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CSC803 Research Guide: Module 2

This guide provides students in CSC 803 with access to library content needed in each week of the course.

Module 2: Learning Outcomes

In Module 2, you will complete activities in which you:

1. Reinforce your understanding of the value and purpose of literature reviews

2. Learn to evaluate information sources in order to select the best ones for your research

3. Learn how to read a research article effectively and efficiently

4. Learn about turning your topic into a search query

Module 2: Activity - Literature Review Defined

Review the value and purposes of a literature review

BACKGROUND: Preparing a literature review is a way to familiarize yourself with the scholarly conversation going on in your research area. An effective literature review demonstrates to other scholars that you are very familiar with the scholarly conversation surrounding your research area and, therefore, that you fully comprehend how your own research fits into and contributes to the conversation. The information below will reinforce your understanding of literature reviews and their role in the scholarly conversation of researchers.

Module 2: Activity - Literature Review Overview

What is a literature review?

A literature review describes key prior research that is related in a significant way to your intended research project. Typically, you will see a literature review as a section of an article, as an entire article of its own, or as a chapter of a dissertation.

Why do a literature review?

  • Reading the scholarly literature related to your research topic helps you:
    • Develop and deepen your understanding of your research area.
    • Develop a research project that is significant -- one that contributes to the field.
    • Develop a research project that does not accidently duplicate other research.
  • Writing the literature review demonstrates that you:
    • Have a thorough understanding of your area of study/research -- knowledge of significant earlier research and of current progress in the field.
    • Understand how your own research fits within the context of other research in your area of study  -- how it's based on prior work of others and how it builds on that prior work.

What does a literature review involve?

  • "... discovering, assessing, and assimilating others' research and then articulating your own ideas clearly and persuasively...." [1]
                              [1]  J. Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. New York: Modern Language Association, 2009.


What next? What else do I need to know?

  • Watch the video "Literature Reviews: An Overview" below.
Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students (North Carolina State University Libraries) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

[ 9.38 minutes ]

Module 2: Activity - Evaluating Information

Read about and practice evaluating information.

BACKGROUND: The quality of your research rests heavily on quality of your literature review. The literature review demonstrates your knowledge of the research area in which you are working. If you are missing key resources, others may wonder how thoroughly you really know the subject. If you use poor or unreliable sources to back up your work, you undermine the credibility of your own work. In this activity, you learn a bit about the issues that impact source credibility and you practice making some decisions about sources.

1. Read everything on this webpage: Evaluating Information

  • Note: The "evaluating information" link takes you to one of the Library's research guides called "Graduate Research: Guide to the Literature Review."  We will return to this guide in this and other library modules for CSC803.

2. Scan each of the 4 articles below and answer the following question about each: Is it a scholarly article reporting original research or is it a technical or trade article designed to help someone do their job better? [Answers are further below]

a. Ruotsalo, T., Jacucci, G., Myllymaki, P., & Kaski, S. (2015). Interactive Intent Modeling: Information Discovery Beyond Search. Communications of The ACM, 58(1), 86-92. doi:10.1145/2656334

b. Jingguo, W., Gupta, M., & Rao, H. R. (2015). Insider threats in a financial institution: Analysis of attack-proneness of information systems applications. MIS Quarterly, 39(1), 91-112 & A1-A7.

c. Konidala, D., Dwijaksara, M., Kim, K., Lee, D., Lee, B., Kim, D., & Kim, S. (2012). Resuscitating privacy-preserving mobile payment with customer in complete control. Personal & Ubiquitous Computing, 16(6), 643-654. doi:10.1007/s00779-011-0436-7

d. Kwantae, C., Byung-Gil, L., Kyungho, L., & Dong Hoon, L. (2013). Energy-efficient replica detection for resource-limited mobile devices in the internet of things. IET Communications, 7(18), 2141-2150. doi:10.1049/iet-com.2013.0283

3.  To help you make judgments about the articles in question 2, you might visit the journal websites to find out the journals' purposes.  Go ahead and google "communications of the ACM;" go to its website; and use information on the website to verify whether Communications of the ACM is a research journal or a technical/trade journal. Does what you found support your decision about article 2a (above)?

  • Note: Look for an "About" link on the journal's website. Or look for a link providing information for authors. You are looking for an explanation of the publication's purpose in order to verify that your decision about 2a was accurate.

