Top searches of a researcher in a library
September 29, 2020
A library is a massive collection of searches that lead one to the various sources one may wish to use. The Catalogue is one example and it will lead to books available in the library; Proquest’s Dissertations and Theses will lead you to those sources. The library has a huge number of other access tools one can use to deepen search. Some are subject-specific searches, and the library’s individual subject guides will point you towards the best ones to use. While each search is divided into fields, it is important to understand that this information allows the searcher to appreciate the search process. Top searches a researcher indulges in a library are:
- Subject searches: Subject Headings (sometimes called Descriptors) are specific terms or phrases used consistently by online or print indexes to describe what a book or journal article is about. This is true of the library’s Catalog as well as many other library databases.
- Recent scholarly books and articles: Within catalogs and databases, sort by the most recent date and look for books from scholarly presses and articles from scholarly journals. The more recent the source, the more up-to-date the references and citations.
- Citation searches: Track down references, footnotes, endnotes, citations, etc. within relevant readings. Search for specific books or journals in the library’s Catalog. This technique helps you become part of the scholarly conversation on a particular topic.
- Searches through published bibliographies: (including sets of footnotes in relevant subject documents). Published bibliographies on particular subjects (Shakespeare, alcoholism, etc.) often list sources missed through other kinds of searches. BIBLIOGRAPHY is a subject heading in the Catalog, so a Guided Search with BIBLIOGRAPHY as a Subject and your topic as a keyword will help you find these.
- Searches through people’s sources: (whether by verbal contact, e-mail, etc.). People are often more willing to help than you might think. The people to start with are often professors with relevant knowledge or librarians.
- Systematic browsing, especially of full-text sources arranged in predictable subject groupings: Libraries organize books by subject, with similar books shelved together. Browsing the stacks is a good way to find similar books; however, in large libraries, some books are not in the main stacks (e.g., they might be checked out or in ReCAP), so use the catalog as well.
- Keyword searches: Search relevant keywords in catalogs, indexes, search engines, and full-text resources. Useful both to narrow a search to the specific subject heading and to find sources not captured under a relevant subject heading. To search a database effectively, start with a Keyword search, find relevant records, and then find relevant Subject Headings. In search engines, include many keywords to narrow the search and carefully evaluate what you find.
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