Library Tutorial
Starting Smart

Learning Goals


This tutorial covers types of information sources you can use for your topic.

When you have completed the tutorial you should be able to identify:




This tutorial incorporates material from Searchpath, a tutorial developed by Western Michigan University, © 2001-2002, from TILT, a tutorial developed by the Digital Information Literacy Office for the University of Texas System Digital Library, © 1998-2002, and from SBU Library Research Guide material © 2004 by the Stony Brook University Libraries. This material may be reproduced, distributed, or incorporated, provided that appropriate credit is given.















Types of Sources




magazine2.gif Magazines publish articles on topics of popular interest and current events. The articles are written by journalists and are for the general public.

Magazines, like journals and newspapers, are called "periodicals" because they are published at regular intervals throughout the year. You can find print magazines at newsstands and in libraries. Some are now available on the Web as electronic magazines.


Use a Magazine

Examples of Magazines



 Journal articles are written by scholars in an academic or professional field. An editorial board reviews articles to decide whether they should be published. Journal articles may cover very specific topics or narrow fields of research.

Since journals are published at periodic intervals, they are grouped in the category called "periodicals." They may be in print format or on the Web as electronic journals. Your library purchases subscriptions to most journals.

Use a Journal

journal2.gif Examples of Journals





Newspapers provide articles each day about current events and are a good source for local information.

Newspapers, like journals and magazines, are called "periodicals" because they are published regularly, or periodically.


Use a Newspaper


You can find newspapers in print or microfilm format, or on the Web as electronic newspapers. Most newspapers are made available to you by subscriptions purchased by your library. Many newspapers have their own Web sites with today's news, and sometimes they provide earlier, popular articles free.


Periodical Indexes

 Periodical indexes (also called article indexes or article databases) include the citations of articles in magazines, journals and newspapers.


Some periodical indexes contain abstracts or brief summaries of the articles. A few contain the full text or entire content of whole articles as they originally appeared in the periodical.


Online periodical indexes, purchased by the library are accessible from the library website. The library also owns print indexes, good for researching older materials. For example, the New York Times print index goes back to 1851!


 Use a Periodical Index when you want to find articles on your topic in magazines, journals or newspapers.


Below is a sample search interface for Academic Search Complete. You would use keywords for your topic to fill in the search boxes. The more terms, the narrower your search.






 Finding Articles Tutorial





Books cover virtually any topic, fact or fiction. For research purposes, you will probably be looking for books that synthesize all the information on one topic.

Libraries organize and store their book collections on shelves called "stacks." A few books are now available electronically on the Web (e-books) and are purchased by your library.


Use a Book



 Blinn College's Library Catalog


The Library Catalog identifies every item in the library and will point you to its location. The catalog includes books, journals, magazines, newspapers, videos, music, government documents, images, and more.


However, you won't find periodical articles in the Library Catalog. You'll need to use an periodical index to identify articles by topic.


Use the Library Catalog

Library Catalog Tutorial 



The Web


The Web allows you to access information on the Internet through a browser. One of the main features of the Web is the ability to link quickly to other related information.


Use the Web



Examples of Web Addresses (The Library of Congress) (Google, a search engine) (Blinn College)


 Using the Web Tutorial







Selecting Sources


Now that you know the wide range of sources available to you, how do you select the best ones for your research?

If you need:

You might try:

Background information, such as the history of the railroads or statistics on the number of children immunized against diseases in the United States



Popular articles about new movies or social trends



Current information about a speech made yesterday by the President


Newspapers or Web

Scholarly articles about the cloning or Ernest Hemingway






Starting with the Library...


Quality over Quantity

 Libraries have large collections of information on a variety of carefully selected and organized topics. The key idea when using the library is that you are getting quality over quantity. Print or electronic library resources are the best sources to use when starting your research. You can efficiently find high quality information from a variety of credible resources in the library.


Library resources also go through a review process.

Librarians select books, magazines, journals, databases, and Web sites. The library collects sources considered reliable, historically relevant, and valuable.


Library resources are free or discountedfor your use.

Libraries are able to purchase one copy which can be shared by many people.


Library resources are organized.

Items are organized so you can find all the sources on a topic. For example, when you search for a book in the library catalog you will get a call number. The books shelved near the same call number will cover a similar topic.


Library resources are meant to be kept permanently.

A primary function of a library is to be an organized storehouse of information published throughout time. As well as finding very current information, you can also find books that are no longer published and older issues of magazines.


Library resources come with personal assistance.

Libraries have staff who are trained to help you. They'll help you learn to use online resources and answer any questions that you have.




Starting with the Web . . .


Although many people first go to the Web for information, it is not always the best place for what you need.


Most information on the Web does not go through a review process.

Anyone can publish on the Web without passing the content through an editor. Pages might be written by an expert on the topic, a journalist, a disgruntled consumer or even a child.


Some information on the Web is not free.

Many Web pages are free to view, but some commercial sites will charge a fee to access their information.


Information on the Web is not organized.

Some directory services, like Yahoo, provide links to sites in subject lists. But there are too many Web pages for any single directory service to organize and index.


Most information on the Web is not comprehensive.

Rarely will you be able to use a search engine on the Web to collect information about your topic from earlier decades and different types of sources.


Most information on the Web is not permanent.

Some well-maintained sites are updated with very current information, but other sites may become quickly dated or disappear altogether without much if any notice.


The Web can be a good research source for


The Web is a good tool for finding information, but it is usually not the best place to begin academic research.




Please complete the following exercise: