To find books on your topic, your first stop should be the on-line library catalog. At Guilford that means PALS, which includes the books that Guilford houses as well as the books in four other local college libraries. If Guilford does not have a particular book, Salem College, for example, may and you can order it while you are on-line.
PALS will generally satisfy your needs. For higher levels of research, however, you will have to visit other catalogs as well. A small college library is not going to have the resources that, for example, a major university research library will. The smaller libraries try to maintain a good general collection. For a deeper collection, though (if you want to get that super-specialized book or if you want to have access to all the biographies of Jane Austen) you have to go to the next level: university libraries.
You'll note that when you first enter PALS you are given other catalog choices, including local universities like Wake Forest, UNCG, and UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as the wide-ranging OCLC. You can use these catalogs to find book titles and then order the books through interlibrary loan.
The most comprehensive indexes of books are the Library of Congress catalog and, available via First Search on NC-LIVE, World Cat Database, which collectively indexes library catalogs from throughout the world. It contains over 32 million records.
A couple of tips:
Finding Periodical Articles
Periodical articles appear in magazines, newspapers, or scholarly journals that are published at regular intervals.
Such articles are often more timely than the material appearing in books (keep in mind that there may be a two-year lag between when the author has finished his or her manuscript and when it is actually published), though less timely than the pre-publication versions that in scientific fields are often circulated electronically before the article appears in print.
Journal articles often treat narrow topics in much greater depth than do books.
We can divide periodical articles into two main categories: popular and scholarly. Although there is some overlap, especially when it comes to computer researching, we can say that generally you will need to go to separate resources to access these two categories.
What's the difference between popular and scholarly resources? If I want to get anecdotal information about Toni Morrison's life and perhaps an article about her receiving the Nobel Prize, I'll want to research popular magazines like Time or Essence. If I want to find a critical analysis of imagery patterns in her book Beloved, I'd be more likely to find it in a scholarly journal like Journal of American Literature.
An important point about scholarly journals: every major field has its own. Separate indexes exist in these different fields to provide access. Thus if I am an English major researching a literary topic, I may wish to consult the MLA (Modern Languages Association) Index, which indexes articles appearing in journals focusing on literary study. If I'm a psychology major, I'd go instead to Psychology Abstracts. If I'm an education studies major, I'll consult ERIC (Educational Resource Information Center). And so on.
Your goal: to find out which indexes are appropriate to your field of study.
If you are doing interdisciplinary study you should consult general indexes. You may also need to consult separate indexes (e.g., MLA + Psychology Abstracts + ERIC). One particularly good index which covers several fields within a single area of study is the Humanities Index.
Finding Articles in Popular Periodicals
On the Computer: Data-bases that index articles are proliferating. A particularly useful general tool available through NC-LIVE, Guilford's major collection of data bases, is MasterFILE Full Text 1500, which provides indexing and abstracting for 3,100+ periodicals; it also offers searchable full text for 1,500+ periodicals. It is the on-line equivalent of the print Reader's Guide to Popular Literature.
More specific data-bases included in NC-LIVE include:
If you wish to search The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, or Barrons, your NC-LIVE tool is the data base entitled Periodicals Abstracts II Newspapers. Also, Newspaper Source provides abstracts and indexing for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Christian Science Monitor.
In Print: The best general source is the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature. Like other indexes it appears annually and provides quick access to subjects covered in popular magazines.
Annual volumes of the index for The New York Times are shelved in the Hege reference area, along with the Reader's Guide. Archived copies of the newspaper itself are available on microfilm in the library's lower level.
Finding Articles in Scholarly Journals
On the Computer: The best general index (covering many fields) for scholarly journals is NC-LIVE's data base entitled Academic Search FullTEXT Elite, which provides indexing and abstracting for 3,200 scholarly journals and access to full texts for 1,000+ journals.
Searchable data bases exist for specific fields. Included in NC-LIVE:
In Print: There is no single general index for all scholarly fields. As noted above, different fields (e.g., psychology, chemistry, education studies) usually have separate indexes for their own journals. You need to find out which index is appropriate for your research. Following is a partial list of the indexes that are housed in Hege library. You'll note that a couple of them---the Humanities Index, for example—span fields within areas of study.
Finding Other Materials
A wealth of materials other than books and articles exists. These materials include CD's as well as conference papers, pamphlets, reports, and other so-called "fugitive" materials. The best general tools for accessing these materials are relevant computerized data bases and web searches.
Consult your professor.