Research Rules to Live By


  1. Don't re-invent 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
  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

    Access Points in Bibliographic Records

    • Always take note of how an item has been cataloged/indexed. What are the Subject Headings/Descriptors? What are the other "access points"?* 

      *Access points are the words, titles, names, or phrases that give you access (often through a link) to other records indexed/cataloged in the same way.

    • Does the electronic system allow you access to other similar books or articles by clicking on those access points? Try it! If this yields too many records, refocus your search by adding some of the subject terms you've seen in relevant records.
    • Take note of the "authoritative" rendering of the author's name (or book title). These may differ from what you might expect and knowing this "authoritative" form may help you in your searches.
  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: December 15, 2015