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Tools for Research in Library & Information Studies : Home

An introduction to resources and research techniques for Library & Information Studies.

About this guide

Many tools are available for conducting research specific to Library & Information Studies topics. Becoming familiar with these tools can be a decisive factor for successfully learning and contributing to the field. 

This guide provides a general orientation to LIS specific resources. Many of these resources are licensed through UW-Madison, but some are available regardless of institutional affiliation. 

General searching tips

1. Identify the sources you should be searching.

Before you begin research on a topic, take time to determine where to best start looking. Planning can save you an immense amount of effort.

For instance, suppose you are interested in finding out how to format the title field in a catalog record. Your goal is to successfully upload an original cataloging record to WorldCat. Given that, you would likely want to start your research by looking through the WorldCat help files. Even if they don't provide the answer you're looking for, they might provide references to helpful resources.

If you're unsuccessful by searching the WorldCat help files, you might use the catalog to locate an official MARC manual since you know that WorldCat records are written with MARC formatting. Begin searches by questioning if you are starting with the most helpful resources.

2. Narrow your search strategies based on the information you know.

Most scholarly databases and search engines allow you to narrow keyword searching to specific parts of records. A clear example is to narrow by author or title if you know this information. Most resources also allow searching subject headings or descriptors, too.

Some resources allow other types of searching. For example, the catalog allows keyword searching by call number, ISBN, or ISSN. If you know any of that information, you can devise more effective search strategies by narrowing which fields you search.

Learn about the advantages of any database you use before you start searching and you be a more efficient searcher.

3. Combine keyword searching with controlled vocabularies, subject headings, and descriptors.

Most resources use controlled vocabularies, also referred to as subject headings or descriptors, to provide access to materials. Controlled vocabularies are often helpful for finding materials that belong to a genre. By limiting keyword searching to a few terms from a controlled vocabulary, you can conduct more fine-grained searches. 

4. Other useful search tips:

  • Use AND, OR, and NOT to conduct more powerful searches. Some resources also allow proximity terms like NEAR that will search for terms within several words of each other.
  • Use wildcard symbols to broaden searches. For example, to search for all resources about yachts, you may keyword search for yach*, which would find all resources that include words like yachts and yachting. Common wildcards are "?" and "*."
  • Avoid searching for common words like "information" or "book."
  • When in doubt, read the help files for the specific resource you are search.

UW-Madison Libraries resources