Find It

Before you can use a book, you need to be able to find it in your library’s Online Book Catalog.  Books tend to be broader and more general than articles, so when searching for books, think in terms of subjects rather than specific keywords.  For instance, a book catalog search for global warming and water vapor may not turn up many relevant results, though it is safe to assume that any book more generally about global warming will also contain information about water vapor and its impact on climate.

Retrieve It

Call numbers tell you where a book can be found in the library.  In Library of Congress libraries the call number will be a series of letters and numbers that look something like this:

Books more from left to right on the shelves in alphabetical and numerical order. All Library of Congress libraries start with AC1, which is the classics, and go all the way to Z9999, which is books about libraries. 


To find a particular book, find the beginning of the library’s collection and walk down the aisles, noting the range of call numbers on each row.  A typical row might be


Review the Table of Contents and Index

To find exactly where in a book the information you seek can be found, use the Table of Contents and the Index. 

The Table of Contents lists the chapters of the book and indicates the general contents in each.


The Index is an alphabetized list of terms, people, and organizations and the page numbers on which they appear. The index is found in the back of a book.

Read the Chapter(s) the Keywords Appear In

You are not just hunting for a quick quote!  Read enough of the work to make sure you understand the concept you are writing about.  Moreover, it is a good habit to read more than one sources to see if they present the concept in the same way.  Newer sources might contain the latest breakthroughs.  Sources from different political perspectives may present the same concept in different ways. Evaluate all information for accuracy, objectivity, and timeliness.

Use a rubric to help you evaluate all sources uniformly.

To find more tips

Other libraries and educational sites offer similar advice.  Check some out here: