Explain library research, English

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Library Research

Where you look for information depends a great deal on what you're writing about. While the library (or media center) is a good general starting point, some projects call for additional kinds of reference material.

For example, you might need to conduct an interview (see information on interviewing in the Features lesson of Journalism). Some materials, for another example, are kept in special archives or historical societies, which may not be part of the library. The Internet, of course, adds a whole new dimension to source gathering. But let's start with the library.

Where things are

Most libraries divide materials into two categories: reference materials and call materials. Reference materials, such as bibliographical indexes and encyclopedias, are usually available in a reference room; you find call materials by searching the card catalog. Libraries generally keep recent magazine and journal issues in a separate periodical room.


Card catalogs

Library card catalogs and reference materials are often computerized. Take the time to learn how these systems work! Computerized systems can help you narrow your search by subject, author, publisher, title, even parts of a title. Using these search parameters can save you no end of aggravation.

Indexes and bibliographies

Two extremely useful searching tools are indexes and bibliographies. These can be either reference or call materials. Often categorized by year, they list articles and/ or books published in a particular field. Here are the names of just a few of these indexes:


    The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature

    The Business Periodical Index

    The Social Sciences Index

    The Essay and General Literature Index

    The New York Times Index

    The Modern Language Association International Bibliography

    Dictionary of American Biography


In the call materials, you can also find bibliographies devoted to certain individuals or events.


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