Get a Library Card
Believe it or not, your library card will be invaluable throughout this project. Think you can find everything through Google and Amazon? Not if you want the highest-quality resources, absolutely free. If you’ve lost your library card, never had one, or haven’t used it in the last three years, you need to bring a parent or guardian to the library with proof of their ID and Demarest address (a driver’s license is perfect).
Choosing a Subject & Finding Background Information
Your teacher has recommended that you use InfoPlease to find preliminary information on your subject so as to find someone who interests you. The more interested you are in your subject, the easier this assignment will be.
Mr. Murphy also recommends looking in an encyclopedia for background information. With your Demarest library card, you also have access to World Book Student which is essentially the entire World Book encyclopedia, plus guides to doing research, news articles, and primary source materials – all accessible from home. This is a great resource for getting some background on your subject.
Your project requires that you have three books. Be aware that it is entirely possible that there are not three books in the library system for every person on Mr. Murphy’s list. This is why doing pre-research when you’re selecting a subject is so important.
Since we at the library know all Demarest eighth graders have to do this project, we make an effort to make sure we have an appropriate biography for everyone on Mr. Murphy’s list. Some of these will be in the Young Adult section; some will be in the Adult section. We are very nice, so we will have a cart ready with the eighth-grade level books we have on your subject.
In addition to reading a biography, you will need to two other book sources. Because we are a small library, we have a small nonfiction collection, which means we might not have two additional books that cover your subject. This is why it’s very important not to procrastinate. Miss Kate, Miss Patti, and the other librarians are happy to help you find additional books at other libraries that you can use for your project. You can request them online (but be aware that they may take a few days to arrive), or you can visit the library that owns the book you want and check it out with your library card. (Call them first so they can set the book aside for you.)
When you reach this stage, we recommend borrowing more than two books so that you can take time while you’re at home to examine each book to determine if they have the information you need. Just remember to return the books you’re not using!
Be aware that there are limitations on these items – how many you can borrow at once; how many you can borrow a month. The print collection still has the widest range of titles, but this can be a helpful supplement.
How to Use Additional Books for Your Project
The books you use in addition to a biography may not be exclusively about your subject. Reading the entire book cover-to-cover will not be the best use of your research time! That’s why we suggest using the index you will find at the back of non-fiction books to locate the specific passages that are relevant to your research.
Research Databases & Magazine and Newspaper Articles
You’ll need two other sources to fulfill the five-source requirement. The library can help you with those too. Your library card grants you access to research databases that you can access from home. These databases are full of information that you can’t find through google. The databases we recommend for this project are:
- Gale Biography in Context – this provides detailed biographical articles, magazine and news articles on your subject, and academic journal articles that discuss your subject. These additional articles are a great way to find evidence that demonstrates the way your subject made a contribution to society. You can use this one database to easily find multiple sources.
- Explora Secondary – this is a research database. When you search your subject’s name, you will most likely find a topic overview that includes a brief biography of your subject. You’ll also find anywhere from dozens to thousands of articles from books, magazines, newspapers, and academic journals that mention your subject. Not all of these results will be relevant to your research. Unfortunately, while the quality of information you find in library databases is better than what you find through google, the search algorithm is not. You will have to comb through the results and may need to add additional keywords in order to find relevant resources.
Mr. Murphy also allows you to use one .edu or .gov website. We highly recommend The Library of Congress Digital Collections. It’s a .gov website that archives thousands of papers, photos, audio recordings, and videos relevant to American history. You can find letters written by Abraham Lincoln, sheet music by Irving Berlin, Woody Guthrie’s RCA contract, and vastly more.
The Library of Congress Digital Collections offers plenty of primary sources. So does the library itself. Researching an author or poet? We have their writings. Researching an actor? We have their movies. What’s more, we have documentary films on many of the people you will be researching or on the period/topic your person worked in or on. Documentaries can be a good way to demonstrate the impact a person has had on society.
Writing Your Paper
When writing your paper, you will need to write in MLA format. This format is how you will differentiate between information that you found in your research from your own original ideas.
The Purdue OWL guide to MLA is an excellent resource for writing papers in the MLA style. It covers how to make in-text citations (ie, when you reference a source within the body of your research paper) and how to make and format your Works Cited page. It includes a sample Works Cited page and a sample paper written in MLA style with detailed notes on how to format every aspect of your paper. If Mr. Murphy gives you instructions that vary from MLA style, you should follow his instructions, but for everything else, use the Purdue OWL.
The most essential advice we can give you is to keep track of where you found the bits of information you will use to write your paper. Don’t try to go back and add citations after the fact.
However, please do not dog-ear, underline, highlight, or any other way permanently alter a library book. (This includes underlining in pencil, even if you erase it.)
Post-it tabs are a great way to keep track of important passages, but please remove all your post-its when you are returning your books. If you don’t, the librarians have to, and we don’t like that.