Blogs: Basic information tools

Finding science information can be a challenge.  When you want to find research to use in your work, study, or in your daily life -- or when you are just hungry to satisfy your curiosity about science that’s in the news or on your mind -- it can be difficult to know where to start.

One way to get your footing is to ask yourself, “How would scientists communicate about the question I’m exploring?”

Scientists communicate in lots of ways, so I’ve split them into two big categories: the way scientists communicate amongst themselves, and the way they communicate with the rest of us.  In this post, we’ll talk about the first category:   

The way scientists talk to each other

“editing a paper,” by Flickr user Nic McPheeAt minimum, scientists communicate with colleagues in their field by publishing reports or analyses of their work.  A report of this type might appear as an academic paper published in a journal or read at a conference.  Generally speaking, formal communication of this sort goes through a peer-review process -- which means that experts and respected colleagues evaluate the paper and give feedback before it is published.  

Scientists might also engage in peer-to-peer debate about hot issues of the day -- for example, in person at professional meetings, or in the letters section of a widely-read journal.  

Here are some ways to find this type of "by scientists, for scientists" information:

Now you should have a good start finding research, data, and information that scientists share with each other.  Next time, I’ll share some resources you can use to find science information that is published specifically for laypersons -- that’s us non-scientists!

 


In the meantime, don’t forget that librarians are always happy to help you with your questions and research needs -- whether they’re science-related or not!  So ask the librarian on duty the next time you’re at the library, or call or email us anytime.


 

It is that time of year when students don backpacks and grab lunch boxes, jump on buses, and synchronize their schedules to the sound of a bell. Fall signifies a return to the halls of learning, to homework, and studying textbooks.

But what about those of us beyond our backpack years, who consider our formal education complete but still have a thirst for knowledge? What are we, the lifelong learners and the constantly curious to do now that school is in session?

Here is a list of some top adult learning resources available freely online.  They are especially geared toward adult lifelong learners who are looking to explore new fields of knowledge, satisfy curiosity, and continue learning many years after the backpack has been permantly hung up.

  • Open Culture is an online collection of high-quality cultural and education media including language learning, movies, audio books, e-books, MOOCs*, and language learning resources. Take a course in Computer Science, watch Oscar winning films, or learn Italian.
  • Learn Free (or Aprende Libre in Spanish) is a self-paced and comprehensive website geared toward adults learning a new technology, improving English literacy, learning math and money basics, and increasing job skills. A popular course is Facebook 101 perfect for understanding Facebook's privacy settings and policies.
  • TechBoomers is a free educational website that teaches older adults about websites that may improve their life and tech know-how.  There are a lot of tutorials here that you will not find any where else.  The great think is you do not have to have any gray hair to use it, just a desire to learn.
  •  Khan Academy is a not-for-profit with the mission to provide a free online world-class education for anyone anywhere.  It requires that you create an account and then from there you have access to a wide range of subjects including math, science, and computing.  I like this resource because it tracks your progress and allows you to earn digital badges for your hard work. 
  • Academic Earth is a collection of free online college courses from well known universities like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT.  I've been enjoying the TL;DR** video illustrating through illustration summaries of classic works, including Fahrenheit 451
  • Coursera also offers free online college level courses. You choose which courses to sign up for then learn on your own time.  Coursework includes short video lectures, quizes, peer graded assignments, connecting with other students and teachers, and recognition for your achievements. Courses range from Child Nutrition and Cooking to the History of Rock, from Scientific Computing to Exploratory Data Analysis.  

Most importantly your Multnomah County Library has a wealth of online learning resources freely available with your library card.  

You can learn a new language with Mango Connect, listen to political folk songs or medieval music from Music Online from Alexander Street Press, or study for a test and improve job skills with the LearningExpress Library.  Take a look at the library's online research page for many more choices. There are almost unlimited ways to continue learning and developing valuable new skills with your library card! 

Are you making an inquiry into a new subject, doing dedicated research, or just curious about something you heard about? Contact a librarian today and we will be happy to help you continue your search.

Do you have a favorite online resource to recommend?  Let us know in the comments.

 

*MOOC is an acronym for “massive open online course” an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web.   

