In the library

Arrange a consultation with a reference librarian. Once you have done your general reading in a subject area and have chosen a topic for your paper, you need to do some in-depth reading to look for a focus. You need to become informed about the topic. A reference librarian, especially a subject specialist, can point you toward good reading materials, some of which may be reference materials and others of which can be checked out. The search strategy you follow at this stage can then be used for gathering information once you've formed a focus for your research.

Find out what specific subject headings pertain to your topic (there may be several), so you can search the library catalog effectively (see Searching the catalog by subject and keyword for details, p. 22).

Ask the reference librarian to recommend journals or periodicals held in the library's collection which are likely to cover your topic the best. You can often use search syntax to restrict your search in a periodical index to certain journals. That way, the articles you find should be in your library's collection and available to you. If you don't find enough material, you may also want to search the periodical index without limiting it to journals in your library, then find out how to get copies of the articles you need.

Search one of the index tools to discover essays or other "less than book length" works on your topic which are included in collections but won't be catalogued individually in the library catalog. There are resources appropriate to specific subjects (i.e., history, literature, science).

Don't overlook non-book materials such as videos, CD-ROMs, films, audio tapes, maps, brochures. These items should be recorded in the library's online catalog.

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