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FTS: Think Globally, Write Locally: Start

Starting Your Research

Sometimes one of the hardest parts of research is starting. It can be difficult to know what search terms to use, how to track down hard copies of sources, or even know which search tool to use. Use this guide for ideas on how to start your research, how to use the library, and what to do when you get stuck. The answer to the last question is easy - just ask! You can find my contact information underneath my picture (below). Email me, drop by during office hours, or schedule an appointment to talk about any issue you encounter with your research. Another great tool is the Quick Answers link, which gives answers to many library questions.

Finding Books

To find books in our library, search the Library Catalog - you can also search directly via  the search box on the library's homepage.

Remember to look for field guides related to your site!

When you find books that look useful, write down the Location & the Call Number

General Collection, A - PQ  are on the Third Floor 

General Collection, PR - Z are on the Second (Main) Floor

Oversize, A - Z are on the Third Floor

Reference, A - Z are on the Second (Main) Floor.

Once you are in the right area, signs on the sides of the shelves will direct you further. The system is a little tricky to figure out at first, so don't hesitate to ask for directions at the Circulation Desk or Reference Desk.

Browse the shelves when you find a useful book. Books are shelved according to topic, so chances are you'll find other relevant books nearby.

You can check books out at the Information Desk.

Finding Articles

We have a lot of databases. Your best bet for this class is to click on the Articles tab on the library's homepage, then choose "Academic Search Premier," the first database. You might also want to try Proquest Newsstand, which contains full text of hundreds of newspapers, including some local ones.

Once you've found some articles, you'll probably want to narrow down your results. You can always add additional terms to your search to narrow the focus. 

Also, on the left, you will see ways to refine your results by using the scroll bar to focus on recently-published articles or choosing types of articles.

  • Newspapers are good for very specific news items or recent events.
  • Magazine articles reflect a popular approach to issues and are often short and simple in style.
  • Articles in academic journals report on research and are sometimes quite long and complex. Concentrate on the abstract (a one-paragraph summary that sometimes is at the beginning of the article), the introduction, and the last paragraphs. 

When articles are not available as PDF or HTML files, there's a yellow "find it!" button that will search for the article in other databases or offer you a chance to get a copy from another library, a process that usually takes a day or two. Consult the Tracking Down Materials tab for more information. 

Researching Local Sites

To investigate your place, you might need to access local sources and organizations. These are the kinds of sources that don't necessarily pop up in traditional library searches. Here are some ideas and links:

To access Gustavus-only materials, start with the Gustavian Weekly; we have access to the college newspaper online since its beginning. If you're researching a specific building or office, see what you can find through searching the Gustavus website, too. (For example, if you're researching the Gustavus Library, we have an online timeline and we also have lots of information and data on our Policies and Publications page)

There are also a number of books about Gustavus & its history in the library. I've put a couple of them on this guide (below) but you will also want to search the library catalog for "Gustavus Adolphus College" and see what else you can find.

Environmental Data

There are lots of places to find environmental data. Researchers are collecting and publishing their work in scientific journals. You can also find a lot of environmental data from the government. Search a few different places to make sure you're finding the best data for your topic. Here are some suggestions:


Julie Gilbert's picture
Julie Gilbert
Hello! I'm on sabbatical during the 2020-2021 academic year. If you have a question about research, an assignment, or the library, please contact any of the reference librarians at or via the Ask Us! button on the library's homepage.

Ask Us!

Spring 2021 reference (research) help:

Library Hours

Our usual hours are 

M-Th 8am - 1am
F - 8am to 6pm
Sat - 10am - 6pm
Sun - 11am - 1am

They are shorter during J-term and breaks, longer during finals.

Gah! I need help!

Research is difficult and nobody expects you to know how to do it all on your own. Check with your teacher if you aren't sure how to approach your assignment or want a second opinion on sources and strategies.

Stop by the Writing Center at any point during the process for expert advice from your talented peers. The Advising Center can help with issues such as time management and organization.

In the library, visit the reference desk and let us know how it's going. We're sitting there for a reason. Unless we're helping someone else, whatever we're doing is just killing time waiting for your questions. Don't be embarrassed - even seniors writing their theses ask us questions!

You can even chat with us using the box on the right side of this guide.

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