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Introduction to Library Research: An Overview of the Research Process

This guide is an introduction to the research process.

Find Library Resources

1. Books, Journals (not individual articles), CDs, DVDs, and other items

  • You'll find most books by searching Resource Search, the online catalog for Fitchburg State Library. For help searching Resource SearchAsk A Librarian.
  • Interpreting Results:
    • Once you perform your search, you'll see a list of records (not ranked by relevance) of the books, journals, and other items containing the keywords you searched.
    • Click on a record to see:
      • Title
      • Author
      • Publication information
      • Subject headings (Tip: Click on a subject heading to find similar items.)
      • Call Number (You’ll need this information to find the book on the library shelves.)
      • Library (If the item is not in the library, you can request items from other libraries with ILLIAD, This is a library-to-library service; all requests for borrowing and renewing items from other libraries through the Interlibrary Loan Service must go through the Gallucci-Cirio Library's Interlibrary Loan staff.)

Finding Books and other items in the stacks (library shelves):

  • 3rd floor shelves if the call number starts with the letters A-F.
  • 4th floor shelves if the call number starts with the letters G-Z.
  • Tip: Browse the shelves around a call number for more items on the same topic.
  • Use your OneCard to check out books at the Circulation Desk on the 1st floor.
  • Didn't find what you were looking for using Resource Search?  
    • Get items from libraries outside the Fitchburg library with Interlibrary Loan . (This usually takes at least 3-5 days.)
  • Need full-text books that can be accessed and read online?
    • Then e-books are for you. Most of our e-books can be found by title in Resource Search , but you can also go directly to our e-book databases and search by title.

Articles (scholarly, magazine, newspaper, etc)

  • You can find articles by searching library databases.
    • Search databases using the tips in the “Search Strategies for Databases” box, below.
    • Understand the scope of the database. Some cover multiple subjects and others cover a specific discipline. If you aren’t finding what you need, you might need to try another database.
  • Off-campus? Most article databases are available by logging in with your username (the same as your email username (i.e. "jsmith") & your password, use the last six digits of your Banner Student ID number. This number can be found under the barcode on your One Card, on your class schedule, and on your student bill.)
  • Interpreting Database Results:
    • Once you perform a search, you'll see a list of results (articles that match your keywords). Most databases try to be like Google, which means your results will rank by relevance.
    • If you need recent articles, peer-reviewed (scholarly) articles, or if you only want to see articles which can be viewed online, you can limit your search. Use the database's search options.
  • Getting Articles and Using the Find It button:
    • If the full text of the article is available through the database, you'll see links to view the article in HTML and/or PDF format.
    • If the full text of the article is not available through the database, you'll see the blue “Get Article” button. Click the link to be taken to full-text options. If the library doesn’t have access to the full-text, you can get articles from other libraries with Interlibrary Loan. (This may take anywhere from 24 hours to 10 days.)

Search Strategies for Databases

Before you start entering any search terms, spend a few minutes trying to think of as many relevant terms and combinations of terms as you can. This will help you to avoid getting stuck in a rut with the first terms that come to mind.

If you need help in coming up with terms, you may want to try the "Thesaurus" or "Subject Headings" features in the database you've chosen.

Check out the "Help" or "Search Tips" to learn some of the search features specific to that database. Most databases provide similar features, but the methods may vary. Some common tricks:

  • truncation = To use truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an * (asterisk). For example, type comput* to find the words computes, computer, computing or computational.
  • searching a phrase = Typically, when a phrase is enclosed by double quotations marks, the exact phrase is searched. For example, "employee retention" searches for the two words as a phrase.
  • Boolean terms (AND, OR, NOT) = Use these terms to connect your keywords. They work best in all capital letters:
    • AND combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms. For example, travel AND Europe finds articles that contain both travel and Europe.
    • OR combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms. For example, college OR university finds results that contain either college or university.
    • NOT excludes terms so that each search result does not contain any of the terms that follow it. For example, television NOT cable finds results that contain television but not cable.
  • Putting it all together: You can combine these Boolean terms with truncation and phrase searching to create powerful search statements. For example, if you are interested in what motivates students in higher education, you might try a search that looks like: (college* OR universit* OR "higher education") AND (student* OR undergraduate* OR "graduate student*") AND motivat*

Try the databases' Advanced Search feature, which usually gives you the ability to search multiple fields (author, title, keyword, subject, etc) with one search and may offer additional ways to expand or limit your search.

If your first search strategy does not work, try another approach. Remember that you can also get help from the library. Check out the links below.