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FTS: Food and Politics: Research Tools and Tips

Tips for Harvesting Sources and Creating Your Own Arguments

Holland farmers market
photo by Kate Ter Haar, 2013.

Welcome to the Library

Researching your website overview in the library will help you find good material for your assignment - but also should give you a chance to get familiar with the place and the resources you'll use for other courses as well. This week we'll focus on these goals:

  • finding your way around the library and its online resources beyond a simple Google search
  • browsing to map out the research landscape
  • thinking strategically as you search for information with a focus on an argument
  • thinking about what sources will be authoritative and useful for this kind of writing
  • selecting and locating the resources you will use 



What Are You Looking For?

When you do research to write about a food topic, think about your purpose and audience. Your audience will expect you to have good, accurate, informative information to back up your argument. Your sources should be 

  • not too old (unless you're citing a classic)
  • by people who have some sort of expertise
  • that explain why the authors believe what they are saying.

You may also need to compare different arguments. What do people generally agree on? Where do they diverge? How will you acknowledge these differences as you make your own argument? 

In the Reference Collection

Mapping out the Research Landscape

You will be researching a topic and developing an argument about some aspect of food and politics. Before you can start choosing sources, you need to find out who's talking about food and politics, what issues are under debate, and which seem particularly interesting to you. Here are some ideas for finding out what people are saying. Though you already have a couple of topics in mind, take a little time to browse and see what others are talking about. 

Browse the Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (Main Floor Reference Collection GT 2850) and The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (Main Floor Reference Collection TX 349 .E45)

Go upstairs and browse the general collection around the call number GT 2850

On the main floor, browse the general collection around the call numbers TX 340 - TX 650 

Browse recent issues of the journal Food, Culture,& Society

What are some of the topics other scholars are focusing on? How do your topics fit in, or have you discovered a topic you would like to explore further? 

Searching for Books and Articles

Once you have a topic in mind, make a list of key words and synonyms. Add to it as you do your digging and uncover additional key words or angles to focus your search, and plan a way to keep track of sources that look good. Try these search tools.

What are you finding?  Have you added new keywords to your list? How do you decide which books or articles look promising? How are you keeping track of them? 

What Floor Is It On?

Books in the general collection with call numbers starting with A - PQ are shelved on the upper level

Books  in the general collection with call numbers starting with PR - Z are on the main floor

Many books on reproductive technology are found in a book case near the front door; these have a call number ending with Entrance Display

Useful Google Hacks

You will want to go beyond a simple Google search to find good information for your website overview, but there may be information from government agencies or experts who write for a general audience available on the web. Here are two things that may help you focus a search.

  • Put in your search terms and add to focus on government documents.
  • Do a search, then click on Tools, then Any Time to limit a search to the most recent year or a particular span of time.

Food Politics

The latest blog posts by Marion Nestle, who spoke at the Nobel Conference some years ago.

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Reference Librarians's picture
Reference Librarians

What If It's Not Here?

We can borrow books from other libraries or get copies of articles that are not available through our library. Never pay for an article that you find online - we'll get a copy for you. 

You will get an email when these things arrive. Books take several days and are kept at the main information desk for you to pick up. Articles are digital and usually come in 24-48 hours. 

You can always log into your account to see what you have checked out and what is on its way.

Tracing Cited Works

When you find a good source, browse the references to see if any of the books or articles your author cited look interesting. You can search for them by title through our library search

You can find out who has cited a work, too, using Google Scholar

Citing Your Sources

When you cite sources, you are letting your readers know you are informed, that you consulted with experts, and that they can trace your steps if they want to learn more. You are also giving credit to those who helped you build your argument. 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License