Getting started with library research: If you have a mentor already, request recommendations for specific papers (or an example proposal for their research) from your mentor. If a paper is very recent, it can help you start your bibliography by examining the references in that paper, particularly the references pertaining to your topic or methods. When you get those references, you can check their references, and so on.
Use the Columbia Library system to locate papers mentioned in other articles, to search for more recent papers or keywords, etc. The Clio catalog is very useful for finding books and journal articles (and more!) that cover your subject. There you will find a wide range of available literature databases. You should spend some time exploring to get a diverse range of results in the context of your project.
The tool that we find the most efficient for searches is the Web of Science, but Google Scholar is becoming more useful and finds a similar set of articles, recognizes your CU affiliation, and links to the full text. However, it has fewer options than the Web of Science.
Tips for Google Scholar: Click on the menu button on the upper left corner and select “Advanced search” if you’d like a more specific search menu. After finding articles of interest, look at the references cited (going backward in time) and the papers that cite the paper (going forward in time). The e-link feature allows you to access the article directly. Here is a short video that we made on tips for Google Scholar, including how to access the e-link feature by connecting to the Columbia library and how to use Google Scholar to organized citations.
Once you have your references, you may want to consider using Zotero or Endnote software packages that can be linked to Microsoft Word to manage your references. These citation managers allow you to create a reference database, import references directly from several of the available search engines, and then automatically create a list of references in your chosen format within your thesis/proposal document. If you think you will produce many documents with references in your future career, it may be worth learning a citation manager now. For more information about the different citation managers available and links to tutorials and other helpful tips, visit https://library.columbia.edu/services/citation-management.html.
The library also provides many workshops to support you in learning how to use citation managers (i.e., Zotero) or advancing your skills in researching, reviewing the literature, and even using stat programs like R.
Regardless of how you organize your citations, ask your advisor and mentor if there is a reference style (format) they would like you to follow. APA is a common and useful style, but you might prefer to follow a particular journal’s style guidelines. For example, the style guide for the journal “Geology” has been recommended in the past, and that style is what is used within our course webpages: “How to write a thesis” and “How to write a thesis proposal.”
For additional help, consider contacting a librarian associated with your department or that specializes STEM:
Barnard: Erin Anthony, STEM Librarian, firstname.lastname@example.org or Jill Lagerstrom, Librarian for the Sciences, email@example.com
Columbia College: Amanda Bielskas, Geology/Geosciences Librarian, firstname.lastname@example.org