**TL;DR is an acronym for "too long; didn't read" indicating the video is a summary of the novel.

So you've been trying to use primary sources in your research. Maybe you found some great historical documents or speeches. But now you'd like to include some historical images and articles. Read on! (If you need more background about primary sources, start with our blog post Help! I Need to Find Primary Sources!)

There are many places to find historical newspaper and magazine articles. The Historical Oregonian has local newspaper articles from 1861-1987. You’ll also find all the advertisements, photographs, and other images that appeared in the newspaper’s pages. This allows readers to see what life was really like in a certain time period, from world events to the cost of groceries. Image of old newspaper The New York Times Historical is another good source for U.S. and international news articles. The National Geographic Virtual Library has articles, maps, images and ads from National Geographic magazine, covering the years 1888-1994. All three of these resources require a Multnomah County library card number and PIN.

If your library card’s gone missing, you can find articles from other newspapers in Oregon by searching Historic Oregon Newspapers or newspapers from around the country at the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America site.

One thing to keep in mind when looking for primary sources: these materials come from different time periods, and they reflect the attitudes and language used at the time.  Articles, images and advertisements from the past may use stereotypes or words that are now considered offensive.  And sometimes primary sources may use out-of-date words: cars may be called automobiles or glasses may be referred to as spectacles, for example.

Still have questions? Contact a librarian for help!

Have you been told to use primary sources in your research? Read on for some suggestions!

What are primary sources, anyway?Revolutionary war map

A primary source is one which was created during the time period being studied. Examples could include documents, speeches/interviews, images, articles (written during the time period), and even artifacts. So, if you are studying the Holocaust, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is considered a primary source. Someone researching the Civil War could use Matthew Brady’s battlefield photographs. And President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech is a great primary source for those studying the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Where can I find them?

A great place to begin your search is American Memory, a “digital record of American history and creativity.” It contains documents, audio recordings, images, videos and maps from the Library of Congress. Here you can listen to former slaves tell their stories, watch video clips from the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, or view maps from the American Revolution.

The National Archives also has a large collection of primary source materials for students and educators. They are arranged by time period and are keyword searchable. Would you like to see President Kennedy’s academic record at Harvard? Or view a handwritten copy of the Oregon Treaty that set the boundary between the U.S. and Canada?  You’ll find them here.

The Masterfile Premier database contains the text of thousands of primary source documents. To find them, once you are in the database, click on the Advanced Search link. Then enter your search terms in the box at the top, and make sure to choose Primary Source Document in the Publication Type box before you click on Search. You'll need your library card number and PIN to search Masterfile Premier.

For historic photos, a great place to look is the LIFE Magazine archive (no library card required), which spans the time period from the 1860s and 1970s.

Are you looking for primary sources specifically about Oregon history? The Oregon Digital Library searches the collections of libraries around the state to find both documents and images. The Oregon State Archives also has some web exhibits about Oregon history that incorporate primary resources; topics range from the creation of the Oregon constitution to Oregonians’ experiences in World War II.

Still have questions? Check out our blog post on Finding Primary Source Articles or contact a librarian for more help!

When people in Portland talk about a story that was “in the paper,” they often mean it was in the Oregonian. Until recently, the Oregonian was the city’s daily paper -- and it sort of still is: a daily edition is available online, at newsstands and at the library; while home subscribers get their papers only on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Front page of the July 24, 1904 Oregon Journal (image from Historic Oregon Newspapers, http://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn850).

Portland-area newspapers

The Oregonian has never been the Portland area’s only newspaper! Let's take a brief tour of some local newspapers past and present, and I'll show you a bit about how you can use them for your research.

Daily newspapers

For most of the 20th century, Portland residents had two or three local daily newspapers to choose from. The Oregon Journal was published daily from 1902 to 1982, and the Portland Telegram (also called the Evening Telegram and the News-Telegram) was published daily from 1877-1939. And, the daily Oregonian was available too, of course!

During this heyday of daily news, each paper had a different editorial policy and political niche. People generally say that the Journal supported the Democratic Party, the Oregonian supported the Republican Party, and the Telegram’s editorial stance was independent.

