1) Types of Print Resources
2) Subject Headings & Classification Systems
3) Call Numbers
4) Author, Title, Subject & Keyword Searching
It's important to remember that while there may not be an entire book available on your specific topic, there may be information on the topic in books and also reference books on broader subjects. It makes sense to start by looking for books on as specific a topic as possible to see if there are whole books on that topic. If nothing is available on the most specific topic, try to think of broader subjects that might deal with the topic. For example, if I don't find any books on my specific research topic - the physiological effects of HIV on the immune system - I could try looking under the broader subject of HIV and the immune system and, if I still don't find anything, I could try an even broader subject - AIDS.
One important limitation of books is that, because of the time it takes to write and publish a book, the information in books is virtually never as current as that in recent magazine, journal or newspaper articles.
Once you find books on a broader subject, look in the table of contents (in the front of the book) and the index (in the back of the book) to see if your subject is covered in the book and, if so, on what pages.
In most libraries, books are divided into two basic categories: "reference books" and "circulating books." Circulating books are books that can be checked out. They are shelved in the main shelving area of the library, often called the "stacks." Circulating books cover all subject areas and can range from broad overviews of a general topic to very detailed studies of a very limited, specific topic. Books usually provide more depth and details on a topic than do encyclopedia articles, and they include a much broader range of information than that covered in a magazine, journal or newspaper article.
Reference books are special types of books, such as encyclopedias and dictionaries, that you usually just "refer" to for specific pieces of information rather than reading all or large parts of the books. Reference books are usually shelved in a special section of the library - the reference section - and can be used in the library but cannot be checked out. Reference books are good sources to refer to for general overviews of a topic and to become familiar with specialized or technical terms peculiar to a field or subject.
The following is a list of different reference books:
Dictionaries - The most familiar and frequently used reference source. There are general and specialized dictionaries just like encyclopedias. We consult general dictionaries to find the meaning and origin of words. But there are also historical dictionaries, subject dictionaries, e.g., medical dictionaries, science dictionaries, foreign language dictionaries. This is a short list of the many dictionaries found in our library.
- Academic Press Dictionary of Science & Technology.
- Dictionary of Business Terms
- Merriam Webster Geographical Dictionary
MIT Dictionary of Modern Economics
- Taber's cyclopedic Medical Dictionary
Almanacs & Yearbooks - Wonderful resources of a wide variety of information. These reference books are published yearly and contain factual information pertinent to a specific span of time. Medical, governmental, industrial, and vital statistics are some examples of statistical information that can be found in these resources. These almanacs and yearbooks can be found in our library:
- World Almanac and Book of Facts
- Information Please Almanac
- An Almanac
Statistical Abstract of the United States
- California Statistical Abstract
Handbooks & Manuals - Usually covering a specific subject or subject area. Handbooks normally give a broad treatment of one subject area. Manuals are reference books that explain how something is done or how something operates. Our library has many handbooks and manuals in the fields of science and medicine. Listed below are a few of the handbooks found in our library:
- Science & Technology Desk Reference
- Merriam Webster's Secretarial Handbook
- Perry's Chemical Engineer's Handbook
- Simon & Schuster Handbook of Anatomy & Physiology
- Complete Guide to Symptoms Illness & Surgery
- Publications Manual for the American Psychological Association
- United States Government Manual
Atlases - Books filled with maps, charts, and tables. Atlases provide information pertaining to populations and place locations. Current and historical are the major types of atlases; however, there are human anatomy atlases too. The list below contains examples of different kinds of atlases:
- Times Atlas of the World
- Shepherd's Historical Atlas
- Atlas of Human Histology
- Grant's Atlas of Anatomy
Encyclopedias - The first place to look when beginning research on a subject. In addition to providing a general overview of your topic, encyclopedias help define your topic. Articles include bibliographies leading you to additional information. There are two types of encyclopedias - general and subject or special encyclopedias. General encyclopedias provide information on a wide range of subjects. The World Book Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica are examples of general encyclopedias CSM Library owns. Subject encyclopedias concentrate on particular subjects or areas of study. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology and Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia are a few of the many subject encyclopedias CSM Library owns.