Research Assistance Gives Student Lifetime Skill

When they need help with their writing, most UofL students know to contact the Writing Center, located in Ekstrom Library’s Learning Commons.

But what about the meat and bones of their papers: research, i.e., finding, evaluating and citing sources? For this equally challenging and unwieldy task, students have an excellent resource in the librarians in Research Assistance and Instruction (RAI), also located in Ekstrom’s Learning Commons.

Christian Bush

Photo by Ashley Triplett

A phone call or appointment made online will get students a face-to-face meeting with a research librarian, who can help them find relevant sources and learn better methods of research to benefit their future scholarship.

UofL sophomore Christian Bush is a recent convert to the benefits of research assistance. He thought such help was only available to students in higher grades.

“Students at all levels and at all times need this help, and don’t realize such a resource is available,” said Bush, a History and Asian Studies major. “When you first enter college, you have an impression that research appointments are sacrosanct; that only seniors working on their senior papers can get help.”

But after a savvy History professor suggested Bush reach out to RAI for help with his research, Bush found he could access the services himself. Required to create an archeological site profile for his class, History 341, Introduction to Egypt, Bush “did what most students do, I googled. But I couldn’t find any information on Google at all,” he said.

In particular, he needed a specific site profile from 1911 that was nowhere to be found. Exasperated, he set up an appointment with RAI online, after which the response was “lightning quick,” Bush said. “They called the next day.”

At the research appointment, RAI Librarian Sue Finley showed Bush not only the original excavation report he needed, but subsequent ones, up to modern-era excavation where ground-penetrating radar helps archeologists explore  underground tombs.

“I got a wealth of information,” Bush said. “More than enough to write my paper, and then some.”

But beyond helping with his immediate needs, Finley “took me through her methodology for locating the sources. She spent a good amount of time showing me how to use databases and work with sources, the nitty-gritty of the research.”

“If I hadn’t been able to meet with her I wouldn’t have had such a strong research base and it would have made the profile much less substantial,” he continued. “The fact that she taught me how to research and how to go through sources and then use the sources within sources; that’s benefited me outside that project.”

“A paper is only as strong as your writing skills and your research; if you don’t have solid research, there’s only so much you can do.”

The short-term results were important to Bush, too: “I got an A on the paper,” he said, smiling.

Be a Search Ninja in WorldCat Local

What we have labeled “Library Catalog” on the University Library’s webpage is really far more than a catalog of books or even books UofL owns. If you have used it, you probably have discovered all kinds of other materials: videos, government documents, archival documents, magazine and journal articles, and more. You probably have also realized that your search results may also include items not available at UofL but at other libraries around the world which show up in the WorldCat Local database.

In addition, the database changes daily due to additions from libraries around the world as well as updates from database providers such as Medline. So, your search results today won’t necessarily match your search results from yesterday.

While you may have searched the Library Catalog/WorldCat Local, you may not have had time to really play with it. Below are some search tips that will allow you to dig deeper into the contents of the database and have more precision with your searches. If you would like more information on searching WorldCat Local, please contact a librarian!

Having trouble looking for the title of something? Try adding ti: to the beginning of your search.

Example ti: Immunology

This is especially helpful for one-word titles or titles which have lots of words in common with other titles.

If you know the author, you can create an even more powerful search by adding au: author’s name

Example ti: Shiver au:stiefvater

Just like in Google, quotation marks can be used to search adjoining words as a phrase.

Example “The Sun Also Rises”

Want to search for variations on words?

You can use the * to find variations of a word ending or # to replace a specific character.

Example parent*

Example wom#n

There are MANY more fields you can search specifically such as Library of Congress subject headings (hl:) or MESH (hm:). See the full list here:


Are you a real library geek who enjoys using Boolean operators? You can use them in WCL too, but keep in mind there are still other factors that affect the results set such as whether we own the item. Generally, the Boolean logic seems to apply well in some cases but not others due to the complexity of the search algorithm.

The default operator is AND, so any words you enter will be joined using AND unless you use one of the other two operators OR and NOT. You can also use the | or – signs if you prefer.

Example moon OR stars

Example moon | stars

Example moon NOT stars

Example moon -stars

Use of the facets on the lefthand side can be used to sift through the abundance of results when your search returns more than you anticipated. So for example, if you are looking for a book, often book reviews of the book will show up in your results. You can remove these by using the Book facet on the left.

Some limits can be added to the search before you complete it by using the Advanced Search link.

In this area, you can add or remove additional databases to broaden or narrow your search. Unfortunately, some databases such as Medline, ERIC, GPO, and British Library Serials cannot be removed. They are a part of the OCLC WorldCat Local database.

In the Advanced Search, you can search for a date range, something you cannot do post-search with the date facets.

For a step-by-step tutorial on Advanced Search in WCL, see

There’s a Class for That!

People often ask what academic librarians do nowadays.Book Final

After all, everything is available online and students can simply Google anything they need, right? Well, evidently not. Demand for library instruction is growing, and surveys indicate both students and faculty value the help they receive from UofL Libraries.

