When is a riddle a ridley? Searching for Kemp’s olive ridley sea turtle

Image by Bernard Gagnon

One of the most important skills you can develop as a researcher is the ability to approach your research problem from many different angles. One issue I see often with young researchers is the unwillingness to stop using certain key phrases or terms.

Often the language you and I might use to discuss a topic is not the same language an expert will use to discuss the same topic. You and I might talk about the death penalty, but scholars write about capital punishment. There are many excellent scholarly works discussing the death penalty that never use that phrase.

Sometimes the words we’re using are simply incorrect. We mis-hear, misspell, or mis-understand. Or, in the case of a recent question at the reference desk, we are relying on a typographical error.

A recent assignment asked students to find information on Kemp’s olive riddle sea turtle rather than the Kemp’s olive ridley sea turtle. Our reference librarian eventually uncovered the correct spelling, but not after much frustrated searching by the student.

When it comes to the initial stages of research you can safely assume that almost everything you know is wrong. Cultivate the habit of approaching your research problem from as many different angles as possible. And, if that fails, stop by and talk to one of our reference librarians.

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