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Research Methods: Books

Basic Approach to a Research Project

Using Books for Research

Using Books for Background Information

Books are the best library resources for comprehensive information.  They tend to cover issues in depth and at great length.  However, they are not as current as sources in periodicals or the internet.  They are excellent for obtaining background information on a topic and to develop a list of relevant keywords with which to search.

In order to use a book effectively, you may not need to read the entire book.  Browse the Table of Contents at the front of the book for chapter contents, and the index in the back of the book for the pages on which shorter amounts of information are located. 

Ask a librarian for assistance.

Library Locations


Elizabeth Sturm Library, Dandini Campus (the Main Library)


Redfield Branch, Health Science Center

Library Reference Collection 

Reference books are condensed, authoritative books such as encyclopedias.  Many reference books contain primary sources and original documents. 

General Collection  

Very large and very good collection, shelved mainly on the second floor of the Main Library.  Ask the Reference Librarians for assistance.  These books are allowed to leave the library.

Online Books in the Book and Video Catalog

To limit your search to online books, select ‘Advanced search.’  Select ‘Online Library’ on the Location line.  The title will include this phrase in brackets:  [electronic resource]. 

How to Read a Call Number

Here is a sample book record with its call number:

Breaking down the Library Location and Call Number:

The book is located in the Reference section, because it is composed of short chapters on each type of critter, suitable for photocopying.  Reference Books are not allowed to leave the Library.

The call number:

Q                       Science

QE                     Geology

.L25                   L for author:  Lange, Ian

2002                  date of publicaton.

Library Book Call Numbers

Like most academic libraries, the TMCC Library system uses Library of Congress Call Numbers. 

The LC classification system groups together books on similar subjects by means of their call numbers. The call numbers are a sort of street address, while the library location is like the town.  Each book is clearly labeled with the call number on the spine or on the lower left on the front of the book.

LC Classification Outline

Click on a subject below to find out which more specific subjects fall under that heading. Links lead to the Library of Congress website.

A - General Works
    B - Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
    C - Auxiliary Sciences of History
    D - World History and History of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Etc.
    E - History of the Americas
    F - History of the Americas
    G - Geography, Anthropology, Recreation
    H - Social Sciences
    J - Political Science
    K - Law
    L - Education
    M - Music and Books on Music
    N - Fine Arts
    P - Language and Literature
    Q - Science
    R - Medicine
    S - Agriculture
    T - Technology
    U - Military Science
    V - Naval Science
    Z - Bibliography, Library Science, Information Resources (General)

Other Ways to Search for a Book in the Library Catalog

  • To search for a subject heading (i.e., library applied term instead of keyword): select “Subject Browse. 
  • Search by author (last name first),
  • Exact book title, omitting the first ‘The,’ ‘A,’ or ‘An.’ 
  • Browse the shelf around the call number closest to what you are looking for.

Finding Books Using a Keyword Search in the Library Catalog

On the Library’s home page, the Library Catalog has records for all books, videos, hard copy magazines and journals, other media, and some (but not all) online books in the library.  Except for e-books, catalog records indicate that the library owns the item and where it is shelved, but do not include the full text.   Click on the Library Catalog.  The window opens to a place to type your search term ‘within Keyword’ [menu on the end of the search bar].

Sample Book Catalog Search

Sample keyword search

  • Type “civil war” (use quotation marks around phrases).   
  • Limit the search if too many books are found:  click ‘Edit search’ on the upper left, then change the ‘Keyword’ to ‘Keyword using AND.’ Add another term, for example, “Nevada.”

Results of Sample Search

However, our keyword search also retrieved books on another civil war:

This second book is about the Spanish Civil War, not the American Civil War! 

If the keyword search results in this sort of confusion, it is helpful to turn to a Subject Browse search:  Here is the subject heading applied to the relevant book:  United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Regimental histories--Nevada.