Research Rules to Live By


  1. Don't reinvent the wheel: Use others' work to fuel your own research
  2. Let your feet (and fingers) do the walking: Physical browsing can be as good or better than electronic searching.
    • At the very least, know the call number ranges for your subject area and make time to frequently browse these areas. For example:
      • Film/Cinema = PN1995-1999
      • French History = DC
      • Astronomy = QB
    • To learn learn more about where various subjects are classed in the LC system, see the Library of Congress Classification Outline.
    • Spend some time browsing books in your subject's call number range in the Main Reference and Information Commons Reference Collections. (Note: There are also Reference collections in the Science/Engineering and Fine Arts Libraries if your subject falls in one of these areas.) These reference works can open up your research to a whole new range of sources.
    • Remember that the same call numbers may be located in different physical locations (Main Stacks, Main Reference, Media Collection, Special Collections, etc.). Try to be familiar with all of them.
    • Remember that your subject area may also be split between multiple call number ranges (including the Z's - Reference/Bibliography) or classification systems (LC, Dewey, SuDoc, etc.)
  3. Schedule for serendipity: browsing the library stacks is one of the best ways to discover new resources
  4. Get to know bibliographic records. They are your friends
  5. Don't do it alone: Use library services (ILL, Librarians, Reference desks, Chat, etc.)
  6. Google is good (but only to a point)
  7. Start broadly then limit thoughtfully
  8. Use Union lists: learn what is "out there"
  9. Don't avoid library catalogs
  10. Don't forget about print resources
  11. Learning about the history of research in the subject and the relevant scholars is as important as (and is part of) researching the subject
  12. If you find what looks to be a promising source, don't give up on it
  13. Keep a good record of everything you look at (or at least everything you take notes from)
  14. Join academic listservs They are an invaluable resource (for now and later)


Last modified: April 11, 2016