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Gathering Information

Once you become familiar with the writing process and decide on a topic area, the next step is to begin finding information on the topic. There are essentially two ways that students gather valid academic material that is appropriate for use in a research paper: the old, roadwork in the library, and the new, using the world wide web.

The Old Way-Traditional Use of the Library

Libraries provide a valuable source of information that can be used to help write a solid research paper.  While many students have incorporated the use of the world wide web to do the majority of research involved with writing a paper, the library is still a very useful means of gathering information.  Libraries provide the research with multiple sources of information, including:

Books Academic & Professional Journals
Microfiche Government Publications
Census Almanacs
Dictionaries & Thesauruses Newspaper & Periodicals
CD-Rom Databases Maps

Libraries has several key advantages.  First, you have the ability to have a hard copy of the desired information right before your eyes.  This means that rather than simply having a citation of journal article, you can have the full text available for you to read through and you also have the ability to read books that are rarely found in their entirety on the world wide web.

Second, you are able to view multiple sources of information without having to lose your current source or navigate back and forth through different sites on the internet.  This is helpful because you can compare information through different sources, like comparing research from a journal article to information in a government report.

Third, it's free.  Most libraries simply require a student i.d. or a library call and everybody has equal access to one or the other without having to pay...unless of course you rack up late fees.  There's no having to pay for computer print outs or internet access to use the libraries resource.

In addition to the pros of using the library, one of the big advantages is a researchers ability to access periodicals through there article database network.  While this involves a collaboration between the traditional library and the internet, it provides the student with the opportunity to access such databases as ProQuest, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, WilsonSelect, FirstSearch, and SciSearch to help find relevant information to their subject topic.  However, the use of these often requires an account, but students of universities and colleges are usually able to access the services free of charge via the schools library.

While using the library has many advantages it does have some drawbacks.  Sometimes books or materials are simply not available because they are checked out to somebody else.  If you're in a time crunch this can be a major drawback.  Also, if you have to use a library's inter-library loan service then waits can be from as little as a few days to several months, also a bad think if time is a concern.

The New Way-Using the World Wide Web

One of the fastest growing and most popular ways to gather information is use of the world wide web. Many people have access to the internet and have taken advantage of the many resources it provides in doing a research paper.  Basically, anybody with a computer or access to a computer can accomplish a great deal of work by using the web. 

The resources section provides links to sites related to the study of criminal justice issues.  General resource links to search engines and other useful tools for research are provided.  A list of links providing information on general criminal justice research sites is also provided. 

Research can be a very rewarding process. This process develops skills that will be helpful in your personal and professional life. Good luck and remember to review the writing process before beginning your research adventure and the information gathering process.


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