Your assignment is to compile a descriptive and evaluative guide to the basic information sources for a major subject area in the academic discipline of your choice. This guide, or pathfinder, should be an organized listing and description of a variety of English language sources of information on your selected topic. It should be designed to help another individual determine which basic sources are best to consult in the early stages of the research. The guide is not meant to be exhaustive bibliography on your subject: rather, the sources included in the guide should assist a researcher in developing his or her own comprehensive list of sources. Choose to work within whatever academic discipline your prefer, i.e., literature, political science, sociology, Asian studies, zoology, accounting, etc. Depending on the discipline you choose, you might need to broaden or narrow your topic. For example, if you choose sociology as your discipline, you should probably concentrate on a specialty within that discipline, such as criminology. The academic discipline should be neither too broad nor too narrow. It is recommended that your choice have a substantial body of readily accessible literature. Please consult with me in advance if you have any questions about topic selection. Statement of Scope At the beginning of your pathfinder, you should write a brief statement of scope. This should be one or two paragraphs that clearly define your topic and present other introductory or preliminary information. Assume that the audience for your guide to the literature are freshmen or sophomore majors in the given field. Organization If the guide is not organized effectively, it will not be of much assistance to the user. While there is no one best way to organize information for all subjects, each of the following types of sources are likely to be included in a complete guide:
- Biographical Dictionaries
- Subject-Specific Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
- Major Periodicals in the Field
- Major Periodical Indexes and Abstracts (both print and electronic)
- Statistics Sources (both print and electronic)
- Internet Sources
- Scholarly/Professional Association or Organizations
- Other Relevant Sources
Evaluative Annotations Besides citing the important works, you are expected to write a brief evaluative annotation. This is an essential component of the guide, because these annotations will assist the audience in evaluating the usefulness of the work. Your recommendations are fine but you may also support them with expert opinion, i.e., reviews, other guides, etc. Obviously, in order to evaluate these sources, you will need to look at them. It is important, therefore, that the University libraries own this information. The following are suggested areas of commentary:
- Explain the main purpose of the work.
- Briefly describe the contents.
- Indicate the possible audience for the work.
- Comment on special features
- Comment on strengths, weaknesses, or biases
Format The length of the guide will depend on the subject you select as well as the length of your annotations. Four pages, types is a reasonable minimum and eight pages maximum. Please cite the source you used to locate each work listed in your guide. Footnotes or endnotes should conform to the Turabian style manual.
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Last updated: 5/10/2010