Graziano and Raulin (8th ed)Graziano & Raulin
Research Methods (8th edition)

Finding the Relevant Research

A typical major university library will contain five million or more books and thousands of journals in hundreds of fields. Finding just the right material in such an environment would be virtually impossible if it were not for the complex organizational system that makes libraries work. 

Imagine what it would be like to find a book on a particular topic by searching through a randomly organized library of five million volumes. If you could scan a book in one minute to determine if it was relevant to your needs, it would take you, on average, about 50 years to find a particular book if you never took time out to eat, sleep, or vacation. This is obviously not a good way to finish that paper that is due before the end of the semester, is it?

Fortunately, libraries have well organized systems for finding virtually any information that you might desire. The books in a library are organized by title, author, and keywords. These organizational systems are often referred to as card catalogs, even though the they rarely use the card system common 25 years ago. 

You can still find a card catalog or two in small local libraries. But today the catalog is computerized, at least in most university libraries. This allows you to find several potentially relevant books in just a few seconds. Many university libraries now have their card catalog on the Internet, so that it can be searched from your dorm room or apartment, sometimes even telling you if the book is in the library or checked out by another patron. In the most advanced systems, you can reserve a book from home and pick it up later in the day.

Books can often provide useful background information when conducting library research for a paper or research study, but by far the more important resources are journals and journal articles. Fortunately, those articles are referenced by a series of complex databases. 

These databases were originally published in abstract journals--journals whose sole purpose was to cross-reference the articles of a large collection of journals. Most of those journals have been replaced by electronic databases with the same information, which are much faster, much easier, and a lot less expensive. We will describe the use of several of these databases in the next three sections.


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