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DIY Research Guide

Quick lessons on how to best use the library's resources.

Four Options for Selecting a Topic

People use Google and Wikipedia to introduce themselves to unfamiliar knowledge.  Both are inadequate, even as starting points, for "serious" researchers.  There is a subject-specific encyclopedia for almost any discipline or topic imaginable - some are e-books and some are available only in a print format.  Most academic disciplines have one or more "authoritative" or "standard" reference works.

Step One -- Click on the "Encyclopedias A to Z" smart search button.

Step Two -- Scroll down the list to browse the titles and mouse over the info buttons to see if a specialized encyclopedia would be useful to you.  These are e-books, so you only need to click on one that interests you.  The database Reference Universe indexes most of the library's specialized reference works regardless of format, so you can launch a search in that in the box to the left.

Browsing through the book stacks of a library collection is an excellent way to get ideas for topics.

When you identify a useful book from our print collection and go to the shelves to find it:

DON'T - be in a hurry to find it and check it out.

DO - make a habit of always planning to spend 20 minutes browsing though the books in the vicinity of your selected book to see what is there and what ideas you might otherwise not have gotten.


Step One -  On the library's home page click on "Get Research Help"

Step Two -- Click on the link to "Book Arrangement in CCL"


Step Three -- This guide serves as a tutorial for how are physical collections are arranged.  Use it to learn out to efficiently and effectively browse through the physical collections when you are in the building.




Some of the library's databases are designed for finding topics by browsing.

Step One -- Click on the 'Databases A to Z' button under Smart Search Options.

Step Two -- Click on the second filtering drop-down menu and select "Browse Topics."  From this list choose one or more of them to help you get ideas for (and starting point for) a research project.


Most modern database interfaces don't do a particularly good job of making it easy to use the syndetic structure of controlled vocabularies.  This is a shame because that structure makes it easy to get ideas and to understand the specificity of your topic.  Students who know how to tap into the syndetic structure of Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) will never be at a loss for generating ideas for research topics or adjusting them to the right level of specificity.

Click into the database below and explore the headings.  The "Narrower Term" links can be particularly useful.  Remember that this database is NOT guiding you towards resources.  Instead it is helping you to explore aspects of topics that you would not have thought of on your own.

Step One -- For example, below is a results page for searching on the keyword "camping."  For the next screen click on the button in the left column as highlighted.


Step Two -- You then get a list of narrower terms.  In you decide that Snow Camping is what you are actually interested in and it is a more manageable level of specificity than camping.