Researching Texts Libraries And Web Sites

My instructor wants me to use at least ten citations from at least five different sources, including books, periodicals, and the Internet. On top of that, she wants me to make the paper interesting.

The best writing teaches readers things they didn't already know, conveying knowledge that isn't everyday and commonplace. You are bound to do this when you write from personal experience, as nobody else anywhere has lived your life. However, when you write about topics outside yourself, out there in the world of institutions, issues, and ideas, you almost always need more information than you carry around loosely in your head. Which is where research comes into play.

The modern library itself is less a fixed geographical entity than an intersection of information channels. Some routes lead to paperbound books and periodicals, others to billion bit CD-ROMs, and others to virtual information in cyberspace. To the local, physically present library is added the global, ethereal Internet and its vast and current resources available through any networked computer. The campus library and the global Internet are twin tickets to writing knowledgeable papers worth reading. This chapter outlines the basic routes through these powerful resources.


In the modern university library you have access to most of the thoughts generated by humans since the invention of the printing press. Libraries provide access to human ideas,knowledge,and culture.Books,while more comprehensive than periodicals, will be at least a year or two out of date when you read them because of the time it takes from complete manuscript to final, edited, bound copy. So when you think of the library for research purposes, think of both books and periodicals. In addition, your university may have special collections of documents stored on tape or film: movies, audio and video tapes, photographs, paintings, and the like. The following is an overview of what the library has in store for you.

Book Catalogues

Computerized cataloguing systems identify library holdings four different ways: by author, title, subject, and keyword. In addition, many of these integrated computer systems also allow you to search the contents of periodical holdings at the same time. Check at the circulation or reference desk if you are uncertain how your library catalogues its holdings.

Catalogue systems may vary slightly from library to library, though all systems follow the same general principles. Specific instructions for conducting a search in your own library will be posted next to its computer terminals. If you know the author's name or the title of the book you are looking for,follow the on-screen directions for searching by author or title. In either subject or keyword searches, the words you select to look for make the difference between success and failure. Be prepared to experiment with different words to see what gets you closest to what you want; sometimes the computer will suggest an alternate term to look under. You may gain additional help for both searches by consulting the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) guide which lists the exact words used to catalogue resources.

Bibliographies and Book Indexes

A bibliography is a list of works pertinent to a particular subject area. Many books include a bibliography of the various works consulted by the author in researching and writing the book. You may often find such bibliographies more helpful than a catalogue search, particularly if the book focuses on the area of your research. Check for bibliographies in any books you find through your catalogue search. In addition, you may find it useful to consult the Bibliographic Index: A Cumulative Bibliography of Bibliographies (New York: Wilson, 1938-date), which lists the bibliographies in books that cover a wide variety of subjects and will provide readers with lists of related sources already compiled by other authors on subjects similar to their own.

The following comprehensive book indexes list every title currently in print (still being published). These can help you discover, for example, whether a particular author has published other books that you might want to look at.

1. Books in Print The latest edition of this index provides a list of authors and titles currently in print and thus available at libraries, bookstores, or by direct order from a publisher. Dated volumes are useful for author, title, and edition information.

2. Paperbound Books in Print The latest edition of this index lists paperback books currently in print; these are most likely to be available at local bookstores. Dated volumes are useful for author, title, and edition information.

Keep in mind that you will have to consult the catalogue to determine whether or not your library owns any of the books discovered through bibliographic and book index searches. If it does not, you may be able to order the book through interlibrary loan (from another library, usually at a nominal fee) or purchase the book yourself from the publisher.

Call Numbers

Once you have determined through the catalogue that your library owns a book you want to consult, you will use that book's call number to locate it in the stacks. For example, the book Learning the Library by A.K. Beaubueb, S.A. Hogan, and M.W. George, published in New York by Bowker Press in 1982, is catalogued this way:

Z Letters = general subject area 710 Numbers = specific division within subject B37 Letter/number preceded by decimal point =

placement within the division 1982 Date indicates a later edition or multiple volumes


Among the most current and specific research resources in any library are the magazines, newspapers, and bulletins that are published periodically—daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly. Periodicals are focused on particular areas of interest and, since they are published at regular intervals throughout the year, their information is usually more current than that found in books, which take a longer time to be published. So many periodicals are published in each academic field, that few libraries are able to subscribe to them all. To use periodicals effectively, you need to first find the articles that interest you, then find out if your library subscribes to those periodicals. Periodicals do not circulate; plan to read them and take notes in the library or to photocopy relevant articles to read at home.

