Researching as a Computer Science Student at Purdue University.

The definitive guide to finding information related to Computer Science.

Welcome to Purdue University, and congratulations on being admitted into the College of Science! As a computer science student, you will be expected to research topics in many of your classes. This research guide aims to help you find relevant information in an efficient manner. But before we get started, let’s clarify what computer science is, why it’s important, and the type of research that is being done in the field today.

Purdue College of Science Logo

Computer science is a broad term, and is commonly defined as the field that “spans the range from theory through programming to cutting-edge development of computing solutions.” This definition is provided by the Association for Computing Machinery, which is one of the larger global learning society dedicated towards computing. As a programmer, you can expect to write and maintain elegant software, research new ways that computers can be used, and most importantly, research and develop algorithms to solve computing problems.

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The importance of computer science is fairly obvious, especially with the rise of computing devices in the world. Most complex electronics, from your phone to your car, are impacted by research done in the field of computer science. As a computer science student, your job in the future will be to push the bounds of computing today.

Before you can do this, you need to be able to effectively research topics, so that you can build upon these topics.

Purdue University has 15 libraries available for your use.

As a computer science student, you will most likely use the Hicks Undergraduate Library, the Mathematical Sciences Library, and the Siegesmund Engineering Library during your undergraduate studies at Purdue. Since these libraries focus on different areas, you’ll use them for different purposes. For example, the Hicks Undergraduate Library has more study areas and less books, while the other libraries mentioned have more books and less classrooms and study areas. You will also have access to many online databases and websites, such as the ACM Digital Library and the Wiley Online Library.

Having a lot of choice can be intimidating, so let’s start with the most convenient source of information, the physical libraries here at Purdue University.

1. Hicks Undergraduate Library

Hicks Undergraduate Library location

The Hicks Undergraduate Library (often referred to as “Hicks”) is a popular library with services such as group study rooms, study spaces, and periodicals. You probably won’t find academic quality articles in these periodicals, but they will be useful for reading about important technological events that occurred in the past. Some examples of periodicals that have covered technology on a large timescale include Wired and The York Times. If you’re looking for books and academic quality research, you’ll have to either go to the two libraries mentioned below, or use online databases mentioned later in this guide.

2. Mathematical Sciences Library

Mathematical Sciences Library location

The Mathematical Sciences Library is located in the Mathematical Sciences building. As the name suggests, this library contains collections of books related to math, Computer Science, and statistics. The library also has plenty of study areas for your use.

3. Siegesmund Engineering Library

Siegesmund Engineering Library

The Siegesmund Engineering Library is located in the Potter Engineering Center. Some features of this library include study rooms, and a ITaP computer lab. This library also has a large print collection of books, journals, technical reports, and more.

The main Purdue Library website is a great resource for finding information at Purdue University. Suppose you wanted to learn more about the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), which was the first electronic and reprogrammable computer. All you have to do to learn more about the computer is type “ENIAC” into the search field, and press Search!

Once the search results come up, you can filter by publication date, language, location, subject, and more! Here’s an example of the results.

Now you can pick the book that is relevant to your research topic, and find the library where the book is available. If you aren’t able to visit a library, you may be able to view an online copy, or you may be able to request the book to be sent to a more convenient location.

In the rare case that you aren’t able to find a book or article on the subject you are researching at the libraries at Purdue, you may be able to request it from another university with UBorrow. Be sure to request from UBorrow well ahead of time! It may take up to two weeks for your book to reach Purdue’s campus.

The Purdue Library website has more to offer besides finding books and articles. You can check out cameras and tripods from ITaP (Information Technology at Purdue), reserve group study rooms or conference rooms, and chat with librarian if you’re having trouble researching or finding a resource.

Access to the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Digital Library allows you to retrieve about 400,000 articles, and over two million pages of full text articles, with more than 18,000 new full text articles being added each year.

As a Computer Science major, you should take advantage of your free (it’s included in your not-so-free tuition!) access to this huge library. This library is especially useful because everything in it is relevant to the field of Computer Science.

Using the website is fairly straightforward. Simply type a query into the search box in the upper right, and you’ll be presented with a result page, where you can filter by author, institution, date published, and more. A nice feature of this digital library is that you can view citations found in the resource that you’re interested in, and then click on these citations to view the paper in its full text. This can be useful when you’re trying to find multiple sources to verify a claim.

The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) XPlore Digital Library is similar to the ACM Digital Library, in the sense that gives you access to articles, journals, etc., which are all related to the field of Engineering and Computer Science.

This resource is useful because this library contains content that is not necessarily related to Computer Science, but related to Electrical and Computer Engineering. Even though the fields are similar, you can gain knowledge about the more technical details and technical research being done with computers today.

Google Scholar

You’re probably familiar with Google Search. Google Scholar is like Google Search, except that it only searches scholarly resources, such as academic books, articles, and websites. Google Scholar is especially useful because it employs a search algorithm that gives you both relevant and high quality sources. Some other nice features include search by date range and patent search.

Using Google Scholar is as simple as using the main Google Search website. Simply type in your search term, and you’ll be presented with relevant resources. If you have to use Google, use Google Scholar!

Now that you know where to get information required for your research, let’s go over how to cite this information. In the field of Computer Science, people typically use the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) when citing sources. Citing your sources is important so that your readers know that you are referring a previous work. Failure to do so can result in plagiarism claims, which could discredit your hard work.

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Suppose we want to cite this article in your paper, because you wanted to briefly cover a recent event that’s relevant to computing. Here’s how you would cite this source in your bibliography:

Smith, Ryan. “HP Splits In Half: Consumer & Enterprise Businesses To Separate.” AnandTech. October 6, 2014. Accessed October 20, 2014.

Here’s how you would insert an in-text citation in your paper:

(Ryan 2014)

If you wanted to write an annotated bibliography, you would paste the full citation from above, and then add one paragraph which summarizes and describes the source you are using. Two examples of an annotated citation are provided below. The first is from the article referenced earlier, and the second is for a book about the ENIAC.

Smith, Ryan. “HP Splits In Half: Consumer & Enterprise Businesses To Separate.” AnandTech. October 6, 2014. Accessed October 20, 2014.

Ryan’s article contains numerous slides a presentation from HP, which clearly details the plans for the company in the future. This source is especially useful because of the insightful analysis of the reasoning for splitting up HP into two companies.

Kelly, Martin, and William Aspray. “Inventing the Computer.” In Computer a History of the Information Machine. 2nd ed. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2004.

The authors of this book set up the motivations behind inventing the first computer by detailing the politics and broader world events occurring at the time. The chapter cited above does an excellent job of describing the history behind the creation of the ENIAC, and the consequences of creating the world’s first computer.

Your first year at Purdue University will be filled with great experiences, which will take place in your classes and outside of your classes. Researching may eventually become a large part of your classes, so hopefully this guide will come in handy in the near future.

You’re ready to research.

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