||Model Library Research Strategy
Read background information on your subquestion(s)/topic
in one or more special, as opposed to general, encyclopedias. Refer to
the Guide to Reference Books (available in the reference room) to
learn what special encyclopedias and other pertinent reference tools exist
for your research.
Compile a list of relevant vocabulary for your research by
consulting the Library of Congress Subject Headings (available at
the reference desk). Keep a running list of subject headings as you work.
Search Princeton's Main
Catalog, which contains records for the majority of the Library's holdings
for specific sources listed at the end of the encyclopedia articles you
have read. Write down the complete call number for each book you
wish to use. Maintain a list of all the call numbers you identify so that
you can browse pertinent areas of the collection.
Use a unified catalog, such as RLIN
or OCLC's WorldCat,
that combines records from many libraries, using the same subject headings
you have found to be best in step 2. This will help you identify sources
which Princeton may not have but which you can request via interlibrary
loan (provided you have sufficient time to wait for material from another
library, often two weeks or more).
Begin systematic browsing of the shelves under all the call
numbers you have established in step 3. Examine the tables of contents,
indexes, and bibliographies of books that are located adjacent to ones
you know are relevant. Do not overlook books in languages you do not read;
they may give you important leads to sources you would want to know about.
Keep careful track of the complete citation for any source that appears
useful so you will have all the details ready for your own bibliography.
Attempt to find a review article or published bibliography
on your topic. Use Bibliographic Index (in the reference room),
starting with the most recent year and going backwards, and consult with
a reference librarian for other approaches.
Use relevant indexes to identify specific articles on your
topic in both scholarly and popular publications, including newspapers.
Confer with a reference librarian about which indexes, both electronic
and printed, are best for your needs. If the index provides citations to
articles, rather than the full text as many now do, you should print out,
download, e-mail, or write down the complete information for each item.
Be sure to expand journal title abbreviations to their full form; there
are reference books which can help if the abbreviation is not obvious.
Return to the Main
Catalog to find call numbers for additional books you have identified
via footnotes and bibliography entries and to determine if Princeton subscribes
to the periodicals or newspapers for which you now have article citations.
Track these down and continue to identify still more relevant sources provided
by those books and articles.
Toward the end of the research phase of your project, consider
using the massive Web
of Science database to identify recent scholarly articles that
have made use of key sources you already know about. This is an extremely
powerful and complex electronic resource, so please ask a reference librarian
to demonstrate it for you.
Lastly, browse the most current issues of periodicals that
have turned up most frequently in your research to date. The Web
of Science can help you discover new scholarly sources.
Mary W. George
General and Humanities Reference Division
Princeton University Library