Step 4 - Find, Review, and Evaluate Books
Now you are ready to begin the research process. Remember to be flexible! As you begin to locate books, articles, and web resources, you will need to evaluate them, reassess your research topic, and decide if you have enough information.
A good place to begin your research is the Library Catalog, which is an electronic database of all material owned by the Library. This includes books, dvds, cds, government documents, journal titles, musical scores and more!
The information timeline explains how an event relates to the publication
A general information cycle timeline.
Keep in mind that if your research topic is very new, you might find more information in journal articles rather than in books.
Before searching the catalog, a helpful task is to breakdown your research statement into keywords that can be searched in the catalog. Try Arizona State University's Search Strategy Tutorial to learn how to recognize and use keywords.
Searching for Books
The four main ways to search the catalog are keyword, subject, title and author. A keyword search retrieves the most results because it searches for the word throughout the entire catalog. A subject search is more focused because it looks for the word in a specific field. If you know of an important author in your field of study, you can search by that person’s name.
For detailed information on the online catalog, you can take the tutorial "Searching, Finding and Evaluating Books" located in Blackboard.
How to request books that are not available in our catalog
Link+ is an online catalog of more than 50 academic and public libraries, from which you can request books that are unavailable at our own library. Click here to request books from Link+.
How Are You Doing with Your Research So Far?
Based on what you are finding in the catalog, do you need to change or revise your topic? Do you need to change terms? Some instructors require that you use a certain number of sources. Are you finding enough information? For example, searching our catalog under the term “tongue piercing” has only one record, however, searching under the term “body piercing” results in many more.
It is important to take accurate notes on the resources you are finding and using. Whether you choose a pen and paper or an online system of note-taking, be sure to:
- Take consistent and complete notes.
- Write down the entire bibliographic citation: author, title, year, publisher, place of publication.
- Document direct quotes with quotation marks and page numbers of the source. It is often difficult to track down this information later on when you are finishing your paper!
An excellent summary of the note taking process can be read at Academic Integrity at Princeton: Working Habits that Work.
You need to evaluate the information you are finding. It is an essential part of the research process! Consider these five criteria:
- Authority: Who wrote the book? What are the author’s credentials? Who is the publisher? If the publisher is an academic press, this generally means a scholarly resource.
- Tip: You can find this information on the title page of the book.
- Audience: Who is the book written for? A specialized audience? Or a more general one? Is the focus appropriate for your topic?
- Tip: You can sometimes locate this information in the preface of the book.
- Accuracy: Does the information appear to be well-researched or is it unsupported? Is the book free of errors?
- Tip: See if the author is footnoting information and providing a bibliography of sources consulted.
- Objectivity: Does the book appear biased or is the authors viewpoint impartial? Is the author trying to influence the opinion of the reader?
- Tip: Is the author’s viewpoint very different than others in the field? In that case you will want to examine the data and supporting evidence closely.
- Currency: When was the book published? Is it current or out of date for your topic? In general, areas in the humanities don’t need up-to-the minute research while areas in the sciences do. Has the book been revised or is this a new edition?
- Tip: This information is located on the back of the title page.