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How to do research

Finding Information

How to Read Call Numbers 

A call number is like the address of a book. If you have the call number, you can find where the book lives in the library. It's made up of letters and numbers in a very specific combination that designates the subject and the author of that specific book.

So how do you read a call number? 

  1. The first line is made up of one or two letters and is meant to be read in alphabetical order. 

  2. The second line is a number. Sometimes it has a decimal at the end. If so, it would be after the same number without a decimal.

  3. The third line has a decimal, a letter, and some numbers. Read the letter in alphabetical order, then the number like it was a decimal. This is where it might get confusing. For example, this book would come before PN 6747 .S3 and after PN 6747 .S12. Remember decimals technically continue on forever with 0's. 

  4. Sometimes the fourth line looks just like the third line with the actual decimal in front of the letter. That means you read it just like the third line (alphabetical then like the number is a decimal).

  5. The last line could be a year, representing the year it was published, so read it as a number! 

  6. Sometimes the last line might be v.1, or c.2, or the call number might end at the third line! If you have a hard time finding the book, please ask us for assistance! 

Catalog Search Handout

Need a Scholarly Article? Start Here!

Below is a list of our most popular article databases. These are great places to start if you need a scholarly journal article!

Scholarly Journal Articles

Have you ever had an assignment where you have to use scholarly journal articles or peer-reviewed articles?

Academic or scholarly journals are a type of periodical, like a magazine or newspaper. "Periodical" means that it's published on a regular schedule and not just one time, like a book. Academic journals have articles like regular magazines, but the articles are meant for academic purposes. These journals are published by academic institutions, about specific subjects, and they're focused on narrow, precise topics.

Most importantly, academic journals and academic articles are peer-reviewed. This means they're reviewed and approved by people in the same field for quality and credibility.

You can't get peer-reviewed articles in Google because the peer-review and publishing process takes a lot of money, so we have to pay to access them. That's where the library comes in! The library pays for access to databases full of scholarly journal articles so you can have access to them as a student.

We have a bunch of different article databases on different subjects (like an education database, a psychology database, etc) that you can use when you're doing research. I recommend ProQuest Central for people starting out with their research, because it has articles from a bunch of different subject areas.

Your professors and librarians recommend these library databases because the articles in them have been specifically selected for quality, which makes them more reliable than a lot of things you can find elsewhere on the Internet. This doesn't mean everything in an academic article is true! But you can generally trust an academic article more than something else that hasn't been reviewed.

Google Searching

There's nothing wrong with using Google in your research! While it can't find everything library databases can, we all use it every day and it's a powerful tool. 

Here are some tips and tricks for searching with Google:

  • Use quotes to search for an exact phrase: using quotation marks around the phrase you want to search ("it looks like this") will make sure those words are all found in the results, in that order.
  • Site: will let you search just one website. If you're looking for something on a specific website, you can use "site:" with your search to limit results to that one website. For example, typing "site: google" without the quotation marks will search for the word google.
  • Google Scholar is a great place to search for academic journal articles. Be warned, though, since it's a free service, it might ask you to pay for an article we already have access to! If you want to read something and it asks you to pay, email a librarian and we can usually get it for free.
  • Search for images using Google Images. If you're on the desktop version of the site, you can also search using an image by clicking the camera icon in the search box. This is called a reverse image search and it can tell you where an image originally came from.
  • Define: will give you the definition of a word. For example, "define: monograph" without the quotes will give you a definition for the word monograph.
  • Filetype: will only give you results with the specified type of file. This is especially useful when searching for PDFs. For example, "filetype:pdf greensboro" without the quotation marks will give you PDF results with the word Greensboro in them.
  • Using the minus symbol will remove words from the search results. This is useful when you want to get rid of words commonly associated with a topic. For example, searching "titanic -movie -film" without the quotation marks will only give you results that talk about the real-life event with no mention of the movie.


Sometimes your instructors will tell you can't use any websites as sources, but sometimes you can. Many times, people don't trust a lot of things on the web, for good reason. However, there are some things you can keep in mind to make sure the websites you use are trustworthy.

Is a Website Legitimate or Not?

One of the most frequent questions I get is about how to know whether or not a website is trustworthy. The truth is that it depends on your assignment and how you want to use the information. Keeping that in mind, here is a list of things to keep a look out for when using web sources. This list is called the CRAAP Test. CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.

CRAAP Test - Evaluating Resources - LibGuides at Spokane Falls Community  College