Reference Desk Questions

Interesting reference desk questions worth sharing with others.

Questions for Librarians

Did you ever have a question that you weren’t sure you should ask us? Guess what — of course you should ask! Librarians love to get questions. People ask librarians about all sorts of things. The graphic below gives an idea of what students have been asking the MVCC librarians recently. Do you have a question about research, about using the library, about something on campus? Are you wondering what kinds of pets the librarians have? Ask a Librarian!

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Need an Article the Library Does Not Have? Order with InterLibrary Loan (ILL)!

Are you researching for a paper, and you find that the Library does not have the article (or other resource) you would like to use? Click on this tutorial to learn how to request an article through the Library’s InterLibrary Loan (ILL) service! If you need further assistance, do not hesitate to Ask a Librarian for help.

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MLA and APA Citation Information

Classes have started. You see on the syllabus that you will need to provide MLA or APA citations for an assignment or for a paper. Maybe that is new to you—or maybe you don’t remember the details from your high school classes. The library can help! You can stop by the library and talk to a librarian about citation. Or, go to the “Research Tools” page on the library website. Click “Citing Sources” in the middle of the Research Tools page (under Featured Services). The Citing Sources Guide has a variety of links and instructional videos that show citation examples for journal articles, web pages, books, and many other sources. As always, help is available from the librarians or from the Speaking and Writing Center.

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Does it make sense to open a blues bar?

We get many interesting questions at the reference desk. “How do I do research about the feasibility of opening up a blues bar?” was just one of the questions we got in the last couple weeks.

To do research about starting a business, the Library’s Research Tools page is one place to start. We have access to databases such as “Business Source Premier” that focus on business topics. Also, we have Research Guides on a variety of topics. For this topic, the guides for Economics and Company Information can lead you to sources that will help you find information about current restaurant and nightclub trends. The Research Guide for Governmental Information can help you find demographic statistics, consumer information, and regulations to consider.

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Citing Research Papers Using The Purdue OWL

owlPreparing research papers can be tough; citing them can be tougher, especially with different citation styles. APA, MLA, Chicago Manual of Style, oh my! Do I have a resource for you! Check out Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL). This was my go-to resource after having returned to graduate school after a twenty year absence from college. The link above takes you to its home page; once there, you can click on “Research and Citation” or click here. One of the reasons I like this site is it explains the difference between the three (3) most commonly used citation styles: APA ”(American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences;” MLA “(Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities;” and Chicago Manual of Style. Remember to always use the style your instructor has requested in the syllabus!


Another part of the site I like is the individual “Formatting and Style Guides” under each citation style. Screen shots are given of how certain parts of the research paper are supposed to look using that particular citation style. OWL_ScreenshotFor example, in-text citations, footnotes and endnotes, reference list, and an actual sample paper. Check this site out, and refer to it often!

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Me, myself or I? Using the right pronouns when writing



There are many rules about the use of grammar, far too many to memorize.  Remember Meryl Streep’s character in the Series of Unfortunate Events movie, the recluse who studied grammar devotedly?  We’re more likely to meet Count Olaf than someone who is really that knowledgeable on the topic, but, though we may not master every rule, we can easily master some.

A quick place to start is looking at pronoun usage.  This is an easy mistake to correct, but is frequently overlooked.  Think of the popular songs that swap rhymes for grammar.  Know the words to the 80’s song, Hungry Eyes?  The magic should be “between you and me” but “I” rhymes with “eyes” and so the rules went out the window.  When it comes to using the correct pronoun, don’t rely on examples from songs, movies or even literature.  Instead, check out and follow this short and sweet advice from the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

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Representational Abstract Art…Finding the Right Words

I had a challenging question at the information desk today. A student was working on a paper about “representational abstract art.” This was a new phrase to me, since I would assume that if the piece of art was abstract it would be non-representational. The student told me that he was thinking about art movement such as Cubism, where the work is abstract, but it is also is a representation of a real thing (most of the time). So, this would be something in contrast to a purely abstract work which is not a form a of a real thing.

We ended up being successful in searching in our collection of books on abstract art and looking up terms in the book index. We also were successful in using some of our art databases. We found some entries in Credo Reference online. Interestingly, the term “non-representational” is used more often in abstract art research than the term “representational.” This was one of those searches where the student had a solid idea of what he was after, but his terminology didn’t quite line up with the terms used by artists and art historians.

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