Skip to Main Content

Tutor Guide: Articles and Books

Articles or Books?

Sometimes students think that using articles is easier than using books because articles are usually shorter. In reality, it depends on the discipline. Some disciplines (like the sciences) publish almost exclusively in articles while others are more book-focused. Focusing solely on books OR articles means a student might overlook a major chunk of scholarship.

Here are some ideas to share with students about finding and using books and articles. If students are struggling to know how to search, our Doing Research guide has a page devoted to Search Tips.

Finding Articles

The best place to find articles are through library databases. Databases contain all kind of scholarly and other types of sources on a wide range of topics. It's good to remember that Google can't get behind paywalls. Since the library subscribes to databases, we are getting you and your students behind the paywall to access materials you need for your research.

On the library homepage, click on the Databases tab at the top. The databases are listed alphabetically here, but are also listed by subject in the Research Guides. Different databases have different content concentrations, so be sure to search the right databases for the topic at hand.

The research library at the Rijksmuseum, photo courtesy of Jan Sluijer

What if I Still Can't Find Enough Articles?

If your students are not finding what they hope to find, try varying search terms. Try alternate spellings and synonyms, pay attention to terms field experts use in their articles, and try using related terms and concepts in your searches. You can also recommend that students meet with a librarian for help refining searches and locating additional source material. Students can also browse our search tips for additional ideas.

Finding Books

To find books in our library, search the Library Catalog (also available via the search box on the library's homepage). We also have a separate guide that describes how to search the catalog AND how to find books on the shelf.

When your students find books that look useful, have them write down the Call Number and pay attention to the book's location. Here's where books can be found in our library:

  • General Collection, call numbers A - PQ  are on the Third Floor 
  • General Collection, call numbers PR - Z are on the Second (Main) Floor
  • Oversize are on the Third Floor, Beck Hall side
  • Reference are on the Second (Main) Floor, Beck Hall side
  • Browsing are on the Second (Main) Floor near the entrance
  • Young Adult & Children's Books are on the First Floor 
  • AV materials (DVDs, etc) are on the First Floor

There's a directory near the library's main entrance, across from the Information Desk. There are also signs on the shelves to provide further directions. The system is a little tricky to figure out at first, so please encourage your students to ask for directions at the Information Desk (main floor of the library). This is one of the most frequent questions we get and we're happy to help.

Also remind students to browse the shelves when they find a useful book. Books are shelved according to topic, so chances are they'll find other relevant books nearby. Books can be checked out at the Information Desk. This page has information about loan periods, renewals, etc.  

General Searching

For general searches or for beginning your research, here are some good databases to start with. You can direct students to the Research Guides to find databases appropriate for a particular area of study.

Using Books Effectively

Sometimes people shy away from books because they are longer to read than a journal article. While this might be true, there are some tricks you can share with students to understand a book's structure and argument, so you DON'T have to read the whole thing. 

  • Read the table of contents 
  • Read the book's introduction/first chapter AND conclusion/last chapter - these present and highlight the main arguments
  • The end of chapter one will often provide a roadmap for the rest of the book
  • Skim chapter headings
  • Browse the index

Finding More Books

You can encourage students to search for books in other libraries, especially if they're having trouble finding enough materials in our collection. To do this, use the advanced search in the library catalog. Scroll down to select "Libraries WorldWide." 

  • Once you find a book that you want to order, click the title. On the next screen, click "Request from Another Library" under the Access Options box.
  • Follow the prompts to log in with your Gustavus user name and password.
  • You will get an email once the book arrives; pick it up at the Information Desk of the library.
  • This process is free to you and is a great way to expand your resources.
  • The Tracking Down Materials tab at the top of this guide has more information on requesting materials from other libraries.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License