Weekly, semiweekly and neighborhood newspapers

There have always been many non-daily newspapers in the Portland area, too! These days, we have a long list of weeklies and semiweeklies, such as the Portland Observer, the Portland Tribune, the Willamette Week; and of course many neighborhood and suburban papers like the St. Johns Review and the Gresham Outlook.  Some of these still-running non-daily newspapers have been in print a long time, and can be useful for historical research as well as for current news.

Other Portland-area weekly or semiweekly newspapers have sadly left us, but are still available at the library! Here are a few gems that you will not see on today’s newsstands, but which are in the library’s collection:

 


Finding newspaper articles at the library

Sometimes, the best way to research is to browse. If you want to know what was in the news on a particular date, you can go right to the library’s archive of the newspaper you’re interested in and start reading through the issues one by one. Nothing could be simpler -- except that this method is sometimes a little slow!

What if your research requires you to find newspaper articles by topic? To do this, you’ll need two things:

  • an archive of the newspaper, so you can read it (this archive could include the print edition, a microfilm copy, and/or an online version)
  • an index or a way to search for articles by keywords or topics, so you can find what you need

Archives of old newspapers

The library maintains an extensive archive of Portland newspapers of all stripes and stretching back more than a hundred years. Most are kept at Central Library -- visit the Periodicals room on the second floor to take a look at this wide-ranging collection.

Gresham Library has an archive of the semiweekly Gresham Outlook, and the librarians at Gresham are experts at finding old articles! Consult them any time you'd like help getting started with your Gresham newspaper research.

If your research requires reading newspapers from other parts of our state, be sure to consult Historic Oregon Newspapers -- an ever-growing archive of early Oregon newspapers that you can search and read online. Most of the papers included in Historic Oregon Newspapers were published 1922 or earlier.

photograph of the Local Newspapers Index at Central Library

Indexes

That takes care of your first tool, an archive of the newspaper -- what about the second tool, an index or way to search?

While you’re in the Periodicals room at Central Library, take a look at the library’s local newspaper index. This card file index is like a big giant catalog of news topics -- you can look for any subject, from A to Z, and the newspaper index will point you to Portland-area newspaper articles on that subject.

photograph of an example card in Central Library's Local Newspapers IndexWhen you find your subject in the newspaper index, you'll see one or more cards, like the one in the photograph on the right.

This particular card gives us information about a couple of articles reporting on Portland freeways. This card is in the “F” section of the index, under Freeways. Portland. The article cited at the top is from the Oregonian (noted as “Oreg”), and was published November 28th, 1974, on page A56, column 1. The headline is “Let people speak on freeway issue.” The little red note on the left, “ed.,” tells us it was an editorial. The red note below tells us that there’s another reference to this article in the “M” part of the index, under the heading Mt Hood Freeway.

The second article cited on this newspaper index card has the headline “McCall asks end of Mt. Hood freeway,” and it was published in the Oregon Journal (noted as “Jour”) on November 28th, 1974, on page A11, column 3. This one also has a note in red underneath it -- but this time it’s just an explanation about the contents of the article.

[An aside: the Mt. Hood Freeway was never built; if you want to learn more, try reading the great article about it in the online Oregon Encyclopedia.]

The newspaper index card file mostly focuses on helping you find articles published 1930 to 1987, and like I said above, it only includes information about local newspaper articles. If you are looking for a news story from before 1930, consult the card file newspaper index first just in case (it does include cards for a few pre-1930 articles!).

photograph of bound newspaper index volumes, at Central LibraryIf the newspaper index doesn’t help you find that pre-1930 story, try one of the bound index volumes that are on top of the card file case. Each of these bound newspaper index books works differently, and they cover different newspapers and different dates as you can see.

Talk to the librarian on duty in the Periodicals Room to get started with the bound newspaper indexes -- or if you have any questions about finding the articles or newspapers you need.

And, back to the Oregonian

Maybe you’ve consulted the card file local newspaper index, and the article you want was in the Oregonian. Or maybe you’ve tried using the newspaper index and it didn’t have everything you need.

The library has two great resources for finding Oregonian articles, and both allow you to search and read online:

Recent and historical issues of the Oregonian are also available to read in the Periodicals Room at Central Library, in old-fashioned paper and microfilm formats.

