Module 4: Researching Information Communities

This purpose of Module 4 is threefold:

  • to introduce you to graduate-level research and writing, which will not only help you do the writing assignments for this class, but also with research papers assigned in future courses
  • to familiarize you with some of information sources that LIS scholars and professionals use to locate current, authoritative information in our field
  • to go over the basic rules outlined the APA Publication Manual to help you with the formatting of your final paper and its references

This week’s module introduces you to graduate-level research in the LIS discipline. The first part of Module 4 walks you through the beginning stages of a research project, focusing on the key LIS information sources that you can use to gather articles and other data for your assignments. It also explains how to use the King Library catalog and databases, and discusses the difference between peer-reviewed and professional journals and why it’s important to know the difference between the two.

Most of your instructors in the MLIS program will expect you to use the APA style manual when formatting your papers, so the second part of Module 4 tackles the intricacies of APA style.  Hopefully, you’ll refer back to this module as you write your papers this semester.


Types of Information Sources

There are three different categories of information sources that students, faculty, and other researchers use to locate data for their research projects:

  • primary sources
    • original raw data that researchers use as evidence in their scholarly and professional writing
    • interviews, surveys focus groups, participant observation, and case studies
  • secondary sources
    • interpretation of some sort of research
    • books, journal articles, or conference presentations
    • a literature review is based on secondary sources
  • tertiary sources,
    • more commonly known as reference sources, such as
    • encyclopedias and dictionaries (and even Wikipedia!),
    • provide a general overview of a topic when starting research

Here is a video from SJSU librarian Ann Agee about types of sources:

Your task this semester is to become an authority on a given information community in order to develop information services that meet that community’s information needs. This requires background research into the community’s demographics and characteristics, their information seeking behavior, and their particular information preferences and needs. As explained above, there are different types of information sources that you should consult at various stages of your research project. To use these sources effectively, you need to have a solid search strategy so that you consult the right source at the right time to get the right kind of information.

To begin researching your term paper, it’s helpful to do some background reading about your community and information-seeking behavior more generally, seeking out some authoritative references sources to see what you can learn about your topic.


Encyclopedia entries are written by noted experts, and it is the contributors’ responsibility to provide authoritative information about the topic they are writing about. There are general, sometimes called universal, encyclopedias (like Encyclopedia Britannica) that attempt to encapsulate the world’s knowledge in a multivolume set. Then there are subject-specific encyclopedias that cover just one topic. These subject encyclopedias are sophisticated and scholarly. Often the entries are lengthy, multi-page essays with references provided at the end. A good starting place for LIS research is the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences (ELIS), which is available online through the King Library catalog. In ELIS you can find authoritative essays (with substantial bibliographies) on a variety of topics that relate to specific information communities and information-seeking behavior generally.


There many are specialized dictionaries devoted to LIS terms, including a couple of online dictionaries that you can easily access. The most general LIS dictionary is ODLIS: Online Dictionary of Library and Information Science ( ODLIS provides brief definitions of LIS terms, plus links to related terms and additional resources. There are many other LIS dictionaries that you can consult for definitions relating to specific fields. For example, the Society of American Archivists Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology ( is used by archivists and special collections librarians to understand terms related to rare books and manuscripts. The go-to source for defining terms in the field of records management is the ARMA Glossary of Records and Information Management Terms (

Locating Secondary Sources for a Literature Review

Once you’ve done some background reading and research and have a sense of the general character of your information community, the language used to describe it, and the kinds of resources you have to work with, you are ready to see what others have written about your group. Because library and information science is a quickly changing field, its research literature is typically found in periodicals—that is, articles in scholarly and professional journals. The primary dissemination of scholarly knowledge and research in the LIS field is through the journal, and we’ve provided you with an annotated list of LIS journals so you can locate the major ones in your area(s) of interest. Because most LIS writings are found in journals, you’ll usually use online databases to locate secondary sources. The King Library provides access to many databases that cover LIS publication. The INFO 200 LibGuide details the most popular LIS databases for your research:

