LSFY103: Reason & Relativity
**The databases you identified as a class are under the heading "Databases to Search."**
Select and then research an interesting cultural practice, or set of practices, that seem to express a very different set of moral values or beliefs than your own. Then, consider whether the results of your research provide evidence for descriptive relativism.
Your final paper must include at least three peer-reviewed sources that help you with the following:
- A detailed description of the practice: what it is and how it works
- Historical background on the practice
- The cultural value(s) that underlie the practice
There are two steps to this process: 1) identifying an interesting topic, and 2) confirming your topic is viable
1. Identifying an interesting topic
It is perfectly fine to use Google to develop topic ideas. Try searching "cultural practices" or "rituals"; you can even tack on words like "odd," "strange," "bizarre," etc. Or, if there is a particular country, region, or culture that interests you, you can search that too.
However . . . the many Internet sites that provide lists of strange things :-) don't necessarily have good information about those things. Once you identify an intriguing topic, get the "real story" about it to confirm it is viable and genuinely interesting.
2. Confirming your topic is viable
You don't have to do real research at this point. Instead, just look at a couple of library resources to determine whether there is information "out there" about your topic. If there is, then you know you can make your topic work for a research paper.
One good library database for this step is Credo Reference, an electronic collection of high-quality encyclopedias and dictionaries. If your topic is in Credo, you'll find information in other places, too. I recommend skimming any article you find here for reliable background information.
If you can't find your topic in Credo, though, don't give up right away! Try visiting the 2nd floor of the library and searching for your topic in a print reference book. Ask a librarian for help if you need it.
You might also do a quick search for your topic in a general library database like Academic Search Premier. Again, this is just to confirm there is good information available on your topic. We'll talk about a variety of other, subject-specific databases for the main part of your research.
Below are the databases you selected as a class (with the exception of ALiCat/I-Share, which I added). The brief descriptions of each database are mine. Except where otherwise noted, the search tips in bullet points are the ones you and your classmates provided via the form during your library visit. Although these suggestions are anonymous, you will likely see your thoughts reflected here. If you do not and wish to ask me about it, please send me an email: email@example.com.
Some of the tips are relevant to more than just one database. If you find a method that works well in one database, at least try it in others. Ultimately, trial and error in the different databases will teach you the most about what works and what doesn't.
You can access these databases via the subject pages we explored during the library visit. You may also access them via this path:
Library website --> Databases --> Databases A-Z
Access ALiCat and I-Share via the search box under "Books" on the library website.
ALiCat and I-Share
Books will be excellent sources of descriptive and historical information about your topic; they may also contain information about underlying values.
Librarian's search tips:
- If you can't find a book on your practice, search the name of the culture instead. Then, look for information on your topic within that book.
- Use I-Share to get books from academic libraries across Illinois. If you have never used I-Share before, a librarian can help set up your account.
For scholarly sources in anthropology and archaeology. (Important note: you can only access this database via the "Anthropology, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology/WGS" subject page.)
- Try a general search first, then get more specific as you begin to find sources. This is especially helpful if you don't seem to find many sources when you first begin searching.
- Try a variety of different keywords.
- Some cultures can be known by more than one name. (For example: Eskimo and Inuit.) If you know of more than one name, try searching both to see which one gives more results in the database.
- It sometimes helps to specify the location you are focusing on.
ATLA Religion Database
This is a good option if your practice relates to the culture's religious beliefs.
Bibliography of Asian Studies
The BAS has scholarly sources about all parts of Asia. Most of these sources are in the humanities (including history and religion) and social sciences (including anthropology and sociology).
- Try to do very specific searches in this database. (Librarian's note: this really is a good idea. :-) Also, be creative with keywords and don't give up right away. Ask a librarian for help if you need it. This isn't the easiest database, but it could be very useful for many of you.)
This database is a good one to search for topics related to both women and men, as long as gender is an important component of the practice.
- Choose keywords that are precise about your topic to keep from getting irrelevant results.
- You can specify English-language articles only, if you're finding things in other languages. (Librarian's note: find this limiter on the bottom left of the advanced search screen.)
- Not everything is available in full-text. (Librarian's note: this is true of most of these databases. See below for more help.)
This database covers the history of the world (except the U.S. and Canada) from 1450 to the present.
- You can start with a broad search to get a general idea of what is available. From there, the database will give you options for narrowing down. (Librarian's note: Look under "Subjects" on the left-hand side of the screen.)
- If you search a big topic one way of narrowing down is to specify the tribe or culture you are focusing on.
- Try searching different aspects of your topic. For example, if your topic has religious, historical, and philosophical aspects, try searches related to all of those things.
- Limit to peer-reviewed articles if you want to be sure your results are scholarly.
- If you are considering a historical topic but have not decided on it for sure, you can try searching it in this database just to see if there are sources available on the topic.
America: History & Life
This database covers the history of the U.S. and Canada. (Many more people wrote about Historical Abstracts, but some of you may also need America: History & Life. The same tips apply here as to Historical Abstracts.)
This is a full-text database that covers a wide variety of subject areas.
- Go to the Advanced Search screen, then select the subject areas that fit your topic before you search. (Librarian's note: scroll down a little bit to find the list of subjects.)
- Be sure to check the publication date of the article. (Librarian's note: this is important. Some of the articles in JSTOR can be quite old.)
- This is a good database if your topic goes far back in history. (Librarian's note: JSTOR has articles about time periods going back to the Middle Ages and ancient cultures.)
Political Science Complete
A few of you may of topics with important political implications. If that is the case, this database will help.
- Start with a broad search, then slowly narrow it down by adding more specific search words.
This is the library's most important database for sociology.
- This is a useful database, but you need specific keywords. Try searching your topic along with the location or name of the culture.
- If you don't have specific keywords, some unrelated results may pop up. (Librarian's note: if that happens, be persistent. Try different keywords. If you need help, ask a librarian!)
Academic Search Premier
This is a general database but could be useful if you can't find information on your topic anywhere else. Please save it as a backup database only; try the subject-specific ones first.
- Add keywords to your search if you need to narrow down your results
- People who recommended this database said it was easy for them to use.
Not all of the good articles you identify will be full-text in the database. Here's what to do if that happens. Ask a librarian if you need help with these steps.
If you are looking for a journal article . . .
- On the library website, click "Journals and Magazines." Search the title of the journal in which the article you want was published. (Some databases label the title as the "Source.") The results will tell you whether Augustana has access to the publication, what date range we have, and what format so you can obtain your article. If you see here that Augustana does not have access to the journal and/or the date of the journal that you need, go to step 2.
- On the library website, click "Interlibrary Loan." Login (or create an account if you don't yet have one), choose "Article" from the menu, and fill out the form. In some of the library's databases there is a direct link to ILL along with the description of the article.
If you are looking for a chapter from a book . . .
- Search ALiCat to see if we own the book. If we don't, search I-Share and order a copy to read.
- If we don't own the book, you may also order a book chapter through interlibrary loan. Click the "Interlibrary Loan" link on the library website, login (or create an account if you don't yet have one), and select "book chapter" from the menu on the left. Then, fill out the form. Only the fields with a * are required.
Online guides to citation styles, including MLA and Chicago Manual of Style, are here:
Library website --> Citing Sources
Please email me (StefanieBluemle@augustana.edu) if you have questions about the information on this page.
Or, you can get in touch with any librarian at the research help desk: in-person, or by phone (309-794-7206), text (563-223-TEXT), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or the chat box on the main library website.