When was the last time you heard someone declare, “Hey, I think I might go luxuriate at the library today!” Never, right? For many students, the library is a place to get in and get out – or it’s just a box to check on “The Way to The A.”
As a shameless library fan, the happy owl has a tough time being objective about these matters. (She is, after all, a librarian – and fervently believes in the power of libraries!) But she’s also a pragmatic and knows students sometimes “bring it down to the wire.” That’s why she’s developed this handy list of “Smart Starts” for maximizing time at the library:
- Make a beeline to a subject-specific encyclopedia. No, not World Book or Wikipedia. We’re talking about an encyclopedia tailor-made to your topic! Let’s say you’re explicating a poem by John Keats for your English Literature class. Take a look at “The Encyclopedia of Romanticism: Culture in Britain, 1780s-1830s” (1992). Researching Glasnost for Poli Sci? Check out the “Encyclopedia of Russian History” (2004). Experts spend their lives compiling these works – and finding them is easy. Just combine the keyword “encyclopedia” with your topic terms in the library catalog.
- Review the relevant entry in your encyclopedia. Then, zoom to the bibliography (or list of references). Eureka! If these sources were good enough for the expert who wrote the entry, they’re good enough for you. Search the library catalog; if you’re lucky, your library owns an item or two. If not, they can probably be tracked down at IMCPL or the libraries at IUPUI or Butler.
- To quickly pinpoint magazine or journal articles, don’t waste time trolling the seven seas when fishing in a pond will do. Ask a Reference librarian this specific question: “I’m working on a paper on (topic). Which one subject-specific library database would you recommend I search first?” By selecting a high-quality, subject-specific index, you’ll get targeted results and save a boatload of time, too.
Want to streamline your research? Get a “smart start” on your next library expedition. Or for 1:1 assistance, contact Scholar’s Secret anytime!