Periodical Indexes

Periodical indexes allow you to find articles in specific journals and magazines, listing them by author and within subject categories. These indexes, like the catalogue system, can be either in book form or computerized, depending upon your library. Most libraries now carry these indexes on compact discs (CD-ROMs) that will automatically conduct and print out keyword searches, generally at a nominal charge to the user (see Databases below).

The most familiar, general, and popular of the indexes is The Readers Guide to Periodical Literature (1900-date). This guide lists articles of general interest in over two hundred popular magazines, including Time, Newsweek, Business Week, Consumer Reports, Sports Illustrated, Science Digest, Popular Science, The New Yorker, Esquire, Health, People, and Rolling Stone, Entries are arranged by author and subject, and cross-referenced. (Now available on CD-ROM from 1983.)

For the more specialized and in-depth research required for most academic assignments, the library contains specialized indexes. Listed below are some of the most useful for undergraduates:

Art Index (1929-date). Lists periodicals focusing on visual arts, including painting, sculpture, and multimedia (CD-ROM, On-line).

Applied Science and Technology Index (1958-date). Lists periodicals in chemistry, engineering, computer science, electronics, geology, mathematics, photography, physics, and related fields (CD-ROM, On-line).

Business Periodicals Index (1958-date). Lists the contents of both popular and specialized journals devoted to the study of business. Prior to 1957 it was combined with the Applied Science and Technology Index (CD-ROM, On-line).

Education Index (1929-date). Lists all journals from the fields of education and physical education, and related fields (CD-ROM, Online).

General Science Index (1978-date). Lists articles in the fields of astronomy, botany, genetics, mathematics, physics, and oceanography (CD-ROM, On-line).

Humanities Index (1974-date). Catalogues over two hundred sixty periodicals in the fields of archaeology, classics, language and literature, area studies, folklore, history, performing arts, philosophy, religion, and theology. For sources prior to 1974 see International Index (1907-1965) or Social Sciences and Humanities Index (1965-1974) (CD-ROM, On-line).

Social Sciences Index (1974-date). This index catalogues over two hundred sixty periodicals in the fields of anthropology, economics, environmental science, geography, law, medicine, political science, psychology, and sociology. For sources prior to 1974, see the International Index (1907-1965) and Social Sciences and Humanities Index (1965-1974) (CD-ROM, On-line).

Newspaper Indexes

Newspaper indexes list articles and stories published in newspapers. Most libraries include indexes for the two newspapers that are considered to be sources of national news, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. In addition, many libraries now contain the integrated newspaper/periodical index, Infotrac. Finally, your library may have an index of the major local paper in your area. Listed below are descriptions of these indexes.

The New York Times Index (1913-date). The index to this major paper is usually stored on microfilm and would provide a record of daily news coverage for virtually all important national events since 1913 (NEXUS, 1980-date).

Wall Street Journal Index. This is another national newspaper which specializes in business and economic information (NEXUS, 1980-date).

Infotrac. This integrated computer index, updated monthly, integrates three separate indexes: the Academic Index, which lists nearly one thousand commonly used scholarly publications; the General Periodical Index, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal; and the National Newspaper Index, which adds additional large circulation newspapers to the data collection. Many entries include summaries; short articles are often included in full. Infotrac is one of several comprehensive databases which now make integrated library research both simpler and more powerful at the same time.


In most college libraries you also have access to the services of computer-conducted searches through specialized databases on CD-ROM (Compact

Disc—Read Only Memory, which means they convey information but cannot be added to) that are read by lasers like CDs on your home stereo system; as many as two hundred thousand pages of text can be stored on a single CD-ROM disc. This electronically-stored information is read on a computer monitor and refers you to documents, both unpublished and published. Infotrac, described above, is such an electronic database common to public as well as academic libraries.

