Using Books for Research

Why use books for my research?

  • Detailed analysis of a topic
  • Background information
  • Overview of big issue
  • Use their bibliographies to find other sources

Search the online catalog

Find books, videos, CDs that the OKC Community College owns

Note: Cannot use to locate articles on research topics - use article databases instead.

to identify a specific book and its call number use the call number to locate that book (or video, etc) on the shelf

Hints:

  • Looking for an author? Try family name, first name (Steinbeck, John).
  • Getting too many irrelevant titles? Click "Subject" instead of hitting "Enter."
  • Need a video? Click "Power Search" at upper right of screen, scroll down to "Location" and highlight "AV."

Notice the location - most often it is "second floor."

For more tips and better results, check your search strategy.

Finally, be sure to write down the call number for books you want to look at!

Example: PS 3573 .O642 O74 2001

Understanding call numbers

Each book has a unique call number. The call number is a book's "address." Use it to locate a book on the shelves. Books as well as videos, DVDs and other items in this Library are organized by subject using the system used by most college libraries - the Library of Congress classification. Books of a similar subject have similar call numbers and sit together on the shelves.

Call numbers begin with one or two letters. You will see them in 2 different formats:

  • Listed in the online computer catalog: B 74 .M67
  • On the spine label of a book: B74 .M67

Read and compare call numbers line by line.

Items are shelved alphabetically - left to right - by the top letter or letters in the call number. For example, all the Bs come before a BF item.

  • B 74 .M67
  • B 105 .T266
  • B 105 .T54
  • BF 76.7 .P83

Then all call numbers with the same top letter are sorted by the number below. In the example, B74 comes before B105

All materials that have the same beginning letter and number are arranged alphabetically by the letter after the decimal point, then by the decimal number. Hint: Think of .T266 as .266 - a number smaller than zero. For this reason, B105.T266 comes before B105.T54.

There may be a final number, the date of publication. Chronological order: 1995 comes before 2002.
BF76.7.P831995
BF76.7.P832002

Using Reference Tools to Find Background Info

Reference tools can be printed books or online databases. Each is organized so you can easily "refer" to them for background information, definitions, facts or statistics.

Use a library reference collection to start your research or to quickly find facts to support your argument. Reference tools provide:

  • background information
  • an overview of a topic
  • quick answers to questions
  • statistics, facts, details
  • links to other sources of info

Note: Reference tools sometimes are not useful if your subject is very current or narrow in focus. For very new topics look for magazine or journal articles instead.

Common types of reference tools:
Source What kinds of info? Online reference
tool example:
Printed reference
tool example:
Almanac Collection of facts,
updated each year
Infoplease.com
almanac
Oklahoma Almanac
Atlas Collection of maps Perry CastaƱeda Library Map Collection Barrington Atlas of the Greek & Roman World
Biographical Dictionary Birth dates, important accomplishments Biography.com American National Biography (24 vol. set)
Dictionaries Definitions foreignword.com Harvard Dictionary of Music
Encyclopedias Short background articles Encyclopedia Britannica The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile
Handbooks Everything an expert should know FBI's Handbook of Forensic Services Nursing Drug Handbook
Manuals How it works, how to do something Toiletology 101: The Care and Repair of Toilets DSM Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
Statistical sources Back up your research with numbers Fedstats: Gateway to U.S. statistics Crime in Oklahoma

How do I find the right reference tool?

Browse the library reference collection in the appropriate broad subject area.

Try the Internet Public Library's wonderful reference site, www.ipl.org

Check the library's webpages for other great online reference sources. Ask a reference librarian for suggestions.

Quick tips for getting the most out of a reference tool!

Tips for a printed reference book

  • Look up your specific topic in the index (at the back of the book) or within the book in alphabetical order.
  • Check any instructions given at the front of the book. For example, abbreviations are often explained there.

Tips for an online reference source

  • First scan the entire screen to see what your choices are. Follow the instructions on the screen. Trying typing a keyword in the search box.
  • Each reference tool is different.

If you're not finding what you need, feel free to ask a librarian.