Print Resources and Search Strategies:
Types of Print Resources

1) Types of Print Resources
2) Subject Headings & Classification Systems
3) Call Numbers
4) Author, Title, Subject & Keyword Searching
5) Quiz


Finding the Right Book
It's important to remember that while there may not be an entire book available on your specific topic, there may be information on the topic in books on broader subjects. It makes sense to start by looking for books on as specific a topic as possible to see if there are whole books on that topic. If nothing is available on the most specific topic, try to think of broader subjects that might deal with the topic. For example, if I don't find any books on my specific research topic – the physiological effects of HIV on the immune system – I could try looking under the broader subject of HIV and the immune system. If I still don't find anything, I could try an even broader subject: HIV/AIDS.

One important limitation of books is that, because of the time it takes to write and publish them, the information in books is almost never as current as that in recent magazine, journal or newspaper articles.

Once you find books on a broad subject, look in the table of contents (in the front of the book) and the index (in the back of the book) to see if your subject is covered and, if so, on what pages.

Circulating vs. Reference Books
In most libraries, books are divided into two basic categories: "circulating books" and "reference books."

Circulating books can be checked out. They are shelved in the main shelving area of the library, often called the "stacks." Circulating books cover all subject areas and can range from broad overviews of a general topic to very detailed studies of a very limited, specific topic. Books usually provide more depth and details on a topic than do encyclopedia articles, and they include a much broader range of information than that covered in a magazine, journal or newspaper article.

Reference books are special types of books, such as encyclopedias and dictionaries, that you usually just "refer" to for specific pieces of information rather than reading all or large parts of the books. Reference books are usually shelved in a special section of the library – the reference section – and cannot be checked out. Reference books will help you get a general overview of a topic and become familiar with specialized or technical terms peculiar to a field or subject. Note that many reference books in print are also available online.

The following is a list of different types of reference books:

Encyclopedias. The first place to look when beginning research on a subject. In addition to providing a general overview of your topic, encyclopedias help define its scope. Articles often end with bibliographies, which can point you toward additional information. There are two types of encyclopedias: general and subject. General encyclopedias provide information on a wide range of subjects. The World Book Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica are examples of general encyclopedias CSM Library owns. Subject encyclopedias concentrate on particular subjects or areas of study. The McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology and The Grove Dictionary of Music are two of the many subject encyclopedias CSM Library owns.

Dictionaries. The most familiar and frequently used reference source. There are language dictionaries (of English or foreign languages) and subject dictionaries, which may sometimes be more like encyclopedias. This is a short list of the many dictionaries found in our library:

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

Mosby’s Dictionary of Complementary & Alternative Medicine

The Complete Dictionary of Symbols

Dictionary of Business Terms

Merriam Webster Geographical Dictionary

The Historical Dictionary of Feminism
MIT Dictionary of Modern Economics

Black’s Law Dictionary


Note: Confusingly, many works with the word “Dictionary” in the title are actually more like encyclopedias. Examples are The Grove Dictionary of Art and The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Mathematics.

Almanacs & Yearbooks. These reference books are published yearly and contain factual information pertinent to a specific span of time. Medical, governmental, industrial, and vital statistics are some examples of information that can be found in these resources. These almanacs and yearbooks can be found in our library:


World Almanac and Book of Facts

Information Please Almanac


Statistical Abstract of the United States

California Statistical Abstract

Handbooks & Manuals. Handbooks normally give a broad treatment of one subject area. Manuals are reference books that explain how something is done or how something operates. Our library has many handbooks and manuals in the fields of science and medicine. Listed below are a few of the handbooks found in our library:


Science & Technology Desk Reference

Merriam Webster's Secretarial Handbook

Perry's Chemical Engineer's Handbook

Simon & Schuster Handbook of Anatomy & Physiology



Complete Guide to Symptoms Illness & Surgery

Publications Manual for the American Psychological Association

United States Government Manual

Atlases. Books filled with maps, charts, and tables. Atlases provide information pertaining to populations and place locations. Current and historical are the two major types of atlases; however, there are human anatomy atlases too. The list below contains examples of different kinds of atlases:

Times Atlas of the World

Shepherd's Historical Atlas

Atlas of Human Histology

Grant's Atlas of Anatomy

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