Using Databases to Research Information Communities

You need to be aware of the subject terms and keywords you use when doing research on your information community. Most, if not all, databases use what’s called a “controlled vocabulary” or thesaurus, a predetermined list of subjects that indexers use when assigning subject headings to a book or article in the database. Always browse the database’s list of subject terms and make note of terms used to describe your information community and its information needs. In addition, when you find a good article about your community, look at subject terms assigned to it. This will help you expand your search terms to achieve more comprehensive results. Also, depending on your information community, you might benefit from looking at databases in other disciplines and subject areas rather than relying solely on LIS sources.

Here is a video from SJSU librarian Ann Agee about using databases to research information communities:

Selecting Articles

When selecting articles for your literature review and final paper, take care to distinguish between scholarly and professional publications and between articles that are refereed and those that are not. A “refereed” or “peer-reviewed” article has gone through an extensive editorial review process and is considered to be the most authoritative and scholarly because they have undergone this scrutiny. The editors of refereed journals send submitted articles to one or more experts on the topic who evaluate the article’s scholarship and recommend whether it should be published or not. For your INFO 200 assignments, be sure to use as many peer-reviewed articles as possible, which can be accomplished by limiting your database search results to only those articles appearing in peer-reviewed journals. On the other hand, articles published in non-scholarly, professional journals can be useful, but often do not have a list of references, a bibliography, or other scholarly components. Non-scholarly journals should be used for learning about your information community rather than as an official reference for your literature review and a final paper. Among the King Library’s databases, you’ll find Ulrich’s Periodical Directory. Ulrich’s provides a full description of current journals and magazines, including whether or not the journal is peer-reviewed. So if you’re unsure if an article you’re using for an academic paper is peer-reviewed, you can always look it up in Ulrich’s to be sure.

Here is a another video from SJSJU librarian Ann Agee about using Ulrich’s:

Reading scholarly research articles can be a bit daunting at first. Here is a another video from SJSJU librarian Ann Agee about reading academic articles:

Here is a video created by INFO200 lecturer Ellen Greenblatt about peer-reviewed vs. professional material:

Link to the transcript for Ellen Greenblatt’s Peer-Reviewed vs. Professional video: Peer-Reviewed vs. Professional Transcript


Hopefully, this brief overview of LIS sources and how to use them whets your appetite for beginning your research on your information community. Please review the King Library’s tutorials and consider the others resources listed in the INFO 200 LibGuide. You’ll be using these encyclopedias, dictionaries, and databases throughout your time at the School of Information, and hopefully, the writing assignments in this class will provide a helpful introduction. The next section introduces 200 students to formatting your paper and proper APA style.


Researchers in the social sciences, which includes library and information science, use the APA (American Psychological Association) Publication Manual (6th ed.) to guide the formatting of their papers and publications.  The APA Manual is what we’ll be using in this class, and in most of your other MLIS courses. What follows are some of APA’s most important rules for formatting a paper’s text and references.

Rules for the Body of the Paper

Formatting the Text

  • 1-inch margins on all sides
  • 12-point Times New Roman or Courier font
  • Indent paragraphs 5-7 spaces or ½ inch
  • Double space the paper throughout, even block quotes and the reference list
  • Put only one space after the period ending a sentence
  • Page numbers should appear in the top right-hand corner
  • A running head should be placed in the top left-corner

Ordering of Contents

  • Title Page. Should include the paper’s title, running head, author’s name, institutional affiliation, and date. In APA the title page is p. 1, but don’t put the number on the page.
  • Abstract. A one-paragraph summary of the paper’s content. The abstract should be descriptive and not exceed 250 words. It is placed on p. 2.
  • Begin your paper’s text on p. 3.
  • The reference list comes after the text.  Begin the list on a new page and use the heading References.


  • Capitalize all major words in the titles of books and articles mentioned in text. (Note: This is at variance with the format used in the reference list.)
  • Capitalize minor words like prepositions and conjunctions only if they are 4 letters or more in length.

