Tag Archives: research

MU Library’s Tools

All of these search engines can be found on the site: www.marshall.edu/library/


Searching for Sources in Summon (Step-by-step)

Step One: Find Summon Search Bar on the right side (see Figure 1).

Step Two: Search for your topic

  • Remember, be specific with your search. (If you’re searching “Assisted Suicide” for instance, try to think about what it is you want to know about this topic, like for instance “Assisted Suicide in US” would make this much more specific.)

Step Three: Use the Summon Search Engine

  • Looking at the image below (Figure 2), you can continue to specify the topic. You can do this by adjusting the filters (on the left side of the figure) like the type of articles, year, and the discipline.
    • This will help if you are looking for “Assisted Suicide in US.” You can change the filters so that the search engine only shows you journal articles in the public health discipline and choose a specific time period say 2010, for instance. By doing this, you are decreasing the amount of information you have to look through.)

Step Four: Create a RefWorks Folder

  • Also in the image below (Figure 2) you can see in the top left corner the words “RefWorks.” This folder is very beneficial because the information you are finding can be put into the RefWorks folder to be read later. Creating an account is free since you are a student at Marshall.
  • Using this folder after you have created an account is easy. There is a symbol beside the titles of articles on the right in the Summon search window. You click this and the article will be put into your folder.



Using Borrowing Programs such as EZ-Borrow/IDS/ILL

These programs are book/article lending programs that students have access to. These books and articles are normally from other schools. This program is beneficial because it gives students the option of receiving materials needed even if the book or article are not available in Drinko or Morrow.


How to Use EZ-Borrow:

  • Again, this is billed into student fees, therefore students will not have to pay to sign up.
  • In order to sign up, use the 901 number assigned to the student.
  • EZ-Borrow is for books, therefore, you can search titles of books in the search bar at the top of the window.
  • Always check to make sure Marshall’s libraries do not have the books before using the lending program.

How to Use IDS-Express:

  • Create an account. Click first time user button then fill out the information requested.
  • Once an account is created, you may search for the journal article, book, newspaper article, etc., to try to find the piece you are looking for.
  • Something that might be good is to have a title of a book or article in mind. To be more specific with these sites are better.


Other Resources Available:


Ask a Librarian: This is very valuable. Use it. You can click this on the Libraries homepage and you will find a chat box where you can ask where to find sources. If you are going to use this chat, make sure you have specific questions about a topic. (Figure 3).


Ask a Librarian Chat Hours:

Monday – Thursday: 10 am – 6 pm

Friday: 10 am – 5 pm

Saturday: Closed

Sunday: 2 pm – 6 pm


Writing Center: Another valuable tool to use. There is the option of scheduling an appointment with a tutor who can help with the writing process or the option of scheduling an appointment with a research librarian. Both are very educated in research paper writing. Use these tools. (Figure 4).


Types of Appointments:

  • Face-to-face – this is meeting one-on-one with a tutor.
  • E-tutoring – this is uploading a file that the tutor will provide feedback to within 24-hours.
  • Online – this is meeting in an online chat with one of the tutors.


Writing Center Hours:

Monday – Friday: 10 am – 3 pm (Face-to-face, E-tutoring, and Online) 7 pm – 9 pm (E-tutoring and Online ONLY)


To make an appointment visit: marshall.mywconline.com (do not type in www.)




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Figure 4.


-Katie W.

One More Thing Before You Go: Final Project Advice from the Thesis Trenches

You’re an upper classman now and inching ever closer to graduation—yay! Many of you, no matter your major, have to complete a large final project. Sometimes it’s called a “capstone;” sometimes it’s called a “thesis” or “portfolio.” No matter what your program calls it, you most likely call it “scary.” Essentially, the purposes of these large final projects are to test the skills and knowledge you were expected to collect during your studies as well as demonstrate and celebrate your achievement as a student. All in all, the latter purpose is key to meditate on. If you have passed the necessary classes to make it to this point, then you are most likely more prepared to create this final project than you may believe. What it takes to “create” said final project also depends on your major and the requirements of your program, but be certain it will involve writing on some level, which is why I’m talking about it here.

We know that the keys to avoiding writer’s block and battling procrastination for any academic assignment are making a plan/schedule and starting early. One of my Writing Center colleagues Alexa Antill recently shared some great tips for tackling the writing process that are worth checking out! And they apply to this larger project as well.

