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Tutor Guide: Articles and Books

Articles or Books?

Sometimes we 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.

Why Use Databases?

If you are looking for a quick way to find potential sources for a paper or project, library databases are the place to search. 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.

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

What if I Still Can't Find Enough Articles?

To find more articles in the databases, try varying your 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 meet with a librarian at the reference desk for help refining your searches and locating additional source material. And you can browse our search tips.

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. We also have a separate guide that describes how to search the catalog AND how to find books on the shelf.

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

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

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 Information Desk (main floor of the library).

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. 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.

Finding More Books

You can (and should) also search for books in other libraries. 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.

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 use to understand a book's structure and argument, so you DON'T have to read the whole thing. (Don't worry - this is totally legit!)

  • 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
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