Libraries, Documentation and Cross Referencing

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Course: TECHNICAL, SCIENTIFIC AND BUSINESS ENGLISH
Course Code: ENGL-301
Period: PRE FINAL
INSTRUCTOR: Keith Feliz D. Banania

LIBRARIES, DOCUMENTATION AND CROSS REFERENCING

LIBRARIES

Library Requirement.

One of the requirements for the final report in this course is to find and use information in external sources—either published, unpublished, or both. Of course, you might feel that your project needs no external information—that you already know it all. However, you should be able to identify information that you don't know and that needs to be in the report. For example, imagine you were writing backup procedures for running some sort of high-tech equipment at your workplace. Sure, you may be able to operate the thing in your sleep, but you may not know much about the technical processes or scientific principles behind it. And of course, it could be argued that such discussion is not needed in backup procedures. Background of that sort, however, might indeed be useful. Instructions often benefit by having this kind of background information—it can give readers a fuller sense of why they are doing what they are doing and a way of knowing what to do in case things go wrong.

And of course, it's important to have some experience using the library and other information sources in a more professional, business-like manner. In freshman writing classes, for example, writers are not challenged to push the library's resources for all it's worth—which is normally what typically happens in a technical writing project.

Descriptors and Keywords.

Another big issue when you begin your library search is finding those words and phrases that enable you to find the books, articles, reports, and encyclopedias that have all that information you need. Sometimes it's not so easy! A keyword (also called a "descriptor") is a word or phrase under which related information sources are listed. Imagine you're writing a report on the latest theories about the greenhouse effect: you'd check book catalogs and periodical indexes for "greenhouse effect," hoping to find lists of books or articles under that keyword. But that might not be the right one; things might be listed under the keyword "global warming" instead. So how do you find the right keywords? Here are some suggestions:

Try to find any book or article on your topic—anything! Then explore it for the vocabulary it uses. In particular, check its listings for titles of other books and articles. You're likely to find words and phrases that are the common keywords.

Where to stop.

If you faithfully go through the following suggestions, you're likely to have a long list of books, article, reports, and other sources—more than you could ever read in one semester. What to do? First of all, don't back away from at least knowing what's "out there" on your topic. Once you start looking at your list, you'll see many things that seem to duplicate each other. If, for example, you have five or six books with roughly the same title, just pick the one that is the most recent and that seems the most complete and thorough. Many other sources will branch out into subtopics you have no interest in. And of course many of the items won't even be available in any nearby library or bookstore.

Finding Information Sources

Once you've convinced yourself that you need to go after some external information sources (if you haven't, get in touch with your instructor) and have found some pretty reliable keywords to use, it's time to start the search. Where to start though? The logical starting point is whichever information source you think is likely to have the best stuff. For hot, late-breaking topics, articles and proceedings (talks given at conferences that are published) may be the best bet. For stable topics that have been around awhile, books and encyclopedias may be better.

However, if you're not sure, you may want to systematically check a number of the common types of...
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