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IMPACT! Service, Contemplation and Social Justice   Tags: service_learning  

Guide to library research for Service Learning 192: Service Learning Residential Academic Program
Last Updated: Oct 1, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Featured books (including ebooks)

Current Events & Newspapers

  • CQ Researcher
    Well-documented full text overviews of current issues, including bibliographies and chronologies. Produced by Congressional Quarterly, 1991-present.
  • Ethnic NewsWatch
    Full-text articles from newspapers, magazines and journals of ethnic communities in the United States. In several languages, 1965-present.
  • Newspaper databases
    List of library databases that provide access to current and historical newspapers. Check LexisNexis Academic for current national & world news; Massachusetts Newsstand for local news.

Your library research learning goals

Our goals for this session involve students to:

  • get a primer about the resources available at the library
  • learn how to use databases efficiently
  • learn the general importance of citation management and how to sign up for RefWorks in particular
  • begin searching for information for a presentation you will make to the class

Some Starting Points for Researching Diversity


What about Wikipedia?

The following is taken straight from Wikipedia itself!

Notable strengths of Wikipedia

Wikipedia has certain advantages over other reference works. Being web-based and having a very large number of active writers and editors, it provides fast coverage of many topics and provides hyperlinking, unavailable in traditional media.

Also, it often provides access to subject matter that is otherwise inaccessible in non-native languages. Since English Wikipedia editors come from all around the world, the relative lack of non-Western topics found in many Western publications is significantly less noticeable on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia often produces excellent articles about newsworthy events within days of their occurrence, such as the 2007 Wimbledon Championships, Lal Masjid siege, Kidnapping of Alan Johnston or the Benoit family tragedy. Similarly, it is one of the few sites on the web even attempting neutral, objective, encyclopedic coverage of popular culture, including television series or science fiction. It is also developing across-the-board global coverage of subject areas where for one reason or another existing sources are highly fragmented, including sports such as football/soccer and golf.

In comparison with most other web-based resources, Wikipedia's open approach tremendously increases the chances that any particular factual error or misleading statement will be promptly corrected. As Wikipedia is a collaborative, ongoing project, one may also ask questions of an article's authors. And thanks to its extensive use of hyperlinks and external links, Wikipedia can be an excellent guide to other related material, both on and off Wiki.

Notable weaknesses of Wikipedia

Wikipedia's most dramatic weaknesses are closely associated with its greatest strengths. Wikipedia's radical openness means that any given article may be, at any given moment, in a bad state: for example, it could be in the middle of a large edit or it could have been recently vandalized. While blatant vandalism is usually easily spotted and rapidly corrected, Wikipedia is certainly more subject to subtle vandalism and deliberate factual errors than a typical reference work.

Also, much as Wikipedia can rapidly produce articles on timely topics, it is also subject to remarkable oversights and omissions. There is no systematic process to make sure that "obviously important" topics are written about, so at any given time Wikipedia may be wildly out of balance in the relative attention paid to two different topics. For example, it is far more likely that the English-language Wikipedia will have at least some material about any given small U.S. village than about a given moderately-sized city in sub-Saharan Africa.

Another closely-related issue is that particular Wikipedia articles (or series of related articles) are liable to be incomplete in ways that would be unusual in a more tightly-controlled reference work. Sometimes this is obvious (as with a stub article) but other times it may be subtle: one side of a controversial issue may be excellently presented, while the other is barely mentioned; a portion of someone's life (not always the most notable portion) may be covered in detail, while other aspects may be presented only sketchily or not at all; coverage of a country's history may focus on the incidents that drew international attention, or may simply reflect the interest and expertise of some individual writer.

Another problem with a lot of content on Wikipedia is that many contributors do not cite their sources — something that makes it hard for the reader to judge the credibility of what is written. As of 2010, this problem has almost certainly been diminishing over the last several years, but it has not gone away.


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Isabel Espinal
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Contact Info
W.E.B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts
154 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003

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About Me:
Reference & Research Assistance Desk hours, Spring 2017: Mondays 11:30-1, Tuesdays 5-7, and Wednesdays 9-10. In New Africa House: Wednesdays 1-2:30, room 323. Also available by appointment.

Citation Management

Use a citation manager, such as RefWorks to keep track of your research.

Put all your references in RefWorks, create quick and easy bibliographies, build your knowledgebase.


If you need more help or info on RefWorks, check out the online guides and webinars or Ask a Librarian.

If you're looking for another citation management option to RefWorks, try Zotero.

© 2016 University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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