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ENG 1320 Library Tutorial: 2. Finding Resources

Start Here!

Next you'll need to decide where to do your research. If your answer is "the library," good start, but you'll need to be a little more specific.

You have the choice of searching hundreds of databases or checking out more than a million items in the library catalog. Overwhelming? It doesn't have to be!

Before you start, be sure you've read over your assignment carefully. How many resources do you need to find? Has your instructor asked you to provide specific types of material?

After you get a grasp on what you're looking for, you'll be ready to start looking.

In this section, you will learn:

  • Where to look for the type of information you need
  • Which databases should be most useful for your research
  • How to navigate the library's shelves
  • What to do if you can't find the full text of an article

The Big Idea: Where should I search and what will I find there?


"What's a library database?" YouTube. RMIT University, 13 Aug. 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.



What you'll find:
  • Journal articles and other publications
  • Streaming audio and video
  • Images, maps, statistics, etc.

Search here if you need current, up-to-date information

Library catalog

What you'll find:
  • Books and audiovisual materials
  • Reference & reserve materials
  • Ebooks, kits, print periodicals, etc.

Search here if you're looking for background information or more in-depth analysis

Where can I find print materials?

How do I search the library catalog?

Search the library catalog for print resources, ebooks, movies, and more!


The library catalog is a type of database, so you can use the same search strategies you would use in a database, including "phrase searching," Boolean operators, and truncation.



Each item in the library's collection has its own catalog record, like the one below.

Here you can see the item's location and call number and also its status. If it says AVAILABLE, the item should be on the shelf.

Take a look at the parts of the record that are hyperlinks. If you click on the author's name, you can see what else in the catalog he or she wrote.

The subject terms are useful not only for finding other materials that are closely related to the one you're looking at, but also for suggesting additional search keywords.

If you find a really relevant book in the catalog, look at the subject terms to see if they use different words to describe your topic than you did. Try incorporating those new words in your searches to get a different angle on your research.

Where in the library is my book?

After you've found a book in the catalog, you'll need to find it on the shelf. Each book has a Library of Congress call number that identifies where exactly it's located.

Library of Congress call numbers should be read one line at a time as follows:

Example of a complete call number, DA 36 .A55:

Line 1   DA
Line 2   36
Line 3   .A55


1. First, look at Line 1:

Books are arranged in alphabetical order, by the letters on the first line of the call number.

Example: first come all the D call numbers, then all the DA call numbers, then DB, etc.

2. Next, look at Line 2:

Within the DA call numbers, books are arranged in number order.

The numbers are arranged in numerical from low to high.


3. Then look at Line 3:

Line 3 of the call number has a letter and a number. The letters are in alphabetical order. Then read the numbers-but BEWARE!

The numbers are not WHOLE numbers, they are DECIMAL numbers.

Example: A55 is read as A .55 - this is why A55 comes before A6 (A .55, A .6, A .65, etc.)

How does InterLibrary Loan work?

InterLibrary Loan (ILL) is a free lending service available to current Texas State students and employees. ILL borrows items from other libraries that the Alkek Library does not own—journal articles, books, DVDs, CDs, anything you might need for your research.

Use the online interlibrary loan request system ILLiad to order your ILL items. Enter as much information as you can about the item you need, and the ILL staff will try to track it down.

Depending on the type of item you're requesting, turnaround times vary—to be safe, plan to wait a few business days for an article and at least a week for a book.

If you need help with making an ILL request or have questions about the process, call the ILL desk at 512-245-4893.

Where can I find digital materials?

Which databases should I use?

Find the full list of databases on the Research Databases page. Here are a few suggested databases for typical ENG 1320 assignments:

Start your Research: This database combines the library catalog with several of the most commonly used databases. If you search here, you should get a lot of results (print and digital) that cover a wide range of subjects.

Multi-Subject: Try these databases as a starting point for your research or if your topic doesn't fit into any one subject.

Pro/Con Issues & Hot Topics: If you're writing about current events or arguing for a particular opinion or viewpoint, search in these databases.

Literature and Languages: Use these databases if you need to do research on literature, film, communications, or a related topic.

What if I can't find full text of an article?

Look for a link like this one (or just the LS symbol) in the results list:

LinkSource is a software program that will search all of the library's other databases to see if the full text is available anywhere else.

If the full-text article is available in a different database, the LinkSource results page will give you a direct link to it.

If the full-text article is NOT available in any database, you have a couple of options:

  1. First, check the Periodical List—the library may have a print copy of that journal on the 3rd floor. If so, use the photocopiers or the KIC scanners to create a digital copy for your personal use.
  2. If the library does not own a print copy, order the article through InterLibrary Loan. Hint: if you use the link to ILLiad on the LinkSource results page, it will automatically fill in your request form.

Where can I find the journal I need?

If you know the journal or other publication you need to find, check the Periodical List to find out how you can access it. You can search by the publication's title or browse by subject area.

When you find the publication you need, you'll see which databases, if any, contain that publication and which publishing dates are covered.

Don't forget to look over to the right side of the page for the link to "Confirm print/microform holdings in the Alkek Library Catalog" in case the publication is only available in print.

Useful Links

NoodleTools: Choose the Best Search for Your Information Need - suggests different online resources to match the type of information you need to find.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a library database different from a search engine?    

A library database is a service that the library subscribes to—we pay for access to the content so you don't have to. Instead of searching all of the content that exists on the Internet, each database allows you to search a carefully selected list of publications. There are still millions of articles available, but they are more likely to be scholarly, accurate, and of a much higher quality.

A search engine typically allows you to find pages on the Internet that match your search terms. Because you're searching across the entire Internet, you'll get a lot of results that you can access for free, but no one has vetted or confirmed the content of those results. The vast majority of that information is not written by experts or authorities, so it is not scholarly.

Is there a limit to how many books I can check out?     You can check out 100 items at one time. Of those 100 items, only 4 can be AV materials (movies and music). Learn more about what you can check out and for how long on the Lending Policies page.