Italics and Quotation Marks

  • Italicize the titles of books, journals, magazines, newspapers, musical works, websites, films, and TV shows.
  • Put quotation marks around article titles, chapter titles, short stories, poems, and individual web pages. (Note: This is at variance with the format used in the reference list.)


  • Incorporate short quotations into the text and enclose them within double quotation marks. Use single quotation marks for a quote within a quote only.
  • If the quotation is more than 40 words in length, make it a block quotation that does not require quotation marks. The entire quote should be indented 5 spaces from the left-hand margin to separate it from the body of the main text and should be double spaced.
  • If more than 2 paragraphs are quoted, indent the first line of each paragraph an additional 5 spaces.
  • Use 3 dots or ellipses [. . .] to indicate that words appearing in the original quotation have been omitted. If the omitted material comes at the end of a sentence, use 4 dots . . . .
  • If an editorial mistake was made in the original text, add the word [sic] in brackets following the error.


  • Use figures for numbers over 10, and spell out numbers below 10
  • Use figures for all numbers that precede a measurement (5 feet)
  • Use figures for all numbers that represent time, dates, ages, or number of subjects (50 years old; 7 adult men)
  • Use figures with % (5%)

Citing Authors in the Text

When you use the words or ideas of another person in the body of your paper, you must provide a reference to the original source.  APA does not use footnotes and a bibliography.  Instead, APA uses what’s known as the “author/date method.”  With this method, you provide the name of the author and the date of publication in parentheses immediately after the material you are quoting or referring to.  At the end of your paper, you provide a reference list that gives the full bibliographic information for the items cited in your text.

So how do you do this?  There are 2 basic methods.

  • When the author’s name is mentioned in the text, put the date in parentheses after the name, like this: Vann (1961) traces the development of library training methods and assesses their strengths and weaknesses.
  • When the author’s name is not mentioned in the text, put both the author’s name and the publication date in parentheses at the end of the sentence before the period: The influence of Melvil Dewey on the development of library education has been a topic of much study (Vann, 1961).
  • If the author and date are given in the text, no parenthetical reference is needed.

Providing in-text references for quotations is a bit more complicated:

  • When quoting an author whose name is mentioned in the text, put the publication date in parentheses after author’s last name and the page number for the quote at the end of the sentence. Note that the page number is placed after the quote marks but before the period:  As Hart (1996) argues, “Blah, blah, blah” (p.109).
  • If the quoted author is not mentioned in the text, then include the author’s name in the parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence: (Hart, 1996, p. 109).
  • With a block quote, the parenthetical reference goes after the final period, which is different from the rule cited above.

APA also has an elaborate set of rules governing the content and punctuation used in the parenthetical references.  Here are the most important rules:

  • Put a comma between the name, date, and page number: (Vann, 1961, p. 12).
  • If a source has 2 authors, put an “&” between their last names: (Wells & Davis, 2000).
  • If there are 3 to 5 authors, give all their last names in the first reference. In subsequent references, list first author’s last name, followed by et al. and the date: (Lanier et al., 2000)
  • If an author has 2 publications in the same year, indicate a and b after the year (1999a) to differentiate them.
  • If 2 or more sources are cited in the same reference, put the authors’ last names in alphabetical order and separate them with a semicolon: (Davis, 2000; Hart, 1999; Wilson, 2008).
  • When citing an entire website, rather than a document on a website, simply list the website’s URL in parentheses after the website’s name: Kidspsych ( is a wonderful interactive website for children.
  • When you mention a publication that has no identifiable author, list first few words of the title in the reference. These title words should be capitalized

The Reference List

The reference list is where you will give full bibliographic information for all of the sources listed in parentheses in the text.  Remember, you should include in the reference list only items that are mentioned in text.  This is different from other style manuals that allow you to list publications items you consulted as well as those you cited in the paper.  Also, only include “recoverable” sources in the reference list, not emails, conversations, interviews, or class lectures, even though these may be cited in your paper.

