Getting Started with Library Research

Here are some tips to help you get started with the library research process. Remember you can Ask a Librarian for advice. Also, check out the Getting Started with Research Volume 1 podcast, which is about 8 minutes long.

Reference resources for background, vocabulary, and context

The Reference Collection and the reference librarians in the library are one of the best places to start a research project. The librarians will help you maximize your time and the reference collection can help you find information quickly.

The online Oxford Reference Collection gives you access to over 100 subject encyclopedias and dictionaries that are useful for figuring out your research topic. With them you can move from a broad topic to a more focused topic, learn specialized vocabulary and background information.

The online Gale Virtual Reference Library gives you access to over 50 encyclopedias and handbooks on subjects ranging from ancient Europe, to business plans, to the weather almanac.

Resources on specific topics: great for starting your research

CQ Researcher is a unique kind of reference source that gives you background on controversial issues and explains the points-of-view of opposing sides.

Contemporary World Issues is an online book series you can find in Search It. The topics covered in CWI are in-depth overviews, which cite great scholarly sources. They also have good glossaries and excellent indexes for finding things fast.

Opposing Viewpoints is another online books series. It provides essays that offer a point and counterpoint on specific issues. Use Search IT to find these books.

Finding articles in library databases

You can find articles on a specific topic using one of the more than 100 databases at WSU Vancouver. Find the Article Databases by Subject or find a specific database in the Alphabetical List of Databases. Here are some general academic databases to start with:

  • Academic Search Complete is our main general purpose database. It has broad coverage which includes both scholarly articles and other kinds of information. Choose this database if you are just getting started or are exploring a topic.
  • JSTOR is a great resource for students looking for articles from scholarly journals. It is a relatively small database, but is covers a broad range of subjects. Be aware that while JSTOR has high quality articles, they are not the most current. You will need to look at other subject databases to find the current material.
  • Web of Science is made up of three indexes: Science Citation Index, Social Science Citation Index, and Art & Humanities Citation Index. These three indexes provide coverage of scholarly materials across a wide range of subjects.

Finding books

If you are looking for books or other materials on a topic, there are several useful options.

Search It: This is the WSU Libraries' online catalog. It includes information not only at WSU Libraries but also at other WSU libraries, databases, digital collections, WorldCat, and more.  You can request books from across the WSU system and from all the libraries in Summit. Ask a reference librarian to show you how this works.