I am currently in the trenches of writing my own thesis portfolio for the Masters of Art in English program here at Marshall. Fortunately, both the graduate and English departments have been helpful in reminding me about deadlines early. Whether you get such reminders from faculty or not, it’s always a good idea to inquire about important dates—again, early! In general, you should start formulating a plan for your project the semester before it will be due. You can think of that time as the pre-writing stage. Perhaps keep a journal specifically for thoughts and ideas regarding your project. It’s okay if you have absolutely no idea what you want to do your project on right away; that is the purpose of the journal. You may be sitting in a lecture one day and the professor brings up a certain theory or text or experiment that peaks your interest: that is something worth journaling about, because who knows, with a little more research, it may end up being a part of your final project.

Notice I say write down the stuff that you find interesting. It is probably an obvious point, but you are going to want to choose something that you are truly intrigued by or enthusiastic about given that you will be spending a lot of time engaging with the subject. This is another reason, you should be doing this pre-writing early. If you wait, you risk picking any ole’ topic out of the pressure to begin, which could result in a miserable experience.

Once your brainstorming has led you to a potential topic for your final project, then start your research. Usually, larger projects naturally require a larger amount research; therefore, it’s a good idea to create an ongoing annotated bibliography (Not sure what one of those are, exactly? Writing Center tutor Hailey Hughes has broken it down for you in this recent blog post). Because you are performing extensive research over a lengthy period of time, it is easy to lose track of sources and even forget what some of them were about in the first place—thank you, Christmas week of Netflix binge watching. An annotated bibliography will definitely help mitigate these troubles.

As you begin to understand the specifics regarding your topic on a deeper level, you may seek out some mentors for your project. In the MA of English program, we graduate students assemble a committee—usually consisting of three faculty members, with one serving as the chair (leader)—and it serves as a guiding and supporting body for the work we produce as a part of our final project. Even if your program does not require you to ask faculty members to monitor and guide your work (usually through reading and commenting on the writing you produce), it’s not a bad idea to seek out a mentor anyway. You’ll want to do this early, too, as a curtesy to the person’s schedule. You should try to ask the individual if they’d be interested at least the semester before you will be doing the actual writing/creating of the project (usually also the semester it is due). Finally, you will want to choose the faculty member based on their area of specialty. Many times we gravitate towards professors we just like in general, our favorites. However, if your project has to do with stem cell research, but your favorite professor’s background happens to be quantum computing, you may want to consider another faculty member. How can you find out which professors specialize in what? There are a number of resources for this information. Many departments have faculty web pages in which bios and educational backgrounds are detailed. Otherwise, traditional conversations with departmental members works well, too. Tell your favorite professor what you’re working with and ask if he or she knows anyone in the department that may be interested in working with you.

Finally, once you have your plan and some wise people to help guide your progress, you should pick some deadlines for yourself. These also depend on the nature of your program and the specific project you are doing, but you can generally figure out a way to break down your work into sections. For example, my thesis portfolio consists of a critical introduction, a scholarly paper, and a collection of creative essays. I could have chosen to work on all three at once, but I found it more approachable to knock out each part one at a time. I picked dates to distribute drafts to my committee members for each section and then a deadline for the complete project draft as well. Finally, I chose a defense date (this is a presentation event in which I will share the finished project and answer any questions posed by my committee or others who attend). In sticking with the theme of this post, I picked dates that fell much earlier than the ultimate deadline (as in the week before graduation). In fact I gave myself about a month to push things back if I need to. Having these early deadlines helps put a positive form of pressure on me, but it also gives me peace of mind to know I have a little bit extra time to play with in the case that the unexpected arises during my project process (e.g., illness, emergency, an extra busy week of work, etc.).

To recap the advice about approaching a final project I have given in this post, here is a list:

  • Start early! (Usually the semester before the project is due, but even before is good, too)
  • Keep a journal (jot down interesting ideas and topics—brainstorm regularly)
  • Choose a subject you are truly and deeply interested in (you’re going to have to spend a lot of time with it!)
  • Create an ongoing annotated bibliography to keep track of your research
  • Enlist the guidance of faculty mentors (Ask individuals who have knowledge and experience in the specific subject you are pursuing)
  • Set early deadlines for yourself, stick to a schedule, but allow some extra time for “push-back”

I hope you find these guidelines helpful and that they bolster your confidence as you approach this last big step that leads to donning cap and gown. And one last tip: visit the Writing Center! We tutors are eager and happy to help you write your way towards commencement!


What is an annotated bibliography?

