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A Guide to Urban Planning: Research

This Research Guide contains resources supporting students, faculty, and staff in the Master of Urban Planning, Design & Development (MUPDD) Program, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs.

Search Tips

Library research may feel overwhelming, but you will learn how to do it with time and practice.

Following are some helpful SEARCH TIPS I have collected from my experience working with students.

--Research is a process! Give yourself enough time to search, and use a variety of resources. Use the research tools available via the Michael Schwartz Library’s website to locate scholarly, academic sources.

--Take the time to learn how to efficiently and effectively use various research tools. Look at the HELP screens, search tips, tutorials, and other documentation provided. Take advantage of customization and personalization features of research tools to get the most out of searches.

--All information is NOT free! Not everything you find will be freely available on the Internet. Check the Library first before purchasing any items. If you find a great article on a publisher’s website but you have to pay to view it, then check the Journal A-Z List or use Interlibrary Loan to get the article without paying.

--Develop a research plan! Read and review the assignment instructions. How many sources do you need? What types of sources?

--Keep a research log to document the search terms you use, the research tools you utilize, and the relevant items you find. Organize your search results into folders or use RefWorks to manage your research.

--Identify your research topic or question. Break it down into keywords to search. Think of synonyms and related terms (for example: city planning, city planners). Think of variant forms of a word (for example: economy, economic).

--Combine keywords with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) for advanced searching.

--Learn ways to limit search results, such as by date or field limiters.

--Learn ways to expand search results, such as by using truncation to search on variant forms of a word (ex., sustainab* = sustainable, sustainability).

--Identify additional search terms by looking at your search results, particularly the Subject Terms or Subject Headings assigned to items.

--Once you find relevant sources, look at the list of references, bibliography, footnotes, etc., to identify additional sources. This is a great way to locate even more useful information.

--Evaluate your search results. Are these the best and most relevant items? Or, are they “good enough” to meet your needs?  Use specific evaluation criteria, such as the ‘CRAAP’ Test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose).

--Properly cite all sources using a specific citation style, such as APA or MLA, to avoid plagiarism. Cite all sources you use – not only direct quotes, but information you paraphrase or get from another source.

Information Literacy

Librarians are here to help!In some of your classes, a librarian will make a presentation about research resources and services. Librarians do this so you can develop information literacy skills.

According to the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education published by the Association of College and Research Libraries (2000), information literacy skills are necessary so that students can locate, evaluate, and use information effectively and efficiently.

There are Five Information Literacy Standards. For each standard, there are particular skills and abilities that you should develop during your time at CSU. To be successful when conducting library research, you should be familiar with all of them!

Standard One
The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.

  • Identifies a variety of types and formats of subject-specific information sources.
  • Knows the differences between scholarly/academic and popular works.
  • Understands the peer-review process in scholarly communication.

Standard Two
The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently.

  • Identifies keywords, synonyms, and related terms for the information needed.
  • Conducts searches in library catalogs, such as the Scholar Online Catalog and the OhioLINK Central Catalog, to locate and retrieve books, multimedia materials, and other items in various formats.
  • Conducts searches in research databases to locate and retrieve articles from journals, magazines, and newspapers.
  • Knows the differences between keyword searching and subject searching, and uses controlled vocabulary and Library of Congress subject headings as appropriate.
  • Uses the Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT to combine search terms as needed.
  • Evaluates search results to determine if research needs are met; modifies search terms as appropriate and conducts additional searches; limits or expands search results as necessary.
  • Knows how to read a citation and distinguishes different formats, such as books, journal articles, newspaper articles, websites, etc.
  • Knows how to locate a specific item by its citation using the Journal A-Z List or other appropriate tools.
  • Uses Find It! / OLinks in research databases to check the full text availability of articles.
  • Uses additional avenues, such as OhioLINK, Interlibrary Loan, and Cleveland Public Library, to obtain items that are not available at CSU.

Standard Three
The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.

  • Critically evaluates information sources using appropriate criteria, such as currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose.
  • Understands the benefits and the drawbacks of using the Internet for research.
  • Integrates new information with previous information or knowledge.

Standard Four
The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.

  • Conducts a literature review and synthesizes the results to complete a project.
  • Organizes information to support the purposes and format of the final product, such as a research paper, presentation, group project, thesis, or dissertation.
  • Knows that writing help is available at the Writing Center in the Library if needed.

Standard Five
The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally.

  • Understands and avoids plagiarism by properly citing all sources according to a specific citation style, such as APA or MLA.
  • Uses RefWorks to manage research and to cite sources.
  • Knows that access to research databases and to other library resources is restricted to current CSU faculty, staff, and students due to costs and licensing agreements with publishers and vendors.