Have fun with your newspaper research!


Do you have more questions about searching for historical newspaper articles? Are you working on a local history project? If you'd like specific advice or help with your research challenges, do please Ask the Librarian!


 

Image of Anka with caption reading "Perhaps his collar is too tight."The library provides access to lots of magazines and journals (over 25,000 of them!) both in print and online. We can help you search for articles in these magazines, whether you’re writing a research paper or just wanting to read more about your favorite pop star. If you already know the name of a specific article or magazine that you want to find, take a look at "How to find magazines and magazine articles (I want my Bieber!)"

As an example, let’s try looking for articles about that perennial papa of pop, Paul Anka.

The best place to start when searching for magazine articles is an index. An article index can be a book or an online resource, and it is used to look up a subject (Paul Anka, perhaps?) and find a list of articles that were written about that subject. To learn more about this former teen idol, we will use three important databases to search for articles. Each of these databases is an index, and they also often contain the full text of many articles.


Readers’ Guide RetrospectiveScreenshot.

What did magazines say about Paul back in the early 1960s when he was just starting out? Readers’ Guide Retrospective indexes magazines from a very wide range of years, all the way back to the beginning of the 20th century. Since this database includes so many articles from so many years, it is a good idea to limit the date for your search. Many of the results in Readers’ Guide Retrospective are citations: they don’t include the full text of the article, but they do tell you which magazine it was in. Once you have the information about which magazine and date the article was in (the citation), you can check to see if the library has the magazine you need - to learn how to do that, look at “How to find magazines and magazine articles (I want my Bieber!)” According to a November 3, 1961, article from Time that is available full-text in this database, Paul always goes on stage with the goal “to comfort the people.” Oh, Paul...

MasterFILE PremierScreenshot.

So that was the 1960s, but what are magazines writing about Paul now? MasterFILE Premier is a good all-purpose database which indexes articles from lots of current magazines, and it also has most of them in full-text. Jubilation! You can read book reviews about Paul’s recent autobiography, My Way, and find articles like a May 2013 profile in Vanity Fair by his longtime acquaintance Jerry Weintraub. What does Weintraub value most in Paul? “It’s his friendship.” You don’t have to be a lonely boy when you get to know Paul.

JSTORScreenshot.

If you want to find articles from outside of the mainstream magazines, JSTOR is a great database. It includes citations and full-text articles from many different specialty magazines and academic journals. Since it includes so many articles, it can help to do an Advanced Search in this database and then narrow your search by choosing discipline areas (for example, you could do an advanced search for Paul Anka and limit the search to magazines related to the subject “Music”). You can find some interesting stuff in JSTOR, like a poem from the Summer 1986 Sewanee Review which includes the line: “Paul Anka / Of Sri Lanka”.


There you have it: the times of Paul’s life (or at least some of them). These three databases are just the beginning: you can find more ways to search for articles on the Research Tools page (use the "Type" menu to choose databases which have articles). If you would like some help picking out additional databases and indexes to try, then let us get to know you. Just contact a librarian and tell us more about what you are searching for. We can work with you to find the articles you need for your project or your personal interest. Any time and ogni volta, we’re here to help!

Cover of March 13, 2014, Rolling Stone magazine showing Justin BieberDo you want to find a particular magazine article? Do you want to know if the library has your favorite magazine? We can help you find magazines and magazine articles available through the library, both in print and online. If, however, you don’t care which magazine the articles come from and just want to search for all the articles about a subject, take a look at “Searching for articles on a subject (Paul Anka, please!)

Let’s pretend you are a total Bieber believer, and at your dentist’s office you saw an article about Justin Bieber in a March issue of Rolling Stone. Unfortunately, you were called in for your root canal (heartbreaker!) before you could have a chance to read the whole article. Now it’s a few months later and you want to see if you can get it from the library. Here’s how to do it.


1. Check to see if the library has the magazineScreenshot.

To check whether the library even has this magazine, go to the Classic Catalog and choose a “Magazines/Newspapers” search, then search for the magazine title Rolling Stone. Success! You get two results: one that has an icon on the right that says “Periodical,” and another with an icon that says “E-Journal” (electronic journal).