The first time I was assigned an annotated bibliography, I panicked. What is an annotated bibliography? We have to have annotations for each source, but what is an annotation? I expressed my concerns to my professor, as I had never done an annotated bibliography before, but I had. Many of you have, also, you just don’t realize that you complete the steps of an annotated bibliography every time you research sources for a project or an academic paper.

Don’t become bogged down by the phrase “annotated bibliography.” It’s just a fancy, academic term that denotes a list of sources—bibliography—that are evaluated–annotations (Purdue OWL). If you’ve written an academic research-based paper or worked on anything that requires research, you know that sources can be any scholarly, peer-reviewed book, journal article, study, website, and the list goes on. Now, every time you read a possible source, just like trying to decide which presidential candidate to back, you have to evaluate it. The Purdue University Writing Center has lists three steps to every annotation: summarize, assess, and reflect (Purdue OWL).

In each annotation written in a paragraph format, you must be able to summarize the main argument—what is the author’s purpose? What are they trying to prove or get you to reflect upon? What are the main points of the article? If you cannot answer these questions, it’s either not an appropriate source or you have not read the source in its entirety. Many students that come in for help with annotated bibliographies at Marshall University’s Writing Center are discouraged, because so many sources are long and convoluted. At the beginning of your research, it’s okay to skim and flip through pages of articles, just to see if it could be a possible contender for your bibliography. Though, when you come to a decision, know that you must read more than the abstract or the first few pages to understand the author’s or authors’ purpose and point of view. That’s why it is vital to give yourself a stretch of time to find and read sources. Of the few times it is safe to make assumptions, it is safe to assume that your professor will expect that you have read a source in its entirety and have therefore, made a thoughtful decision.

I stand in the grocery store and compare one brand of granola bars over another, assessing the merits of each: How much does this brand cost compared to this one? How many bars are in each box? You must assess the source’s credibility, which is generally what you already do when you pick a source for any assignment, now you just have to write it out. Is the source from a credible author? Are there any glaring biases? Did I access this source from a credible location? (Purdue OWL). Before you go any further in your annotation, you must ask yourself that last question. So many students are discouraged because they look for sources through a Google search only, and it doesn’t benefit their assignment at all. Always, always, always use your school’s library resources first to search for scholarly, peer reviewed sources. Marshall University students pay for the Drinko Library’s journal subscriptions, articles, and books, so it’s a waste of money if you don’t use this great resource.

I think the last element of an annotation is the easiest: to evaluate its applicability to your assignment. How is the source going to work for me? How will source help me achieve the purpose of the assignment? This is where it helps to have a wide range of sources, so you can toss out the ones that don’t serve your purpose without any qualms. Just like a puzzle, don’t force certain pieces to fit where they cannot. You can’t take a quotation out of context and then write an annotation, because the non-applicability of the source becomes clear. This is where you also ask yourself if you have a variety of sources: (books, articles, websites, etc). Once you have a variety, your credibility increases because you can prove your point in different ways.

The format of the bibliography will vary, depending on the citation style you use. A few elements are uniform: each citation will need to be double spaced with a hanging indent, and generally each source is listed in alphabetical order by last name. The citation always appears before the annotation. Also, it is important to note that the annotation is not indented like a traditional paragraph.

Now, in all your newfound knowledge and wisdom in annotated bibliographies, go forth and write a rocking one! J


Research Papers: Don’t Fret

Research papers always make me nervous, as a student and a tutor. In high school I never had to do research to the extent I have to in college. I was never taught how to use data bases until I had college English classes, and librarians would come in and show us. I am in my senior year, and research papers still make me nervous.

I became a tutor this year and have learned to tell students to start the research early. I have never practiced what I preached when it came to school. I will admit I am a huge procrastinator. However, this year things have changed. I am still a procrastinator, but I start things earlier than what I used to.

To keep things on the rails, here is some advice for students: Start things early, stay focused, make a schedule, if you need help ask, and get your work double checked. When the semester first starts I sit down and look at all of my due dates for major assignments so I know what to expect. Most of the time all of my classes have major assignments due around the same time. If you know what is coming, as students we can prepare and get the little things out of the way.

When doing research, I find a reoccurring problem. I end up on other websites that have nothing to do with what I am doing. Staying focused is key. I recently found out that sometimes, I can’t study in my room. When this happens I move to a place I know I will be able to concentrate. Most of the time it is in the living room or in the campus library. When going to the library I reserve a study room ahead of time. On campus, as a student, I can only have so many hours a month reserved for a room. Having this time restraint pushes me to do all that I can in the little time allowed. I stay focused easier and I have found I get a lot more work done.

