Library Tip #5

Spend some time with the books you want to check out before taking them home. Titles that seem appealing or that have an abstract/summary with keywords for your topic sometimes will not have what you want at all. They could be written in the field but cover a completely different aspect than what you’re looking for.

Sit down with more than enough books.

If you need five sources, then pick upwards of ten books. This way, you won’t feel the need to make any one of them work when the information you have is kinda sorta pretty much what would work.

Whether it is to support your position or to offer a counter argument, there should be a conversation between what you write and what you quote and paraphrase. It is obvious when a paper is just mushing together source information. Take the time.


When you have your potential resources, start with checking over the table of contents. Look for keywords related to your topic and chapter headings that have potential. Make note of which you want to look at and then spend some time with each.

Scan over a few introductory and concluding paragraphs in the chapters of interest to figure out if you really want to use them. I’ve known this to be called pre reading. Not so much reading every sentence as it is scouring for important words, phrases, names, visuals, tone, reliability, etc.

Are they are writing about your topic directly or indirectly?

Could this answer my question, or is it going to get me off track?

Which of the books could you read for your assignment with full attention? 

If you don’t find anything worth looking into further, try the books that were next to your first grab—they will have similar subject matter and a quick glance at the table of contents will show your options, or go over my earlier tip about Research Databases to find digital resources. 

Also, librarians are really nice, especially if you smile. Don’t hesitate to ask how to find what you’re looking for.


Author: poeticallyatlarge

I am a writer, a bookworm, and a poet at large.

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