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How To...Research a Debate (Yuhl)

Created for HIST 205 (Yuhl), Spring 2024

Books, E-Books & Book Chapters

Books are often a good place to get a background understanding of your topic. Books tend to be broader and longer than articles, which means they can provide a greater breadth of information. Often, they will give you the background information that you need to then pursue more detailed research effectively.

Book chapters can also be helpful. Some books consist of collected essays, and there may be specific essays of interest. Other times, the entire book is a continuous work (we call this a monograph) but there are sections that would be most helpful for you to consult. 


CrossSearch is the Libraries' multi-search "discovery" tool. CrossSearch searches a cross-section of journal articles, newspapers, CDs, images, and many other types of resources available through the libraries. It is also our main library catalog -- the tool you use to find books, journals, films, and other items physically located in the library, as well electronic versions of those items. 

To leave out individual articles and focus on things like books and films, you can use the Catalog Only limit in CrossSearch. 

Watch our video tutorial  to learn more about CrossSearch! 


Try searching for books using a very basic keyword search. Books tend to be on broad topics, so the terms you search with should be broad, too! Once you've found a few books that look interesting to you, you can use clues from the books to help you find other books. For example.... 

  • Call Numbers. Books on similar subjects are in similar areas of the library. For example, if you search for books on student loans, you would see pretty quickly that many books have call numbers starting with LB2300 (or nearby). This means you can easily go to that section of the library and look through the books in person! 

  • Vocabulary. Check the records in the library catalog for vocabulary in the tables of contents, titles, descriptions or other information that you might use for future searches. 
  • Subjects. Every book in our catalog is marked with at least 1 "tag" that tells you what the book is mostly about, and links together other books on that same topic. You can click on the tags to find a list of all other books using that tag. For example, if you click on the tag --Student loans > United States.-- you would find all of our books marked as being about student loans in the United States.


At Holy Cross, we organize our books using a system called Library of Congress Classification or LCC. LCC is based on the subject of the books. Each letter represents a specific subject. Each subject is broken down into more specific letter sections, each of which is further broken down into number ranges for specific topics. Most call numbers have additional  numbers and letters on the end of them, which are used to give each book a unique spot on the library shelves. 

In general:

  • Reference Books are in the Main Reading Room. These books must stay in the library.
  • Books whose numbers begin with letters A through G are on the Mezzanine level (1 floor down from the Main Reading Room).
  • Books whose numbers begin with N or TR are in the Visual Arts Wing on the main level. 
  • Books whose numbers begin with letters H through Z are mostly on the Ground (bottom) level.
  • Books whose numbers begin with are in the Music Library in Brooks Hall.
  • Books whose numbers begin with Q, R, S or are in the Science Library in Swords Hall.

Watch our Call Numbers video tutorial  or visit our Call Numbers guide to learn more about how call numbers work. 


To search for e-books located at Holy Cross, use CrossSearch.

Then, use the Resource Type limiter in the side navigation to focus your search on e-books. 

You may also want to search in our specific e-book collections: 

When searching within a specific ebook collection, you will be able to search the full text of each book allowing more detailed searching. For example, you may search the library catalog and not find any titles on your topic, but a search in ebrary might find a book with one chapter focused on your topic.


In most cases, your best option is to use the "Read Online" feature for our e-books. Most academic e-books do not work with devices that you might use to read personal e-books, such as a Kindle or Nook (believe me -- this frustrates librarians too!). There is software that you can download onto a PC or iPad, but this can be difficult to use, so if you have a stable internet connection, I recommend reading online. 

However, if you would like to download the software, or if you are having trouble accessing any particular e-book, please feel free to contact us ( or see our e-books guide linked below: 

NOTE that most e-books do have limits on printing. Each publisher has different functionality and rules for downloading and printing ebooks. 


Locating book chapters that you may want to read can take a little more time. Here are some creative ways that you might find book chapters: 

  • CrossSearch -- some, but not all, of our books have tables of contents in the catalog that you can check; 
  • Google Books typically have limited previews, but if you can see enough to locate a helpful chapter, we can get you a copy; 
  • Similarly, previews; 
  • Google Scholar sometimes includes citations for book chapters (and searches across Google Books); 
  • Databases (some, but not all, include book chapter citations specifically; America History & Life is one); 
  • Citations in bibliographies of articles, e-books, or other books that you may have checked out before we closed. 

You can also try searching WorldCat, which searches the collections of libraries around the world (including ours!). Sometimes the information about a book is listed differently in WorldCat, allowing you to find sources that you would never have pulled up in our own catalog. 

Each of these strategies can be used to....

(1) Find the titles of book chapters in our own libraries, which library staff can scan and send to you; or 

(2) Find the titles of book chapters held by other libraries, which can be requested on Interlibrary Loan.


For instructions on how to obtain book chapters that you would like to use, see the Access Sources page on this guide. 

Reputable Websites

Reputable web sites can be a good place to find background information on your topic. For example, government websites will often have reliable and detailed information about current issues. 

Remember, both the best and worst part of the web is that anyone can contribute anything they like. So, it's very important to be aware of your source. Is it from a reputable agency, like the Environmental Protection Agency? Is it obviously a website made by a 6th grader, or someone else who may not have accurate information? Or, is it in the middle -- a site that appears reputable, but is created by a lobbying group or other organization that might not be completely unbiased....?


Always remember to carefully evaluate your sources, but especially when they come from the open web! 

 WHO is the author? How are they qualified? What bias may they have? 

 WHAT is the source? Is it a research report? An entertainment piece? An opinion essay?  And what does this tell you about the source's audience, purpose, and potential bias(es) or shortcoming(s)? 

 WHEN was the source published or updated last? Is there information which seems out-of-date? 

 WHERE was the source made available? Who publishes it, or hosts the website? What is the domain extension?

The publisher and/or domain can help you determine a website's origin. For example, .gov is the domain for United States government sites and .edu is for US Educational institutions. Note that not all .com sites are unreliable and not all .org sites are reputable -- .org simply means that the website is for a non-profit group. 

 WHY was this source created? What is the purpose and audience of the source? Who benefits if this source reaches and/or successfully convinces readers? 

 HOW was this source created? Does it refer you to its sources of information, and/or link you to other credible sources? Can you determine if the original information is represented accurately? 


There are many questionable sources of information on the internet -- but there are also some really great ones, if you know where and how to look. 

Google Site Search is an invaluable tool for locating sources on the web which may be scattered across disparate websites. It can be particularly helpful for checking government websites, which offer a wealth of sources and information, but can be very unwieldy to navigate (and often have clunky search functions). For example: 

  • site:*.gov "student loans" will bring back results on any .gov sites. Note the asterisk(*) before the domain -- this is what librarians call a "wildcard," and it stands in for any possible prefix to the .gov domain. 
  • But site:* "student loans" will bring back results only from, the U.S. Department of Education website. Again, note the asterisk(*), which will ensure that anything on the DOE site is included in your search (even if the web address doesn't start with "", like -- 

Types of websites you might consult: 

  • Government agencies
  • Think-tanks and other research institutions 
  • Blogs and articles written by policy analysts, researchers, and others
  • Experts and professional associations in area(s) related to your issue (e.g., medical providers, military strategists, lawyers, scholars, educators, etc.) 

Just make sure to evaluate for bias!