Online Research Tips: A Quick Guide To Using University Libraries And Directories

Use university libraries and directories for research for student papers, business or personal growth. Open yourself to the world and the world to you.

Whether you're a student of a university or a student of life, university libraries provide special collections of information and documents as well as research tools. Many universities allow out-of-library access to their public and free resources for anyone who is looking for specialized research. Like other libraries, the system for doing initial quick searches is similar and straightforward. So, start at the home page, making sure you understand the online cataloging system.

Searching the basic catalog collection for a book, journal, and general media

1. Go to the main catalog; choose what is usually labeled BASIC or SIMPLE search, or QUICK search.

2. If only one search option box is provided, enter your term or phrase in the box, choose a type from the dropdown list, such as TITLE, AUTHOR, KEYWORD, CALL NUMBER, SERIES, JOURNAL. If ALL is a choice, and you are just beginning your research, this selection generates broad results to help you focus on your area of interest. If you know the exact title, enter the first few words. This is basically a browse search which generates titles beginning with these words exactly as you entered them. On most systems, omit the first article. For "The Power of Myth" enter "Power of Myth". Your results then include a few entries alphabetically preceding and following this title.

3. Some library systems give a choice of simple searching either by BROWSE or KEYWORD with each containing dropdown lists of the basic categories. The search we just did above in section 2 is a BROWSE search. If you instead choose the KEYWORD box and the category of TITLE, your results are an alphabetical list of all holdings with titles containing the words power and myth somewhere in the title in any order. If you're not sure of the exact title or author, choosing KEYWORD will provide more results to browse. For example, one university search created these results: "power of myth" TITLE (KEYWORD) 16 results. Then I searched "power of myth" choosing ANYWHERE (KEYWORD) with 149 results.

4. Another very useful search is by CALL NUMBER. Let's say that in your "power of myth" search, a title mentions Persephone. She interests you so you then do a KEYWORD search "Persephone", finding a study "Demeter and Persephone in Ancient Corinth" by Nancy Brookidis and Ronald Stroud, which looks like exactly the type of information needed. So now you do a new KEYWORD search choosing type CALL NUMBER and enter the basic number of DF261.C65 to browse what's on the shelf next to it. This generates 50 titles related to mythology and the ability to continue browsing down the shelf, so to speak.

Searching Specialized Collections

When first entering the library home page, notice that many universities have extensive lists of specialized collections. These are often indexed separately. Your simple search in the main catalog of many university libraries will not access these special collections. You must select the collection and go directly to that list of resources and to the finding aids for this collection.

To Search Electronic / Digital Collections (in the library or outside the library)

Many digital collections in university online libraries are now free and accessible from outside the library. But some of their subscription collections, such as WorldCat FirstSearch, may only allow access by community members who are card holders of this library. In the library, some of these collections are available to anyone. Ask for help in person or through the ASK A LIBRARIAN section of the online library. Some libraries also have 24/7 online help. What appears to be inaccessible from home may not be if you have personal help entering the system.

Sometimes going through your local library with your library card will allow you to access additional university collections. Most libraries of all types, whether public, private, university, or government, are on systems that offer users the choice to search multiple libraries at one time. At the home page of whatever library you are in, there is often a list of the other LIBRARIES. Select this page. Then, at this point, you can often select criteria for multiple libraries to search.

Digital Collection quick search is similar to catalog searching but may also include other selections on the home page, such as IMAGES or MAPS search or browse. Many also have a quick advanced search where you enter your terms and check choices such as: all must appear or any may appear, how near on the page they appear, and choice of abstracts or full descriptions.

Online Directories

Complete current texts of many directories are now available online, either free or by subscription. These include such basic reference materials as "Books in Print", periodicals indexes, associations and organizations, business reference, directories of corporations, mother companies and subsidiaries, and almost any directory you've imagined! Look for links to these through university library special collections. The search systems follow a similar process as with the catalog.

The wonder of today's electronic collections is the enormous about of data available online. Digital collections may link the researcher to full texts of classical works which can be read online or downloaded, online photos of handwritten documents such as Civil War enlistments, land records, photos of film holdings in a Chinese library, and to international news such as "Le Monde", a Paris newspaper.

Assume what you are searching for is available online somewhere and ask for help. You'll open yourself to the world and the world to you when you use university online libraries and directories, whether for student research, business data, or personal growth.

Summary of Steps for Library Quick Searches

1. Choose BASIC, SIMPLE or QUICK search.

2. Choose BROWSE or KEYWORD.

3. From the dropdown list, choose a type, such as AUTHOR, TITLE, CALL NUMBER, SUBJECT.

4. Beware of exactly what collections are available in the general catalog or are separately indexed.

5. Search digital / electronic collections following steps similar to the basic catalog quick search.

6. Notice searchable electronic resources such as photos of handwritten documents and maps.

7. Search complete full text directories for lists of resources to assist you.

8. Always ask for help online or in the library: you may find access available with some guidance.

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