During the 2013-2014 academic year, librarians in Ekstrom Library’s reference department taught 255 class sessions involving 5030 students. While almost half were introductory level classes in English, Communication, Campus Culture, and the like, about a third were associated with upper level classes in Arts & Sciences, Business, Education, Engineering, and Social Work. The remainder involved graduate students in the same colleges. A few students may have attended more than one class, but generally there is little overlap. We estimate that in a single school year roughly 40% of UofL underclassmen and about 20% of upperclassmen and graduate students participate in at least one class session led by a librarian.

Over the past two years, the number of students attending library class sessions has increased by 34% and the number of sessions has increased 16%. The largest gain has been in upper level undergraduate classes, particularly in Arts & Sciences and Social Work. Our librarians now work with more than 70 professors to tailor class sessions and/or research guides to specific upper level and graduate classes.

Sessions Graph2

Last academic year reference department librarians also met with over 225 students and faculty in scheduled research appointments involving 1 to 5 people. Unfortunately we only have comparable statistics for the last nine months of the 2011-2012 school year, but they show that research appointments have increased by about 56% over the past two years.

We believe the growing number of requests is the best indication that professors and students think library sessions are good investments of their time. This is supported by several recent assessments. In UofL Libraries Spring 2014 tracking study, almost two-thirds of undergraduates and about three-quarters of graduate students and faculty who responded to a class instruction question said they were very or somewhat satisfied with classes at Ekstrom Library. Similarly, 72-84% said they were very/somewhat satisfied with “research assistance from a librarian.”

Tracking Study Graphs

Earlier this year our Information Literacy group also sent an assessment survey to professors and instructors who scheduled classes with librarians in Fall 2013 or Spring 2014. Seventy-two percent of respondents rated “the overall quality of the library and research sessions offered at Ekstrom Library” as excellent on a five-point poor to excellent scale. In addition, 75% strongly agreed that “the library session was relevant to my students’ needs.”

So even in a world where students have the Internet in their pockets and backpacks, and are able to access ebooks, online databases, and countless facts with their fingertips, both students and faculty appear to appreciate the role librarians can play in helping them locate, evaluate, and effectively use information in college level research. If you would like to schedule a library class session, please contact your subject specialist, call Josh Whitacre at 852-8699, or complete our class request form.  If you want to schedule a research appointment, please submit your request here.

The LION in Summer

If you logged into the Literature Online (LION) database this summer, you might have noticed its sleek new design. Although the depth of LION’s content—journal articles, author biographies, various reference works, full-text poetry and prose—has always made it one of the best databases for literary research, the previous interface was a bit clunky and difficult to use. Unsurprisingly, we tend to avoid databases with cluttered screen layouts and incoherent search results, despite the quality of the content. We rightly expect more from our technology.

Given that the old LION was no spring chicken, it was clearly time for an update. And I’m happy to report that the new version represents a marked improvement over the previous iteration, especially in regard to the initial search screen. It’s much easier to determine the different types of content included in the database, and the menu options facilitate searching and browsing in a more intuitive manner. If you search all the content at once using the main search box, the results remain a little challenging to parse. However, the overall look is cleaner, so you should be able to find what you’re looking for after a few seconds of scanning.


It’s worth taking the time to familiarize yourself with LION because it’s an ideal starting point for literary research across all genres and periods, particularly for undergraduate researchers. If you need background information, you’ll find numerous short critical biographies of notable authors, as well as cross-searchable full-text reference titles such as The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms and The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Even more significantly, you can cross-search the MLA International Bibliography and the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL), making LION a one-stop shop of sorts for literary criticism. Finally, you can locate actual full-text literary works (over 350,000) and unique audio and video recordings. For instance, I found a very cool video of Nikki Giovanni reading “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes.

To learn more about LION and other online resources for literary research, including Project MUSE and The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, check out our Literature Research Guide.

Not for Business Majors Only: Business Resources for Everyday Life

Do you avoid business databases and reference books because you think they are packed full of financial ratios, P&L statements, or tax laws that will make your head spin?  If so, you may be missing out on some interesting and useful information.

Although the word business originally meant simply the “quality or state of being busy,”[1] over time it has acquired a monetary connotation, and is now generally considered “the activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for money,”[2] but not necessarily for profit.  Thus, business encompasses almost everything we purchase, use, view, and participate in every day, and business resources cover everything from your morning coffee (Folger’s is the best-selling brand according to Business Rankings Annual, found on Table 15 in Ekstrom) to local banks, hospitals, and schools (see Louisville Business First Big Book of Lists 2012) to television shows (NCIS edged out Sunday Night Football for the most viewers during the 2012-2013 season according to Market Share Reporter, also on Table 15 in Ekstrom).

Looking for an auto repair shop near UofL?  Use the custom search option in ReferenceUSA’s U.S. Businesses Database.  Select “General Automotive Repair Shops” from the Major Industry Group list under Business Type, and “Radius Search” under Geography.  Enter UofL’s address or zip code with the desired distance to get names, phone numbers and addresses of the closest repair places.