General Formatting

  • Put the reference list at the end of your paper and call it References.
  • The reference list is double spaced, with a hanging indent. Hanging indent means that the first line is at the left-hand margin and subsequent lines are indented 5 spaces.  This highlights authors’ names.
  • Arrange the references in alphabetical order by author’s last name. If there is no author, alphabetize the item by title.
  • References should not be numbered.


This is a basic overview of academic writing conventions and APA style.If you need a more comprehensive list of APA rules, or prefer an online source, see Purdue’s OWL: APA Formatting.  It’s filled with useful instructions and examples.

APA Style: Tutorials

Your INFO200 literature review and final research paper are both required to be written in APA style. Below is a series of video tutorials created in 2013 by Crystal Rose, a public services librarian at Memorial University, with eight libraries serving over 17,500 students, faculty, staff, and researchers in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada and Harlow, England. Each video provides helpful tips on properly formatting a paper in APA style and referencing various types of sources in APA. The videos play back-to-back in a continuous stream, and the order of the videos is listed below. You can easily skip to the next video in the playlist using the fast-forward button, which looks like a right-pointing arrow with a capital letter I in front of it. These resources were originally created for Canadian students. The video highlighting government documents may not be applicable.

APA Style Video Playlist:

Referencing Sources in APA Style: A Basic Introduction

How to Format Your Paper in APA Style

How to Reference Multiple Authors in APA Style

How to Reference Websites

How to Reference Journal Articles

How to Reference Books

How to Reference eBooks

How to Reference Newspaper, Newsletter and Magazine Articles

How to Reference Canadian Government Documents

How to Reference a “Citation Within a Citation” in APA Style

For additional information about APA formatting, The APA Style Guide to Electronic References is available online through the King Library catalog. The link in this catalog record will take you to Google Drive, as the book is only available as a PDF and is limited to users with an email address as a form of authentication. 

Module 4: Researching Information Communities Readings & Resources

Things to Read:

Please read the following chapters in the guide to better understand the requirements of academic research and using sources:

  • 2-Types of Sources
  • 3-Sources and Information Needs
  • 4-Precision Searching
  • 5-Search Tool (Be sure to use SJSU’s OneSearch not the one mentioned in the text – OneSearch libguide (
  • 6-Evaluating Sources
  • 10-Writing Tips 

As one of the goals of this module is to prepare you to complete the literature review assignment, one of the readings introduce you to what a literature review is and how to write one. The Smallbone and Quinton article explains what a literature review is and why it’s important. They also provide a three-step process for researching and writing one. This article also looks at the literature review from a teaching perspective, which will be useful to those of you interested in information literacy.

The second article by Ondrusek is an actual literature review to give you a better sense of how one is organized and written.  It also provides a good example of APA formatting.  Since the article itself deals with writing problems among LIS students you might find the content interesting as well.

Things to Explore:

Here are two tutorials from academic library websites.  The first is a literature review tutorial from the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, that provides practical suggestions for how to organize and write a literature review.  The second tutorial is from the Colorado State Universities Libraries.  It’s a simple, but useful, chart that lists and explains the criteria to use when evaluating scholarly journal articles.

This course’s library liaison, Ann Agee, has created a website containing links to the research tools and resources that you’ll use for your INFO 200 assignments.  Called the “INFO 200 LibGuide,” this website has links to the databases and other information sources discussed in this module.  It also contains a list of peer-reviewed journals (LIS Publications Wiki).

Contributors to Module 4:

SJSU alum Ann Agee has been the SJSU Library’s liaison to the SJSU School of Information since June 2014. Agee helps iSchool students and faculty with reference questions and finding materials to help with their research, primarily via online chats and email. She also creates online orientation tutorials and LibGuides for both students and faculty.

–  Bio for Ellen Greenblatt:

 – This module based on original lectures by Dr. Debbie Hansen.

 – Module 4 edited and formatted by Tamara Foster.