How To Locate And Use Library Catalogs Online

With computers in libraries gaining more and more popularity, material for a research project can be located on online catalogs making home research more viable.

A broad range of university catalogs are available online for anyone involved in a research project. As long as you have a computer and online access, you don't have to leave your house until you have gathered all the information you need. California uses MELVYL throughout most of the state, and this seems to be an excellent method of finding information. It's easy to use and clear in its instructions. You can search by title, author (last name, first name) or by keywords, and the results are immediate. Other online catalogs that search by keywords are ALADIN (the online catalog for CUA and the Washington Research Library Consortium), WebCATS: Library OPACS, and PEGASUS.

When you are engaged in a research project and want to find relevant material by accessing catalogs online, an overview of your project is the first step. What is your main topic? What is the time period you plan to cover? Do you have author names or titles of books you want to find in the stacks? What publications or periodicals are you looking for? Once you know what you need, you can follow library instructions to make the best use of the catalogs available online. To find periodicals, use an article database or index rather than searching catalogs unless you know the exact periodical you want. In that case, entering the name of the periodical should bring it up in the catalog. Chances are the library will have a program that will allow you to print your online sources.

If you are searching by subject, entering keywords is the most efficient way to find what you need. The basic difference between physically going to a library to see what is on the shelves and looking up what you want in an online catalog is the use of keywords. On a computer, it's the accepted way to search for any topic online. Once you have specific information on your topic, you can check libraries in your geographical area for the titles your search has brought up.

Until you have defined your topic, trying to find internet resources will be difficult at best. Give some thought to what you are trying to accomplish and think about the different keywords that might describe your project.In order to collect the information you need, develop a set of words that will bring up the most relevant materials. It doesn't really matter which word order you use. Just type the distinctive words that are important to your project. This will bring up relevant materials in the library system, give you titles and authors of books and articles, give you electronic resources such as websites, and a list of various materials that contain the subject matter you need.


As an example, if your project covers the history of cats, you might start with the phrase "history cats." You can leave out common words such as: and, or, the, of, etc. Check the online catalog for its instructions on how to use keywords. Different programs have different formats for entering words. Once you have conducted a search using "history cats," you will have a collection of titles that fit the criteria you've set for your project, and you can narrow that down to a more specific list.

Are you looking for the origins of the domestic cat, the worship of cats in Ancient Egypt, or cats ancient and modern? Entering keywords for these three subjects bring up the most hits for "cats ancient and modern." A research project on this subject would call for comparisons between the way cats used to be viewed and how they are viewed today.Using the keywords "people cats relationships" brings up one relevant title in the Melvyl base. As you collect various references, you can begin to see a pattern for the materials you will need. At the same time, you will be more comfortable with your project because references can guide you toward your goal. You can start outlining your project based on books, periodicals, and videos. The final step is to do an author search, title search, and a subject search to determine the availability of the material. Once you have all these things, the project will fall into place without a great deal of effort.

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