Rail yard background, from the Library of Congress

Connections

A Hypertext Resource for Literature

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Library Research
Step III: Library Catalogs

Library catalogs are gaining flexibility and power almost by the minute, but finding books remains their best function.

  • The College library catalog (Grinnell link)

    Searching the Grinnell library catalog might be the easiest and most obvious step in the research process, but some people neglect it and concentrate on journal articles instead. In the humanities, you must look for books as well as articles. Top scholars in the humanities publish articles, but the fullest versions of their arguments usually find their way into books. In fact, many scholars deliberately withhold some of their best ideas from article publication to be sure that book proposals retain enough original material to attract the interest of publishers. Because the library catalog includes chapter titles for recent books, keyword searching has become a much more powerful tool.
  • The College library shelves

    Browsing the library shelves is a time-honored method for book searching that still functions as a useful supplement to electronic searches. Look up a book that addresses your topic as precisely as possible, then go to the stacks and see what other books occupy the nearby space. This technique lets the Library of Congress classification system do some of your work for you. Eyeballing the books achieves the best results, but if you are off campus, you can also imitate this approach electronically by clicking on any call number in the catalog. The resulting page will show you the titles of surrounding books.
  • WorldCat (Grinnell link)

    To find books not held at the Grinnell library, search WorldCat, then use the results to place Inter-Library Loan requests.
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