Research at a Distance – Ginger Mcdonald, Online Contributor


So you’re enrolled in an online class and you have a research project due and you aren’t close to the college’s library what do you do?  Don’t panic, go to the library website and let the researching begin.


One of the easiest and fastest ways to do research at a distance is to use periodical databases.


What is a periodical database?  A periodical database is a collection of electronic magazines and academic journals.  The search function of the database allows you to find articles from the collection about any topic you choose.


Periodical databases have some advantages over traditional print books.  The databases have more current information, any time a new edition of a magazine or journal is released the database is updated.  This makes it a good place to find the latest available research.  In addition to current information they also can have specific information.  It is far easier for an author to produce a well written, well researched and sourced article that it is to write an entire book.  This is especially true if the subject is highly specialized, for example Paul’s theology of Christ.  There are books about Paul’s theology that include his thoughts on Christ and many theology books that include what has been written about Christ by all of the Biblical authors including Paul.  These are both useful resources but the information must be taken from them but an article on Paul’s theology of Christ could be used in its entirety without time taken to find just the needed information.


Another good way to do research at a distance is to use ebooks.  Ebooks are electronic books that can be read on a computer or other electronic device.  (Kindle or Nook for example)  There are many scholarly and well written books available in an electronic format and many more are being published every day.  Many libraries have ebooks available for checkout or research, and in most libraries these titles can be searched and accessed from the library website via the library catalog. Please note that each library provides different search methods and different formats so be sure to contact the library if you require assistance.


The other way to do research at a distance is to eliminate the distance.  To do this all you have to do is visit your local public library.  Most communities have a public library and any library is a good place to start your research.  Find out what resources and services your library provides: books, periodical databases, ebooks, music, movies, interlibrary loan, etc.  Search through the available material and determine if any of it could be of use to you for your current project.  In addition to the materials available in the library most libraries have access to interlibrary loan.  Interlibrary loan is a service in which one library borrows material, say a book, from another library so that a user in the first library may have access to it.  Please note that request and shipping time can take up to a week so make sure you plan your research in advance.


Depending on the program you are enrolled in there may also be research software available for you to purchase.  This software usually combines the basic research materials needed for that particular discipline.  If you are enrolling in a program like Northpoint’s we recommend Logos Bible Software at the silver level as a good research base.


If you have any questions about any of these things, please contact a librarian.  Librarians love questions!  They also love to help people like you find answers to their questions.  To contact our librarians, please email us at [email protected].