I feel your pain as you sit in front of the computer with your head in your hands, trying to wipe the look of boredom from your face. You've probably been there for what seems like hundreds of years, hacking away at a college paper that feels like it will never get finished. Well, cheer up, because a world of help and information exists outside of that warm box of metal and microchips you've grown so accustomed to. I'm talking about the real world around you, and believe it or not, it's full of fun facts and good times which you're probably missing. Let's take some time to open the doors and get away from the computer for a while.
Even if you are enrolled in an online college, you can utilize your local library. Let's take a quick refresher tour back into the brick and mortar library and take a look at all the wonderful resources it has to offer. If you ever find yourself in a pickle while researching something for your online college coursework, reach out to a librarian at your local library.
Books/Dewey Decimal System
Remember the Dewey Decimal System? For the rest of us who don't recall, that wonderful system of organizing books probably conjures up memories of grade school research papers, looking through the small wooden drawers of index cards to find the books we were looking for. While not always the most organized, the system was the method to catalog books for a little more than a hundred years. Today, the system has been transferred to computers for organizing, but the logistics are still the same. Books are organized by category, using a number system starting 000 and continuing to 999, using decimals to create sub divisions. Still a great way to easily find books related to your subject.
One of the oldest ways of finding small snippets of information can be had in the reference section of the library. Here you will find the following materials:
While much of the information found in these materials may not be worth retrieving because of duplicate content found online, they are a nice alternative to those worried about going blind from staring at a computer screen all day. It's kind of neat sometimes to look into older volumes to see how they defined certain subjects or to see an outdated map of a nation that doesn't even exist anymore. Put an interesting spin on your projects by finding information in these overlooked resources.
Many of today's publications do indeed have successful web sites that offer lots of great articles, tutorials, and advice. However, what many of them, especially in academic journals, feature are the actual articles that they publish inside the magazine. To gain access to these often untapped resources, you can just swing by your libraries current periodical department to check them out. Most libraries keep back issues for a few months around as well. And if you need to take an article home with you, no fuss; that's what the copy machine is for!
Same story here with newspapers. Many do operate on the web but do not necessarily put their articles on the site. A larger library should carry many of your city and county papers in addition to the major news outlets from all over the country; papers like The New York Times, LA Times, and Washington Post. Again, they'll keep some past papers around as well; however, if you want to go a little farther back, you may have to utilize the publication's online archive system.
For newspaper and magazine articles that the library doesn't have actual copies of, don't fret. You may still be able to view an older article using the library's microfiche archive. Microfiche is a film version of an article, usually substantially smaller than the actual one. Microfiche films can be read using a magnifying glass (if you're desperate) but are usually read in a microfiche reader, a kind of precursor to the computer monitor that blows the image up on the screen for you to read. Microfiche is great for archiving because it can last for many hundreds of years in the right conditions.
All libraries usually also have an audio/visual department that stores DVD's, CD's, and god forbid VHS and audio cassettes for you to enjoy. They're bound to take the lull out of conventional researching, especially if you are doing research on an audio or visual subjects - like music or art. Even history has plenty of resources that are available on DVD and many books are also in audio formats.
Help Desk & Study Rooms
Finally, while you're wandering about the library looking for resources, be aware of all the other people around you. It may have not been so apparent to you, but let me let you in on a little secret: they're probably there to study too! That doesn't mean you can't quietly strike up a conversation with the librarian at the help desk or the cute guy or girl in the 700's. Overall, try to make your trip to the library as enjoyable as possible and a little human interaction will be a big part of that.
A museum is a public, non-profit, permanent institution that services society and of its development that acquires, conserves, and exhibits artifacts for purposes of education and entertainment. What else could you possibly ask for when doing research? While historical societies usually focus on a specific location (and the history of that location), museums offer a plethora of information about specific subject. Museums feature artifacts from subjects ranging from engineering and technology to art, and can serve as a great learning resource for your online coursework!
Associations & Organizations
Every single municipality in the entire country is full of different organizations and associations that usually revolve around a specific purpose. Rotary Clubs, business associations, church groups, the PTA; the list goes on and on. I know what you're thinking; why would any of these boring old - folk groups help me with my term paper? Well, the truth is that, with so many different associations operating everywhere, at least one of them is bound to have some relation to the topic your doing research about. Many have appointed leaders who would be more than willing to share with you some information about how they deal with a matter of interest. Many also have networks within themselves for you to tap into. And please, never disregard the old and wise - they're one of the most important resources you'll ever have, and you'd be lucky to have even one minute of their time.
Chambers of Commerce
Many areas within America offer local chambers of commerce that local businesses can join. It's kind of like a social club for business owners, a way for them to network with each other, promote their services, share valuable resources, and much more. This same information could also be yours! Many of these organizations hold meetings, conventions, or gatherings which include informative presentations; it's not too hard to get a guest pass and get in. You'll get to shake hands with many in your local business owners who are more than willing to share information to get hew word out on there business. And like I said before, you're getting this information straight from the horse's mouth, and in this case, some very important horse's mouths.
Too often we toil away at our computer screens all day, talking to ourselves about how difficult or demeaning the task of doing research is. The fact of the matter is, that we'd all be better off getting off our behinds and making the best out of each project, and that means involving our peers and our community. You'll find out more information by listening to those who care and those who have a passion for a particular subject or idea, and that my friends, is powerful stuff. SO the next time you're about to get started on that paper, remember the resources that exist all around you. The computer has its time and place, but the world is always more warm and welcoming.