: Journals where articles are evaluated (refereed) by subject specialists before being accepted for publication.
Periodical: A serial that is published at regular intervals, generally more frequently than once a year.
Search Strategy: A systematic process used to find the most relevant information on a topic.
Serial: A publication issued in successive parts intended to be continued indefinitely.
SFX: A link that connects a search result in a database to the full text of that article, if available, and/or to other relevant library resources and services. Also known as Get Full Text.
Subject Heading: A valid term or descriptor that is part of a controlled vocabulary used to describe the contents of a book, article, document, or non-print resource.
Text Format Articles: Articles or other items displayed in ASCII (or plain) text which displays only the text characters of the item; not the format, color, or any graphics.
Thesaurus: A compilation of terms providing a standardized or controlled vocabulary, including broader, narrower, and related terms.
Truncation: A search strategy method where variants of a word are searched by replacing one or more letters with a symbol.
World Wide Web: A hypertext system for finding and accessing information on the Internet.