4. I found the "about" section of Communications of the ACM in two locations: a) a link at the very top labeled "About Communications" goes directly to the the information, and b) a link at the bottom of the page labeled "For Authors" has a link to "about communications." Here's the key piece of description from that page:

"Following the traditions of the Communications print magazine, which each month brings its readership of over 100,000 ACM members in-depth coverage of emerging areas of computer science, new trends in information technology, and practical applications, the Communications website brings topical and informative news and material to computing professionals each business day." [italics are mine]

  • Note the words I've italicized in the description. The journal is keeping professionals informed of new things, but its purpose is not to publish original research reports.

5. Here are the answers to 2a, 2b, 2c, and 2d.

Answer 2a. Technical/trade.  The article is providing an overview of a research area, not reporting the authors’ own original research. They mention their own research, but that research was first reported elsewhere. While not original research and perhaps not cited in a dissertation, this type of article could be very useful to someone just starting to learn about this research area; its bibliography would provide a list of core reading for getting started. [Also, see 4 above]

2b. Scholarly. Reports original research. Specifically states that it is a  “study.”

2c. Scholarly. Reports original work. The authors propose a new method and then analyze execution time.

2d. Scholarly. Reports original work. The authors develop two methods and then do performance analysis on them.

Module 2: Activity - Reading Efficiently and Effectively

Practice techniques for reading research articles effectively and efficiently

BACKGROUND: You will be doing lots of reading, so this activity is designed to give you a few tips on how to scan a scholarly article before digging into it for deep understanding.

1. Read everything on this page except for the one box that you've already read: Reading a Scholarly Article

2. Be sure to do the practice in the box called "Practice reading scholarly articles."


Module 2: Activity - Transforming a topic into a search (assignment)

Transform a topic into a search

BACKGROUND: In order to search and successfully find relevant sources, you need to translate your research questions or research topic into a search by choosing words to search and combining them in ways that will retrieve what you want. In this activity I'm going to walk you through some examples to remind you of issues that can affect the effectiveness of your searches.

1. Databases differ in how they deal with alternative words endings.

  • Some databases and search engines may perform a "stemming" operation. For example, you enter the word "vulnerable" and the system automatically retrieves items with the word "vulnerability" in the results. Or you enter "phishing" and the system also retrieves items with "phish", "phisher", and "phishers."
  • Some databases will not do automatic stemming. Consequently, it's possible that you will not retrieve relevant items simply because you did not search for all of the forms of the word that might appear in the literature.  To solve the problem, you must use a wildcard character to get alternative word endings. The most common wildcard for word endings is the asterisk (*)
  • For example, if you enter a search for: phish* will retrieve phishing, phishers, and phisher
  • For example, if you enter a search for: vulnerab* will retrieve vulnerable, vulnerabiliity, vulnerabilities

2. Here's another example. Let's say that I'm interested in exploring the topic of biometrics for security purposes. I don't have a specific focus yet, so I'm curious about what is going on in that broad research area. I want to make sure I retrieve items with the words biometric, biometrics, biometrical, security, secure. Answer the following question.

a. How should I enter the search in a research database to find sources of information on the topic of biometrics for security purposes?

3. You should also keep in mind potential spelling alternatives. Take, for example, the difference between the American English spelling of the word "behavioral" and the British English spelling "behavioural." Some research databases may handle these differences for you. If not, you will want to do searches for the alternative spellings in order to maximize results. Do the searches described below and answer the questions. You will be comparing search results from a database.

a. Go to the research database ACM Digital Library. You can find ACM Digital Library in the Research dropdown menu on the top of the Library's homepage. From Research select Complete Database List. Click the link to take you to ACM Digital Library. When you are off campus you will need to sign in using your DSU account information. You will find the search box for ACM in the upper right corner of ACM Digital Library.

1) How many items do you find if you enter this search:  behavioral biometrics   

2) How many items do you find if enter this search: behavioural biometrics

b. Look through the first results for each search. Do you see any overlap in results?

4. When translating a research topic into search terms, also consider whether there may be alternative terms or phrases for the same concept (for example, "information security" and "information assurance").  In some cases, a term may have come into common and wide use, such as "big data." However, it can be helpful to look closely at articles about "big data" to discover other terms you might search -- maybe "large datasets" or other terms?

Next Week

Next week...

In Module 3, we will look at ways to find known materials to build your literature review.

Karl E. Mundt Library, Dakota State University, Madison, South Dakota 57042