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Research 101

The steps of the research process & how to apply them.

2b. Find Books

Information in Volumes

When you think of the library, you think of books. Depending on your subject, books may be your best sources of information. Learn how to find books in the library with the resources on this page.

Search the Library Catalog

Advanced Search

How to Find Books in the Catalog


Type any term, such as psychology or modeling. Remember, keyword searching only looks for your term. There’s no guarantee the results will be about your term.


Type any known words from the title. Avoid articles like a or the.


Use Last name, First name or First name Last name order.

  • To Northwestern Oklahoma State University Library Services to discover items held at NWOSU (Figure 1).

  • By Format (book, article, etc.) to get materials of a particular type.

  • To Full Text to see materials you can read right away on your screen.

  • To Peer Reviewed to see only scholarly journal articles.

Figure 1
Limiters in the Catalog
Detail of catalog limiters.
  • Select the Advanced Search option to refine your search or use the options in left sidebar after you have begun your search.

  • Use quotes around phrases like "social media" or "college athletes".

  • A search for books will include both print books and eBooks but can be limited to either format.

    Figure 2
    An Example of Search Results
    Detail of catalog with the words book and eBook highlighted.

    Note. This example contains both books and eBooks.

  • Use the Boolean operators and, or, and not.


    • Soviet and Russian

    • "Soviet Union" or Russia

    • Mexico not New

    Note: Some databases and search engines require that Boolean operators be typed in all caps to distinguish them from search terms.

  • To truncate a search term, enter a minimum of the first three letters followed by a question mark (?) or an asterisk (*).

    Example: child* or infant*

  • Use parentheses to create more precise searches.

    Example: (games or toys) and (child* or infant*)

About Books

Books are available in both print and electronic formats.


  • Are usually authoritative sources of information.

  • May provide thorough coverage of a subject.

  • May contain references and bibliographies.

  • May be written by one author or contain contributions from several authors.

The library catalog contains both print books and electronic books. Print books must be picked up at the library or ordered through mail or courier. The eBooks, however, you can have right away: See the eBook instructions for details.

Book Evaluation Tips

Date of Publication

  • Is the information current enough for your purposes?

  • Alternatively, is a historical perspective important?


  • University presses are likely to be scholarly.

  • Professional organizations and the U.S. Government Printing Office can also be indicators of scholarly content.

Book Reviews

  • Book reviews can help you assess if a book is worth your attention. Search databases in your subject area to locate book reviews.

The Dewey Decimal System

Melvil Dewey invented this system for organizing libraries in .

The numbers represent different fields of human knowledge. But you don’t need to know what the numbers mean—you just need to know that books are arranged in numerical order on the shelves!

Table 1
Dewey Decimal Classes
000–099General Reference & Information Science
100–199Philosophy, Psychology, & Logic
300–399Social Science
400–499Natural Science & Mathematics
600–699Technology, Applied Science, & Medicine
700–799Fine Arts
900–999History & Biography

This system keeps books on the same subject together. If you find one book on your topic, scan the other books nearby to see if they will be useful also.

Call Numbers

Look at the spines of some books in our collection:

Figure 5
Call Numbers on Book Spines
Book spine displaying call numbers.

Note. Books’ spines display their call numbers.

These labels contain call numbers. Call numbers tells you where in the library a book is shelved. When you look up a book, you will receive the call number and can then go to the shelf where the book is located.

Each call number contains two number sets:

Dewey Number

(For example, 708.051.)

This represents the book’s subject.

Cutter Number

(For example, B633d.)

This represents the author’s name.

Now look at the end of a shelving unit:

Figure 6
A Range of Dewey Numbers
End of a shelf displaying call numbers.

Note. The numbers on the end of a shelving unit indicate the range of call numbers located on the shelves.

Each shelf has a range of numbers printed on it. When you know the call number, you can retrieve the book from the shelf with the appropriate range. If you want a book that has the call number 708.051, as shown above, you would go to the shelf containing books with call numbers 708.05 to 735.045.