2. Choose the electronic journal option

Screenshot.If you want to find an online copy of the article, you can choose the electronic journal option. The catalog entry for the e- journal Rolling Stone has a link which says “Click here for full text” - this link takes you to a page showing which library databases include full-text articles from the magazine.  You have several options of databases which have Rolling Stone for the date you need; for this example, let’s pick MasterFILE Premier. Click on the link for it to go to the database.

3. Search in the database for the article

Screenshot.To search for the article you saw at the dentist's office, you can type “Justin Bieber” into the keyword box and “Rolling Stone” into the Publication box (MasterFILE Premier contains lots of magazines, so this will limit your search to only be articles from Rolling Stone). Hit the Search button and, baby, oh, you’ve found it! “Bad Boy” from the March 13, 2014, Rolling Stone. This database has the article in full-text.

Unfortunately, the database does not include photos from this magazine article. :`-( Sometimes databases will include PDF scans of the articles with images, but often the article will just be text. Hmm... maybe the local library down the street from your house will have the actual magazine, and you can look at all the photos there.

4. Find out which libraries have print copies of the magazine

Screenshot.To see which libraries have print copies of the magazine, go back to the Classic Catalog and do the “Magazines/Newspapers” search again for Rolling Stone, but this time choose the result with the icon that says “Periodical.” This will take you to an entry in the library catalog showing which libraries have print copies of the magazine, and which dates they have. It looks like all of the Multnomah County Library branches have the 6 most recent issues of Rolling Stone, and Central Library has them (in print and on microfilm) back to 1967!


What if you follow the steps here and still can’t find the magazine article you want?

Never say never! - the library will do everything we can to get you the article you need. You can always contact a librarian for help or use our interlibrary loan service to request that we get the article from another library. We just want to see U smile!


NOTE: This post was updated Sunday, October 12, 2014 with details about the redesigned Historical Oregonian (1861-1987).


Front page of the Oregonian, June 10, 1973There is lots of information about history in books, but sometimes the best way to find out about the past is to look at materials which were created at the time you are studying.  Newspapers can be a great tool for this kind of primary source research.

People investigating local history here in Multnomah County are lucky -- there have been many, many newspapers published in Portland, Gresham, and other local cities over the last 150 years.  The longest-lived Portland newspaper, the Oregonian, is also considered by many to be the “paper of record” for the state, and Multnomah County Library cardholders can read, search and browse every page of nearly every issue of the Oregonian published 1861-1987, using the library’s Historical Oregonian (1861-1987).

Let’s try a search! Start by going to the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987) page on the library's website, click on the blue Begin using this resource button, and then type in your library card number and PIN.

 

Say you want to see articles about the Rose Festival parades from past years.  Type the keywords “rose parade” into the search box at the upper left corner of the page (remember to use those quotation marks -- they limit your search to the phrase “rose parade” with the words right next to each other and in order).  Now click on Search.

This gives you 1,781 results!  Quite a lot.  The reason it's so many is that your search returns every occurrence of the phrase "rose parade" in every article, headline, or advertisement in every day's paper from 1851 to 1987.  Whew! 

As you can see, the articles in your list of results aren't arranged by publication date; they're ranked with the most "relevant" article at the top.  If you want change the ranking to see your list of articles in chronological order, click on one of the options listed next to Sort by at the top right of the results list.   You can also change the ranking before you even do your search, by choosing the sort order you want in the Sort by dropdown menu up in the search area.

But however you sort the articles, you probably don’t have time to read 1,781 of them in one sitting.  So let’s find some ways to get a shorter, more precise list.

 

One great way to narrow your search is by limiting to articles from a specific date range.  To see articles about the 1952 parade, type the year 1952 into the second search box at the top of the screen (the one labelled "Date").  Click on the yellow Search button again to see articles published in 1952 that contain the phrase "rose parade."

This gives you a much more manageable list of 69 articles.   If you find one you like, click on the snippet that shows the headline (or on the View article link), and you'll get a new page which shows the article.

 

Let's try a different way to narrow your search -- by adding a second topic.  If you are a long-time lover of the Grand Floral Parade, you've probably been to at least a few parades held under cloudy or rainy skies.  Portland in June, right?  Let's look for articles about rainy parades.

