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If you need to learn the basics of research, visit the Info Literacy section for tutorials covering various aspects of using the Otis library and research tools.
One place to begin your research is to get a broad overview of of your topic. Try one of Otis's online subscription encyclopedias or dictionaries such as the Oxford English Dictionary. Just finding the history or origins or words like tattoo or Eucharist could generate many ideas for projects. Note: You will need to think of alternative terms for your subject. For instance, when you don't find lowriders, try low riders, automobiles, hot rods, or car culture.
Some words, like graffiti or Day of the Dead, may not be adequately covered in a regular encyclopedia or dictionary. There are, however, some excellent encyclopedia ABOUT folklore. Sometimes you have to turn to actual books for the best information. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover a wealth of valuable, reliable, and academically-oriented material there. Here are four specialized encyclopedias to get you started:
Located in the Reference Section
|Folk and Fairy Tales: A Handbook|
|Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art|
|Folklore of American Holidays|
|Handbook of American Popular Culture|
|Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America|
|Myth: A Handbook|
Definitely try the OPAC (Library Catalog). Do a keyword search first to get an overview of what books are in the Otis Library, if any. Use only one word at a time and then try different searches using synonyms or related words. Through the OPAC, you may also discover alternate terms that you can use in searching other larger databases.
Find a journal article or two. Start with OmniFile. It's a new database at Otis and has full-text for 1600 magazines and journals covering the area of folklore among other areas. Try a keyword search. If you get too many hits, limit the results to a subject search. Some of your results will be bibliographic citations to journals that Otis Library does not carry. If you want to check our holdings click on this link to the Magazine Holdings List. If Otis doesn't have it, you may be able to find it through another library. If you want to limit your results to only those results for which the full-text is available online, there is a button for that function on the top of the Wilson Omni results page.
Lexis-Nexis is another database with the full-text of 3,000 newspapers. There are also transcripts of TV news programs. This database will be excellent for many topics. For instance, there were 40 articles found just in the last 6 months by searching lowrider. (And that was without trying alternative spellings or terms.) Remember, the information in newspapers is usually classified as "popular."
Check out the Databases page for more resources.
Search for a content-rich academic/educational websites. Pages ending in .org or .edu may be the best ones, but make sure the author is not a student doing a class assignment or that the page is not simply a course syllabus.
Unless you know exactly what you want to find and are clear on synonyms and alternative terms, you may want to try a directory like LII, Librarians Index to the Internet. As search engines go, this is an extremely tiny one. However, each website listed has been carefully selected and reviewed. You'll retrieve the best of the web with the infomercials and junk will be filtered out. Another good directory to scholarly web resources is Infomine. Check out our page on other search engines.
Put in a very broad term like folklore or myth or popular culture. You'll probably get several websites which may, in fact, be free databases that you can browse for ideas. It's a fascinating, but focused way to learn about subjects new to you.
Your instructors will ask that you create a bibliography using the Chicago or MLA Style. Here's a website that covers citing: Assembling a List of Works Cited in Your Paper. Other citation guides are available here.
Be aware that citing web sources and online databases requires you to indicate the date you accessed it and the name of the provider of the database.
Remember: Librarians are your friends. Ask for reference assistance at any time...