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Suggestions for Searching for Books

The following techniques can improve your success with searching the catalog:

  • If one term doesn't work, try a few others. Experiment with different vocabulary related to your topic. Brainstorm ideas for relevant keywords and use background sources such as the encyclopedias on the 'Getting Started' tab of this guide. E.g. your topic may be more about 'freedom' or 'autonomy' than individualism.
  • Use proper nouns. If appropriate, think about your topic in terms of proper nouns. Thinking in terms of proper nouns can help you both narrow it to a manageable size and reduce the size of your search retrievals. E.g., if your topic is presidential power, think of it in terms of a particular president.
  • Sort search results so that newest books appear first. The newest books are likely to be secondary sources, the oldest books more likely to be primary sources.
  • Ask yourself: "How would the government describe what this book is 'about'"?  Books are catalogued according to subject by the Library of Congress, which uses standardized subject headings that often reflect the priorities of the U.S. federal government, and can sometimes lag behind academic writing in terms of using the most contemporary terminology.
  • If the UIC copy is unavailable or if UIC does not have what you need, Search I-Share. The I-Share catalog tells you what 80+ academic libraries in Illinois have and you can request online most of the books.