Starting a job search?  Learn more about various industries and potential employers by using links on the Industry Profiles & Overviews and Company Profiles & Directories pages of UofL’s business research guide. Then use the company news links to stay up to date for your interviews.


Want to know which large charities are the most efficient in terms of converting your donations to charitable services?  Check out “Charity All-Stars” and “50 Largest U.S. Charities, by the Numbers” in Forbes, which is available through Business Source Premier.

Shopping for a new phone? Read the latest Consumer Reports reviews, also available via Business Source Premier.

Smartphone comp3

For more information about these and other business resources, visit UofL’s business research guide or contact me at

[1] “business, n.”. OED Online. September 2013. Oxford University Press. 7 November 2013 <;.
[2] “business.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2013. <;.

What’s a Data Management Plan, and why do I need one?

By Samantha McClellan, Social Sciences Teaching and Faculty Outreach Librarian

As a researcher, you might notice that you’re seeing “data management plans” as a part of your grant requirements. Effective for proposals submitted on or after January 18, 2011, investigators are expected to share their data produced under an NSF (National Science Foundation) grant. These plans are increasingly becoming a part of other granting agencies’ requirements, including the NEH and NIH. Tools like the DMP Tool are being created to assist you in creating your data management plan.

Data management is an essential part of the research life cycle—this can mean the difference between getting a grant, preserving your data for the long-term, and the overall success of your research.

Science life cycle

Source: Humphrey, Charles. “e-Science and the Life Cycle of Research” (2006)
Description: The Research Life Cycle. If conducting original research, all sections from “Study Concept & Design” to “Analysis” should be considered when managing data and writing a data management plan.

The Components of a Data Management Plan

Typical data management plans consist of the following:

–          A description of the project

–          A description of the data that will be produced

–          How the data will be managed throughout

–          Documentation about the data

–          Plans for short-term data storage, backup, and security

–          Legal and ethical issues

–          Plans for access, sharing, and reuse of data

–          Plans for data retention and disposal arrangements

–          Plans for preservation and archiving

Why Manage your Data

Regardless of whether your funding agency requires a data management plan, following standard guidelines for managing your data can assist you in numerous ways:

  • Save time: planning how you’ll manage your data will save you time throughout the research process.
    • e.g. Standardize your file formats across the project and use sustainable file formats. Long-term access can become an issue as certain software become obsolete.
  • Simplify: when you let a repository house (and potentially share) your data, they also get the housekeeping duties of managing the data.
    • e.g. Rather than answering questions and requests for your data, repositories will do that for you.
  • Preserve: by depositing your data in a repository, you’re ensuring that the data will be available to you and other researchers long-term.
    • Data repositories exist to store, preserve, and provide access to your data.
  • Research efficiency: when you document your data throughout the lifecycle, you are making it easier for you and others to find and understand your data in the future.
    • e.g. Use directory and file naming conventions to avoid confusion amongst multiple researchers.
  • Meet funder requirements: if this is standard practice for you, you’re already on your way to a solid data management plan! Many funders now require formal data management plans and/or that data produced under their grants be made publicly available.
  • Facilitate new discoveries: sharing data reinforces scientific inquiry, which can lead to new discoveries. This also helps in avoiding duplication of data by allowing multiple researchers to utilize the same data set.
    • The open access movement exists to share and facilitate new knowledge.1

Consider the library a partner in the data management process. Librarians are interested in data management because we are interested in the short- and long-term preservation of raw data that can be used to create new and interesting ways to understand things. If you have any questions about managing your data or creating a data management plan, please refer to the UofL Libraries Data Management research guide or contact the Social Sciences Teaching & Faculty Outreach Librarian at


1 Crummett, C., Graham, A., McNeill, K., Sheehan, D., & Stout, A. (2013). MIT Libraries Data Management and Publishing. Retrieved from

Some Helpful Features of the Library Catalog aka WorldCat Local

So, that big search box on many of the University Libraries webapges… you’ve used it to find stuff, but did you know that it can help you cite what you find? Just click the Cite/Export link in the top right corner as you’re looking at the record for a book, article, or other material you’ve found. Then choose the citation style that you’re using.


If you find an item of interest, you can share it with others using the Share button. Items can be shared via Facebook, Google, Twitter, Pinterest, and any number of other social media sites. This button is located to the right of the Cite/Export link mentioned above.

With WorldCat Local, you can also create a personal account and create lists for yourself. For example, I have created a list for myself of items that I’d like to read someday but don’t have time to get to right now. Lists can be public or private. In addition, you can track other people’s lists, save searches of your own, add tags to items of interest, and create a profile that can be either private or public as well. If you are a researcher who uses more than one library, you can add these institutions to your favorite libraries list. The sign in feature is located in the far upper right corner of the screen.

wclrefineyoursearchWhat if you need a children’s book in Spanish? Start with a keyword search, say for “girls” because you want a book about a little girl.  Once you have the list of results, you can narrow using what are called “facets” or Refine Your Search options on the left side of the search screen. Click on the facet for “Spanish” under language and then click on the facet for “juvenile”.  Voila!  You find 3 books about girls in Spanish that UofL owns!