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Consult the online catalog first to see what's available. Sign out those library books and copy those journal articles early on in the process, or you may find some prof has absconded with the only copy of your best source, and good luck getting it back before Christmas.Or some bozo has neatly cut out every article on your hot topic (which, by an odd coincidence, was the hot topic for thirty other students just last semester). If you have a specific title or author, it's pretty easy to type it in an online catalog or database, and see what happens.
Collections of state documents can also be an invaluable source for certain topics, such as local environmental problems. Modern university libraries have most of their collections online.
Every university library has its own database for books and journals.
These would include (but need not be limited to) books, magazine articles, journal articles (really serious magazines), reference books, and the internet.
Avoid using too many newspaper articles and magazines wherever you can.
Make sure you read the search screen for the online system you are using, because many online indexes and catalogs ask you to click on Keyword Search or something similar, before sending the surfer in search of the prize. Some Hot Tips To Enhance Your Quest For Fire: Try using a little logic - Boolean logic, that is. Most online indexes use some version of Boolean searching.
Speaking of which, don’t ignore the internet search engines like It lets me keyword search a huge list of sources (including lots of stuff that's not in the library), lets me scan titles of individual issues of journals, and even (for a fee) lets me order photocopies of articles online, or get their table of contents regularly delivered to my email box. Yet Another In a Continuing Series of Hot Library Tips. That means lopping off the last letter or so, and sticking on a "wild card" which says "this plus any variation of this", such as plural forms.But it actually does help, especially in the early stages of your paper, by forcing you to come to terms with what you want to say about your topic. If you find that person, the path to the information you will need to graduate will be smoothly paved, and may even turn out to be full of interesting roadside attractions. Each page of your term paper should have around 1-3 references per page, as a general rule of thumb.It can also show you where you will need to apply your research time, and reveal major deficiencies in your approach to your topic. So figure for ten pages, about 10-15 references and so on.Every system has a different "wild card" character (usually a ? Not Every Library Has Every Book Or Journal, or every issue of every journal.Find out what sources are NOT available locally, but potentially valuable to your paper. Professors almost always provide specific written guidelines for length, focus, format etc. If they don't, they pay major dues when it's time to grade them. Fit the idea to the space provided, and be concise. These requirements may vary dramatically from class to class, and from semester to semester. Skim Your Textbook, look over the syllabus, read the newspaper, look through recent issues of relevant journals and magazines, surf the net, watch the evening news, talk to your classmates and friends, find a spare half hour of peace and quiet to just sit under the stars and think - these are all good potential sources for paper topics. On the other hand, don't turn in fifteen pages on cloning Elvis.cloning of animals, unexpected social problems that might result from cloning, technical aspects of cloning, moral or religious issues related to cloning, cloning my girlfriend or boyfriend, etc.). Otherwise, those interesting related issues you delved into might end up looking like window dressing, added only to bring the paper up to its required minimum length. A good library always has a good professional staff, trained to be courteous and helpful, and bright enough to genuinely care about a LOT of topics, and who will expertly direct your search to the right place.Profs see enough fluff that they generally smell it a mile away. Unfortunately, librarians are merely human, working long thankless hours for low pay, so a little patience on your part will go a long way.Kind of like a sixth sense, or a really obscure super power. Remember that most of the interface you deal with aren't really librarians, they're student workers, clerical staff, or whoever else could be dragooned into helping to fill the long hours on the firing line.In your first draft, say what you have to say, then punch it up or trim it down as need be. Outlining is a genuine pain, which I personally put in the same category as cleaning the litter box - a necessary evil. You should seek out and befriend a competent and helpful reference librarian early on, like Buffy found Giles.