Part of focusing is having a schedule. If you know you work or focus better at a certain time of day, clear that time for your research. Once you have that schedule and get used to it things will become easier and flow more smoothly. I found out that my study habits have changed over the past year, I now study on the weekends and some nights during the week. I have classes during the day so studying at night is ideal. However, on the weekends I can get ahead in classes and focus on more depth assignments without having to worry about getting up early the next day. Since my habits have changed and I have found my niche, I am less stressed and can have fun during the week.

Once things begin to finish up, about mid-way through the assignment, make an appointment with the writing center if you have one. This will allow a fresh set of eyes to see if you are on the right track. As students sometimes we need help with research. Making an appointment with a research librarian is also a good idea. They can teach you how to search for academic sources. If you cannot find a research librarian, the writing center can also help. As tutors, most of us have used the sites as students, so we know our way around. When things wind down and the due date for the research project is approaching, set up an appointment once again. This time tutors should focus on global issues once again but then move to local issues, such as sentence structure, punctuation and grammar.

Just remember that research papers sound scary, but if you take your time, ask for help and follow some tips, things will be less nerve racking.




Writing a paper can be scary. Finding quality research can be daunting. For those of you who procrastinate, a due date can begin to haunt and horrify as you lie in bed late at night, wondering how you will relieve yourself of this nightmare. We, the tutors at the writing center, know it does not have to be this way, but it takes that first step of courage in the direction of others who know your struggles and who can provide you with the assistance you need to battle what seems like a monster of a paper. We want our tutees leaving a session with a whole new perspective on the writing process, shouting a famous quote from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: “Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful!” followed by an evil scientist laugh. And then, continue on to meet their deadlines with papers that flow from point to point and sentence to sentence, rather than one that is stitched together with random pieces much like the grotesque creature in Shelley’s novel. Basically, we are here to assist students with all of their writing demons, big or small, and make the writing process less intimidating for anyone brave enough to ask.

Not every paper is this big, unsurmountable task, and we at the writing center understand that. Sometimes, though, it is useful to have another brain and fresh set of eyes available to make sure all of your ideas are portrayed and organized most accurately and we are glad to help in this way. However, there are those writers who come into the center or submit a paper online with grammar and punctuation as their main concern for a research paper, but it turns out they are missing something important like a strong thesis statement. At times, writers want to focus on grammar and punctuation issues first, when really there are bigger problems to tackle. This is when we, the tutors, exclaim as we sterilize our tools and prepare to operate, “Don’t fret tutees! We can do this together!”

Every writer goes about the writing process differently. Some people like to make an outline before attempting a paper, while others like to sit down and start writing the paper immediately. Everyone has their own writing rituals and we get that. And just because you make an appointment at the writing center does not mean you have to present us with a polished, finished paper. Come in to brainstorm. Stop in to start your research. Sit down and make an outline so you can actually start your paper!

I had a nontraditional student the other day sign up for a face-to-face session because she was having trouble finding valuable research pertaining to her topic. She explained to me that through her search of the library’s databases, she couldn’t find anything remotely relevant, even using all the tactics she had learned about using keywords and other tricks to narrow her topic. I asked her, “Have you tried googling anything?” and her eyes grew wide with shock like she had just seen a ghost. She said her professor warned to stay clear of using Google when hunting for sources. I explained to her why I thought her professor said this and it is because some students use Google to acquire immediate sources rather than effective, scholarly ones. We did a little looking around on Google Search and found a book that could very well lead her in the direction of great sources. Within this book, we were able to identify its own reference page to many articles which related to her topic. We then took one of the articles and searched it through Marshall’s online database and there it was: full-text and all. With that, this student found her fears relieved of using Google the wrong way for a topic she thought she would never find credible sources for to begin with.

Assistance with research is only one service we provide at the writing center. Like I said earlier, a session could start out with grammatical errors as the main concern for a client, but end with the two of you identifying the main points of a paper in order to create a strong thesis. It is a mystery for tutors and tutees alike as to the direction a session will take, but a better paper and, ultimately, a better writer is always at the center of every tutor’s agenda. It is up to the writer, however, to be brave enough to sign up for that first session at whatever point they may be in the writing process and to remember Mary Shelley’s words regarding the beginning of an invention: “…it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.”