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Early on the research planning process, I would like to make use of the services offered by public libraries. Including online library services, what is the best way they could help a student researcher who is currently preparing a research proposal for a specialization?

Would it be wise to send them an email or give them a phone call, so that they could come up with a list of possibly useful and related research papers at their disposal?

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2 Answers 2

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If you mean "is it outrageous to ask a librarian to collect research papers for you," then no, it's not outrageous; some librarians do that, though rarely the librarians working in public libraries.

For most university students (at least in the US. You're in Indonesia so the system may vary,) they go to their school libraries because the collections are much closer to their fields of study. The librarians are also more proficient in handling academics-related questions. If you do have an affiliated university, I'll check with the librarians there first.

If you don't have one, then I'll next try to contact some librarians of state-funded or nationally funded universities (especially if you are a tax payer.) Most of these public schools open their libraries or provide limited consultation to the public. It would also be valuable to ask if they have any kind of borrower program or consortium you can join: later you may need to download a lot of journal articles and having an access to their server can save you a lot of money.

If both of these are no goes, then you can try the public libraries. However, the librarians may not be available to fetch articles for you. Instead, you may ask them for resources (pamphlet, booklet, website) on how to perform a literature search (I'm assuming literature, but they can also show you other curated forms such as microfilm, legal archive, etc.) Most public libraries do not subscribe highly professional/specialized journals due to the high price, so realize that your scope can be limited somewhat.

If all of these yield no results. I'd suggest at least pay a graduate students or instructor for 2-3 hours to give you a general rundown/tutorial.

As I have said, most librarians will not be able to do the search for you. And it's better for you, as the researcher, to have the first hand experience and control of the process. At the very least, try ask the librarians about database you should search, how to select keywords, how to export and keep results, what bibliography software is available, reference books on writing literature review etc.

Lastly, the quality of help you are going to get is proportional to the clarity of your vision about the work. The more concrete you can describe your work, the easier for them. Things you should consider are as follows:

  • What is the topic?

  • What is(are) the main question(s) you want to answer? -- in this part, be very explicit about time, location, and other important qualifier (think 5W1H)

  • How far back in time do you need to go?

  • What is the purpose of the document? E.g. For a blog, for a grant proposal, or for an assignment?

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I don't believe that a public library would be a useful resource for an academic literature review. You are likely to be better supported by a university librarian. But, I am not sure why you would be relying on a librarian to assist with obtaining resources for a literature review. My recommendation is that you develop the skills and knowledge to efficiently and effectively conduct a search for relevant resources, as opposed to relying on somebody else. You presumably have more background and knowledge in your substantive area, and this is something you will be doing throughout your academic career. Even if a librarian or somebody else culled sources for you, the burden is still on you to ensure the review was comprehensive.

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I agree with this 90%. I know of some librarians that do literature reviews professionally, usually for "high-end" researchers that have more pressing matters to attend to, or medical researchers who also have a substantial practice obligation. They can be quite good! –  Behacad Jun 16 at 18:24

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