One of the most powerful ways to find valuable sources and assess their signifcance is to follow the breadcrumb trail left by scholars in their published work. When researchers cite sources, they are bolstering their argument by providing evidence, but also pointing readers to places they can go for more information. Take them up on it!
In addition to references in books and articles, the bibliographies found in specialized reference works such as the New Grove Dictionary of Music or the Encyclopedia of Psychology will point you to the most significant research on a topic, an efficient shortcut to the best stuff.
Once you see a reference that looks good, how do you get your hands on it? Here's a quick checklist.
Google Scholar has a useful feature: If you plug in the author and title of a book or article, it links you to newer publications that have cited it. This is a cool way to see how influential a particular work has been and to see how others have drawn on it.
To easily place a request for a book is to change the default in the library's search box to "libraries worldwide" and then search by book title, author, or subject. Books available at our library will be listed first. If you encounter a book that is not available at Gustavus you might see a "request from another library" option. By clicking on that, you'll be able to submit a request. You will be notified by email when your books are in. Pick them up at the main desk. Unfortunately we are often unable to borrow ebooks, so if you can limit your search to print books you might have better luck.
Articles usually reach you in a day or two. Books are sent by courier or by mail and may take a few more days, depending on how far they have to travel.
Whether it's a book or an article, keep an eye on your Gustavus email account to see when things are available for download or pickup or check by logging into your library account and
Zotero is a free program for saving citations, taking notes, and formatting reference lists. Once you download Zotero and install a browser connector, you can use it to save webpages, articles in databases, and book references from the library catalog, library databases, Amazon, or Google Books. Your collected references can be synced from one computer to another and can be accessed online through any web browser. Sort your references into project folders, tag them, add annotations and, when you want to create a reference, simply drag them into a document and choose a format. See the Zotero Quick Start Guide to get started, try our very brief general guide to Zotero, or see Jason Puckett's guide for more tips and strategies.
A note for Zotero users - you can set up Zotero to recognize content in our databases by clicking on Edit > preferences > Advanced, and adding under Resolver this URL: http://worldcatlibraries.org/registry/gateway
Zotero works with Google Docs. An optional plug-in for Word (or Open Office) is also available. Open Zotero and install the plugin found under Tools - Options - Cite. The plugins will then be found in Word under the Add-Ins tab (PC) or under the scripts menu (Mac).
Want more information? Contact a reference librarian (folke @ gustavus.edu).
NOTE: Though Zotero originally was developed as a Firefox plugin, it now must be downloaded as a standalone program with a Firefox connector installed as an add-on.