The other giant database most commonly found in college libraries is called DIALOGUE, which keeps track of more than a million sources of information. DIALOGUE is divided into smaller, more specialized databases, some nine hundred eighty-seven of which are listed in the current manual, DIALOGUE Blue Sheets, which is available at the reference desk. Several of the commonly used DIALOGUE files include the following:

Arts and Humanities Search (1980-date). A listing of over one thousand journals and abstracts of their contents.

ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) (1965-date). An index of published and unpublished papers in the field of education, including abstracts of their contents.

PsychINFO (1967-date). An index of over one thousand journals in the field of psychology, including abstracts of their contents.

Scisearch (1974-date). An index of a variety of journals in scientific and technological areas, including abstracts of their contents.

Social Scisearch (1972-date). An index of over fifteen hundred journals, including abstracts of their contents.

To use a specialized database usually requires the assistance of a librarian, who will ask you to fill out a form listing the keywords or descriptors that you will need for your search. Keywords are usually by subject, but sometimes include authors and titles. In most cases, the descriptors will be the same ones used in the Library of Congress Subject Heading catalogue; however, in some cases they will differ, so consult the thesaurus of keywords that is usually located near the particular database you are using. In many libraries there is a time limitation and a charge for conducting these searches.


Once you have found useful information from any source, develop a working bibliography of all the possible ones you might use in writing your paper. There are tried-and-true methods for doing this—which you may have used in the past and which still make good sense to follow:

First, make an alphabetical list of all the works consulted (or planned to consult) on 3 X 5 index cards or a computer file (especially if you use a database manager)—both allow for easy alphabetizing, which is useful to create a "Works Cited" or "References" page if your paper requires one.For each source, record the following information:


1. Call number or other 4.

location information 5.

3. Full title and subtitle 7.


2. Full title and subtitle of 6.

article 7.

3. Periodical title

4. Periodical volume and issue number

Next, take notes from the texts you locate on cards or in files to use in the actual writing of your paper—notes that are separate from your bibliography cards, putting one bit of information or one idea on a card—a strategy that will help you locate, shuffle, and rearrange ideas as you shape your paper. The advantage of placing notes directly in computer files is that you can copy and paste them right into your paper without retyping each one. The advantage of good old paper note cards is that they are easier to shuffle and move around. Regardless of how you take notes, each one should contain the following information:

1. Author, title, and date of the source

2. Exact page numbers

3. Information quoted, paraphrased, or summarized

4. Notes (in brackets or parentheses) on how you might use or cross-reference to other material

Finally, organize your note cards in the approximate way you intend to write them into your paper. If you've not made an outline yet of your paper's movement, now is a good time to try. To make such a working outline, look first at the main question your paper addresses, next at the main points that will answer that question, then at the evidence to support each point, and finally at the most logical progression of those points in the paper.

Editor or translator Place of publication Publisher

Date of publication

Periodical date Page numbers Location


The most current sources of information are likely found on the Internet. Once you have an E-mail account, your personal on-line service or campus network will allow you to search, download, and use sources in writing research essays. The Internet mailing list is a two-way street: you can retrieve information from knowledgeable people on particular topics; they, in turn, can receive information from you. Learning your way around the Internet will take time and a good degree of trial and error. The easiest way to begin finding Internet resources is for someone already experienced to get you started; however, if you're on your own, the following introduction will be a good first step.

A Strategy for Starting

If unfamiliar with Web searching for an academic paper, follow this procedure:

Log on to Home Page From off campus, log on to the Internet via your local service provider. If your computer logs first to a university home page, find the Internet link. Click.

Select a Search Engine From your home page, select a specific engine (see the selections below, all of which are excellent for academic searches):

• AltaVista <>—a powerful and very comprehensive site; allows restricted searches; full texts often available.

• Excite <>—good for first and general searches, ranks sites by frequency of keywords; suggests related sites.

• Hotbot <>—powerful; good for customized searches by date, media, specific domains. Includes newsgroups, classified ads, Yellow Pages, E-mail directories.

• Infoseek <>—identifies sites by frequency of keywords. Allows searching by title, URL, directory, and newsgroup databases.

• Lycos <>—allows advanced and previous-search searches; directory covers 90 percent of Web; includes newsgroups, Reuters news service.

• Net Search <>—located on the Netscape task bar; powerful, easy to use, and connected to other Web search engines.

