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ENGL 366: Modern British Novel (Haley)

Research Strategies

The Libraries catalog is one way to locate books and other materials relating to your topic. But did you know that it is also possible to browse in the library stacks? 

The Holy Cross Libraries (and many other libraries) use a system called Library of Congress Classification (LCC) to organize our books. Each book or journal is identified by a unique call number. Unlike call numbers in the Dewey Decimal System, LCC call numbers include a combination of both letters and numbers. These call numbers identify the location of the book in our stacks; they also identify the subject (or the main subject if there are more than one) of the book or journal. 

Because call numbers are subject-based, it is possible to physically view most of the books on a given topic in one area of the library. This means that it is possible to visit the stacks and browse the selection of materials on your topic. 

To begin, you can....

(a) Locate a book on your topic in the Libraries' catalog, and note the call number; OR
(b) Identify the LCC call number range that corresponds to your topic, by viewing this list

This will tell you the area of the library where you should begin browsing. If your topic is complex or multidisciplinary, there may be more than one area that you should visit. 

Use the handout below to guide you in understanding LCC and navigating the Dinand Stacks: 

No piece of research stands alone; each is part of a broader scholarly conversation in that topic/ field. You can use a single article  or other resource to find other, similar research by tracing the paths of that conversation:

Keywords – Check the abstract, subject terms and full-text to discover the vocabulary being used in this particular scholarly conversation.

Subject Terms – Subject terms not only provide insight into vocabulary you should use but also serve as search tools – click on these tags in any database (or the catalog) to find more resources on a given topic.

Cited References – Check the references list (or bibliography) to see what previous research this resource is drawing on. From here, you may wish to consider: 

- Previous articles or books published on your topic
- Other authors who have published on your topic
- Journals where your topic is frequently discussed

Times Cited – Check Google Scholar to see which articles or books have cited your sources, and to find
more-recent research which builds on your original information.

** Once you find a new resource, you can also trace the scholarly conversation around that book/article to find even more resources! **

For a simpler, graphic representation of this research strategy, download the handout below: 

Before scholars had access to databases, they often referenced print tools such as bibliographies, abstracts and indexes to locate resources for their research. Print indexes are manually-compiled bibliographies of publications meeting certain criteria produced during a given time period (often a year). The organization and content can vary by the purpose of the index, but in general it is usually possible to look up resources by title and author as well as a subject heading. These headings became the subject tags that you see in databases today. 

Here is an example of an index previously published in print, the Catholic Periodical & Literature Index, compared to its electronic counterpart now available through the database list: 

Why use a print index?

  • To find materials not indexed in research databases. For example, an index like Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL) may have some overlap with the content of article databases, but not the same collection of content gathered in the same way.
  • To find older materials. Often even when a print index has a database counterpart, the dates of coverage vary. For example the online version of Catholic Periodical & Literature Index (above) only covers resources published since 1981. Its print counterpart (under various titles) has coverage all the way back to 1930. 
  • For a different experience! Electronic databases have definite advantages, but staring at the same search box for hours can hurt your eyes (and your productivity). Trying a change of scene by using a print index might help you think about your topic in a different way. 
  • Serendipity. Often, when searching for a particular book in the stacks, you might find an equally-useful (or much better) book shelved nearby -- that didn't appear when you searched the catalog. Likewise, because information is organized in a print index in a different way, while reading through the pages you may find yourself stumbling across articles, books, journals or authors that you would not have discovered even with repeated keyword searching. 

Suggested Indexes

Here are some of the print indexes available in Dinand which may be most helpful for your topic. Remember that some indexes will be in the stacks, while others may be found in the Main Reading Room or the Periodicals Room (the room with the fireplace, to the left as you come in through the main entrance):

Book Reviews

  • Book Review Digest (1906-Present) - [Dinand Reference, Z1219 B72]
  • Book Review Index (1965-Present) [Dinand Reference, Z1035 A1 B72]

Journal & Newspaper Article Indexes

  • Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL) [Dinand Stacks, PE1 M6]
  • Essay and General Literature Index - (1900 - present): [Dinand Reference, AI3 E7w]
  • Humanities Index - (1907-2002) Preceded by Social Sciences and Humanities Index (1965-1974) and International Index to Periodicals (1907-1964): [Dinand Periodicals Room, AI3 H91]
  • Poole's Index to Periodical Literature - (1802-1906): [Dinand Periodicals Room, AI3 +P8]
  • 19th Century Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature - (1890-1899): [Dinand Periodicals Room, AI3 N7]
  • Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature - (1900-2002): [Dinand Periodicals Room, AI3 R2]

Biographical Information

  • Contemporary Authors [Dinand Reference, Z1010 C76r]
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography [Dinand Reference, PN451 D54]

Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, & Guide Books

  • Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia [Dinand Reference, PN41 B4 1996]
  • Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature [Dinand Reference, PN41 C7]
  • Critical Perspective ... - Twentieth-Century Criticism of British and American Literature to 1904:
    [Dinand Reference, PR85 C76]