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SSI1-132: Wild Things: Secondary Sources

Where do I search?

Selecting the best or most appropriate finding aid for identifying sources depends almost entirely on the context of your research assignment. There is no single database or web search interface that will work for every research context; instead, you'll need to match your specific research needs to a variety of options.

Library catalog searches (i.e., Primo) can be the better choice when you are seeking in-depth, book-length treatments of a topic.

Multidisciplinary databases (i.e., JSTOR) cover a wide variety of subject areas and may include a mix of popular and scholarly sources. They can be the most appropriate choice when you just want to get a sense of what's available on a topic and when it isn't so important that you pay attention to disciplinary lenses.

Subject databases (i.e., MLA International Bibliography) cover a specific discipline and provide the widest range of access to scholarly sources. They are used for in-depth research. Which subject databases you search will be determined by who may be writing about your topic. Recommended subject databases for each discipline can be found on the "articles" tab in each library subject guide.

Using Primo

Primo is a library search tool for finding materials in the Collins Library and Summit libraries.  You can search for books, selected articles and more in a single search box.

Search Primo

General Primo Search Tips

  • Use the pull-down scoping options to search Collins, Summit and Articles OR Collins and Summit, OR just Collins.
  • Use quotes to search for "exact titles".
  • Use the filters on the right side to quickly narrow your search.
  • Sign in with your Puget Sound username and password to gain access to online resources and request items from other libraries.

Featured Books

 A sampling of potentially relevant books is listed below. Some titles available in print and in online format. 

Using Library of Congress Subject Headings

Books in Primo are assigned Library of Congress Subject Headings.  In many ways, subject headings are a form of tagging, in that they represent the content of the material and provide ways for you to efficiently locate more materials that are conceptually related. 

Here are several examples of the various ways you can use LCSH to help pinpoint what you need:

Wilderness areas -- West (U.S.)

Northwest, Pacific -- History

Northwest, Pacific -- Environmental conditions

Human ecology -- United States -- History

Nature -- Effect of human beings on -- United States -- History

Reading a Call Number

Collins Library uses the Library of Congress classification scheme to organize books on the shelves. Follow these tips to find the book you need.

Example:

Wilderness and the American Mind

  • Start with the top line. It is in alphabetical order. Ex. E
  • The second line is a whole number.  Ex. 169.1
  • The third line is  a combination of a letter and numbers. Read the letter alphabetically. Read the number as a decimal, eg. Y.23, Y.34, Y.344, Y.4, etc. Ex. .N37 (*Some call numbers have more than one combination letter-number line.)
  • The last line is the year the book was published. Read in chronological order. Ex. 2001, 2005, 2010, 2015, etc. Ex. 2001

Use the library location chart and map to find where the book is located.

Recommended Subject Databases

Depending on your topic and your angle, you may wish to search additional subject databases. 

General Database Search Tips

Try these strategies to become a better, more efficient searcher -- and help you find articles that you can actually use:

  • Build your search vocabulary -- keep a running list of key words, phrases, concepts, synonyms, and any related terms or ideas that you find.
  • Use advanced search features -- narrow your search with "AND," expand your search with "OR," or search in specified fields (i.e., author, title, publication, abstract).
  • Use search limits -- control the types of results you get (academic journals? language?) and how they are displayed (date? relevance?) so that you're only looking at results you can use.
  • Try multiple searches and evaluate -- try to figure out why you got the results you did, and adjust your search until you get closer to results you can use.
  • Use database descriptors -- once you find an article that looks good, see what descriptors or "subject headings" were assigned to it in the database. You can use these to search only for articles that have the same descriptors attached.

Multidisciplinary Databases

The databases listed below are examples of multidisciplinary finding aids.

Note: If you need discipline-specific resources, it is better to use the recommended subject databases under the "articles" tab in the library subject guides

Reading a Scholarly Article

During the preview phase, you'll want to concentrate on these key elements:

  • Abstract (if available)
  • First paragraph (sometimes the second paragraph, too):  What does the author want to find out?  What is the research question the author is asking?
  • Evidence:  What are the primary sources the author uses?
  • Scholarly conversation:  What are the other scholarly works (secondary sources) the author uses?
  • Conclusion (typically the last paragraph):  How does the author tie the evidence together to answer the research question? What is the significance of this research?

Once you've selected the article, you can actively read for content, argument, analysis and evaluation. 

Tip: Read the article more than once!  It may help to print out a copy so that you can make notes.

Tipasa: Interlibrary Loan

Tipasa logo

If your article is not available at Collins Library, you've got another option for getting it. Use Tipasa, our interlibrary loan service.

Tipasa is linked to your library account so you'll need to log in to use it.

Once you are logged in, either go directly to Tipasa and manually enter the information, or, if you're using a database, look for a shortcut link to automatically fill out the form, like this:

Interlibrary Loan Link

Allow at least a week for the article to come. If your article is delivered in electronic format, you'll receive an email with a link to follow as soon as it's arrived.

Need Help?

This subject guide highlights only a small portion of the many resources available to you. If you're not finding what you need, don't hesitate to contact Katy!

Katy Curtis, Humanities Librarian
email: kcurtis@pugetsound.edu
Schedule an appointment
tel: (253) 879-3672
office: Collins Library 140

If you can't find Katy, remember there are several ways to get help with your research

For immediate assistance, connect to our 24/7 Ask a Librarian chat service.