GEOL 370: Geochemistry of Natural Waters

Professor Bereket Haileab, Spring 2016

Approaching literature from a geologic perspective

Research is not a linear process. It is a matter of trying something, evaluating and learning from the results, refining your strategy, trying something else, and exploring lots of possibilities, finding new information and thinking about what that might mean for your topic.  There are no set rules or strict procedures for exploration, but this page contains some ideas and questions to keep in mind.

Some geologic-specific questions

When you're trying to find information from a geologist's perspective, there's some additional questions you should ask yourself as you're getting started.  The answers can help you to narrow down the types of sources you look for, and the places you search...

1.  Location: 

Does your information need to be geographically-specific?  Or could that information come from anywhere?  For example: water quality data is location-specific, but articles about minerals containing europium need not be geographically-specific.

  • What are some of the names of your geographic area?  This could include the geologic unit, the city, the county, state, watershed, or any other number of names.  You can search GeoNames Information Server to find a feature or location.  You'll also find the latitude and longitude of the feature, as well as which USGS Topographic map it's located on.
  • Are there specific coordinates that define the area?  Some of the searches can be done by latitude and longitude.
  • Pay attention to any codes for specific locations.  This can include hydrology units, geologic units, water sheds, or even wells - basically any geographically-specific unit.
2.  Resource or material:

Are you looking for information on a specific resource or material, be it a specific type of rock, or mineral or even energy resource?

  • Are there other words or terms for that resource?
3. Process: 

Do you need information on a specific process or cycle?

4.  Time: 

Does your information need to be time-specific?  Are you looking for information from a particular geologic time period?

  • What names has that time period had?  Remember that the names of time periods can occasionally change or have different names depending on the location.
  • Take a look at the International Commission on Stratigraphy's site for a detailed chronostratigraphic chart and other related charts.

Keeping track

While you're researching, it's helpful to keep notes in some form or another.  This could be a text file on your computer, handwritten notes in a notebook, or some other form that you've found that works for you.  The important thing is to keep track of where you've been, what you've looked at, and what worked and what didn't.

Some things you'll want to keep track of...

Searches you've conducted

  • Where did you search?
  • Which search terms did you use
  • (** the searches that worked really well
    Cross out those that didn't work at all
  • Other notes on your searches

Sources you've found

  • What did you find?
  • How will it help you?
  • How can you get to it again (URL for webpage, folder location if you've downloaded an article, call number of a book)
  • Other notes on your sources

Getting Started

1.   What discipline or disciplines am I working in?
  Some tools:

·   Subject research guides: library web site -> Find -> Subject Research Guide

·   Databases by subject: library web site -> Find -> Electronic Resources: Full list by subject

2.   What sources do I already have?
Do they mention other sources of information or data (bibliography)?
Do they use specific terminology or wording?
Do they talk about particular places, people, or agencies?

3.   What type of literature or information do I need?
Who might collect that information?
Who would be interested in it?

4.   How and where will I search for the information I need?

5.   How will I access the information that I find?

6.   What keywords or terms could be used to describe my topic?

7.   After running a few searches: What results am I getting?  Am I getting too many results?  Too few?

8.   What refinements should I make to my search in light of those results?

9.   How will I use the results that I’ve found?

10. What information am I still missing?


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Ann Zawistoski
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