• Yahoo! <>—the most comprehensive subject directory; good for browsing; allows restricted searches; includes full-text downloads.

In addition, check out search engines that search the search engines: All in One <>, Dogpile <>, Meta-Crawler <>, and <>. These collective search engines sometimes provide too many sites with too few restrictions, making it difficult to limit your search to relevant information.

Limit Your Search First searches often provide too much informa-tion—sometimes several thousand (or million!) sites—making it hard to locate those you can use. For example, a broad search term such as Vietnam may locate everything from travel information to news articles to geography and language—thousands of sites, too many to explore. To limit your search to, say, the Vietnam War, follow this procedure:

• Use double quotation marks to limit a specific phrase, title, or name by putting quotation marks around the whole phrase, "Vietnam War,' or book title, "The Best and the Brightest," or author, "David Halberstam." This limits the site selection to only those that include both words.

• Use and between words to limit the search to sources that include both terms (not already combined in a phrase). Typing crime and punishment will return any documents that include both the words crime and punishment, while using quotation marks will get you Crime and Punishment, the novel by Dostoevsky. (Some sites, such as Excite and AltaVista, use + instead of and—try both to be sure.)

• Use or between words to retrieve documents that include any, rather than most, of the search words. Type puma or mountain lion or cougar or painter or panther—all different names for the same animal.

• Use not after a term to exclude a word that must not appear in the documents. Example: dolphins not mammal or NFL.

• Use an asterisk (*) to substitute for letters or word endings that might vary: undergrad*.

• Use parentheses( ) to group and combine search expressions: (treaty or armistice) and Korean War

There is no limit to the level of nesting which you can use in a query: "(treaty or armistice) and Korean (war or police action) and Joseph McCarthy."

Start Searching Type words that describe or name your topic, click the search button ("search now," "go"), and wait for results to tell you how many possible sites exist, as well as a site list to examine, one-by-one.

Try searching several different ways, using related terms in combination or alone. Narrow your search by using other, more specific terms; for example, instead of Vietnam and war and infantry, try Tet Offensive or Ho Chi Minh Trail. These may return shorter, more useful lists.

Try several different search engines and directories. No search engine or directory catalogues the entire Web, and no two engines search exactly the same way. Depending on your topic, you may find one search engine much more useful than the others. The law of the Web is "trial and error."

If you are still not getting what you expect, click on the help or advanced search option included on every site, read it, and try again. Research profits from exploration, from writers curious about a subject, looking to see what specific information is out there. No place on earth takes you faster to more information than the Internet. To explore it, log on and type one of the following addresses—called URLs for universal resource locator—into the command line of your browser, and hit the enter key, and see what you find. <>—lists books in print along with out-of-print titles. Useful to locate or buy books; includes all relevant publishing data and reviews.

Argus Clearinghouse <>—selects, describes, and evaluates Internet resources; a good site to begin any research project.

Biographical Dictionary <>— searchable by name, birth and death year, profession, works, and other terms.

E.span <>—Job Hunting and the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Encyclopedia Britannica <>—infor-mation on any subject under the sun.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About the Web <http://>

Information Please <>—a searchable on-line almanac; topics from architecture to biography to historical statistics to weather.

Learn the Net Inc. < .html>—Web tours and training.

Peterson's Education Center < 8080/>—Information on colleges.

Research-It <> —a reference toolkit of online dictionaries, and thesaurus.

Document Your Search It can be difficult to retrace your steps to a valuable Internet resource. Use a notebook to keep track of which search engines and which search terms you use so that you can reproduce a search easily. When you find a useful Web page, print a copy for your records. If your browser doesn't automatically do so, write the URL of the page on your printout along with the date and time you accessed the page to freeze the contents of a site that changes between visits. If you plan to use a source more than once, make a "bookmark" or on-line reference to easily find it again.

When incorporating any on-line information in your papers, plan to cite it as you do field and library sources so that others who want to read further can easily find it; keep the standard documentation needs in mind and you won't be too far off: Who said what, where and when? (See Chapter Eleven, "Writing with Sources," and Chapter Twelve, "Documenting Research Sources," for instructions and examples on how to do this using specific documentation systems.)

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