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Choosing & Identifying the Best Source Types for Your Research

Learn about all the different source types and when they are appropriate and helpful to you in the research process: encyclopedias, Wikipedia, books, scholarly articles, popular articles and magazines, trade magazines, news, and websites!

How to use a Book efficiently

You may not need to!  Books are useful conveyors of facts and overview information, and it may not be necessary to read the whole book to get information on your topic.

Here's how to determine if a book will be helpful to you:

From the record for the book in the library catalog, look at the:

1. Table of contents. Many catalog records contain the table of contents, so you can determine the nature of the book's contents.

2. Summary.  A brief summary or publisher's description can tell you the scope of the book and the author's approach.

3. Subject headings. These tell you the main topics of the book.

4. Google Book info.  Our catalog records link out to Google Books, where you can read reviews.

With the book in hand (or virtually through Google Books or Amazon previews), examine the:

1. Index.  Look up your topic in the index. See if your topic is mentioned and to what extent.  Peruse those pages of the book.  Think in broader or narrower topics or alternative ways of expressing your topic if your term isn't available.

2. Table of contents. Scan the table of contents to see if your topic will be addressed. You might only need to read a chapter or two.

3. Introduction. The introduction to a book situates the current research or approach in its context.  For example, it will tell you what the book will offer and what sets it apart from earlier books on the topic. Get an overview of or background information on your topic this way!

4. Bibliography. Use the bibliography to find more sources on your topic.

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