When investigating your subject, books can provide in-depth coverage, overviews of topics, historical and/or social context, chronology, and lists of other sources to study.  You needn’t necessarily read a book cover to cover to cite it in your research paper, but you should be careful to read all of the relevant parts to make sure you are not taking something out of context!  Here are some tips for researching with books:

Step 1 Search in the online catalog

 On the library homepage (hwclibrary.ccc.edu), click on the link to the HWC online catalog.


Step 2 Think broadly about your topic

 The way books are cataloged doesn’t often capture explicit details about what you might find inside a particular book. If your search terms are too narrow you might not find anything!

Step 3 Use the catalog’s subject headings

When you find a relevant book, check the Details tab to see the subject headings. Doing so will sometimes help you find more books on the same subject, though often the headings will be too general to provide much direction.

Step 4 Once you find a useful book, look around 

All of the books are arranged on the shelves by subject matter.  When you find a useful book, scan the shelves around it to see if there are others like it.


Step 5 Find out if the book has what you need

 You needn’t read the entire book to determine whether or not it will be useful.

The title page will give you the complete title of the work as well as the names of the publishers and authors.  This information might help you assess the book’s credibility and authority.

The table of contents is a list of chapters or sections in the book, most often with their respective page numbers.  This will likely let you know which specific chapters delve into your topic.

The preface or forward will state the author’s purpose and give you clues as to the authority and objectivity of the work.

The bibliography will give you a list of works consulted or cited by the author. This information can help you determine the book’s authority and find other sources.

The index is an alphabetized list of names, keywords, events, organizations, and more alongside the page numbers on which those words appear in the text. The index