You can start a new search by typing your new search terms into the search area at the top of the screen.  This time, you want the phrase"rose parade" (with the quotes, just like before!), and the word rain in the first box.  The Date box should be blank, but this time, change the Sort by box to say Oldest matches firstI.  Now click on the yellow Search button again to see your results.

This gets you a nice list of 55 articles, arranged in reverse chronological order. 

 

Let's take a look at one of the articles.  Scroll down the page a bit and you'll see an article from the front page of the June 13, 1941 paper.  Click on the snippet of the headline (it's zoomed in kind of far, so only the words "For Rose Parade" are showing).  This gets you the full page so you can read the article.

It turns out, the article does include the word "rain," but only because the weather was forecast to be dry!  The author says "the weatherman found no threat of rain to mar Friday's Rose Festival floral parade although some cloudiness is expected to continue."  1941, I guess, was a good year for parade-goers.

 

Here are some more tips and things to remember about using the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987):

  • When you search this resource, you are searching the words and phrases that appeared in the newspaper.  If you're looking for a topic that can be expressed in different ways, you might need to try different terms.  For example: sometimes, journalists used the phrase "rose parade" to describe the big daytime parade that's always on a Saturday in June.  But they might also have used the phrase "rose festival parade," or they might have said something like "the parade at this year's Rose Festival."  Nowadays we have several parades every year, so it might also be good to search specifically for the "grand floral parade" or the "starlight parade."  If you don't see the results you expect, try a different phrase or term.   If your search finds only a few articles, read them and see if they offer any clues as to new search terms you can use that might get better results.
  • These old newspapers are historical artifacts, and they reflect the culture, attitudes, and language of their times.  Articles and advertisements from the past may stereotype individuals and groups, or use terms that are now considered derogatory and offensive.  Historical newspapers may also use other out-of-date or unfamiliar terms, for example: filling station instead of the modern gas station, or automobile instead of car.
  • Librarians are here to help!  Ask whenever you have questions, or any time you'd like more searching tips.  You can contact a librarian by email, chat, text or telephone, or of course ask the librarian on duty any time you're at the library in person.

Now that you have a little grounding in how the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987) works, take it out for a spin!  And share your discoveries in the comments, if you like.

 


Do you have more questions about searching for historical newspaper articles?  Are you working on a local history project?  If you'd like specific advice or help with your research challenges, do please Ask the Librarian!


 

Bowtie Venn Diagram by H. Caldwell Tanner

 

If you’ve ever had to do a report you know that there are many ways to present what you want people to know. You can give a speech, write a 5 page paper, create a graph, make a movie or sing a song. A classic way is to make a poster.

 

A new spin on the poster approach are infographics. Basically, they put information in an organized and visual way that can make it easier to pull everything together and get the big picture. They can be complex like this chapter by chapter guide to The Great Gatsby or simple like the bowtie Venn diagram. They can be interactive like this wind map of the Earth or answer questions you may have never thought to ask like, 'how many teaspoons are in a cup?' (48, yeah I didn't know either.)

 

Here at the library we have made a set infographics about how to find good information online. Like this one:

 

How to Evaluate Websites

Why did we make infographics? So that you can look at research in a whole different way.

Want more information about research and infographics? Ask a librarian!

Whenever I have to write something, whether it’s a research paper or an article, the first thing I do is keep track of my sources. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a really good fact, but not being able to remember where you found it!

There’s two good online resources, called citation makers, that I use to help me. The great thing is, you can use them to keep track of your resources while you do your research, but they also help you format the citations, and generate your list of sources, or bibliography.

Many students in Oregon use the OSLIS citation maker to generate citations. It allows you to chose between MLA and APA style guides. Be sure to read through all the instructions before you get started. You can’t save a list of citations here, so you’ll have to create your list all in one shot. 

Easybib is a free service that offers you a lot more, and is good for high school and college students. You can save multiple bibliographies here, use their note taking system, generate a bibliography in Word, and generate citations for up to 59 formats of material, in MLA, APA or Chicago/Terabian style manuals. Watch the training video to learn more, and please contact a librarian if you need more help.

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