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Research Help

What are resources? They’re the articles, books, websites, and everything else you use to support your thesis or answer your research question. Books provide in-depth coverage and background information on a topic. Scholarly journal articles are highly specific and written for scholars and researchers. Magazines provide broad summaries written for a general audience. Current newspapers provide up-to-date national & regional information. Data is the raw information from which statistics are created. Data and stats can compliment or even drive your research. Primary sources are original, first-hand accounts. They include historic newspapers, letters, and diaries, but also, scientific discoveries and observational data.

What's the best way to look for resources?

Effective search strategies will help make finding resources easier, from choosing the right words to type into a search box to special tools that can help expand or narrow your results. This video from the University of Arizona Libraries will give you quick overview, or you can read the text below to learn more.

After you have defined your topic through the development of a research question or thesis statement, you are ready to start your research. When you use Google, you may be used to typing out your entire question, but when searching the library's resources, it's best to select 2-3 keywords or phrases. How do you know which ones are best? Start by picking out the main concepts of your topic. But wait! Before you start entering any search terms, spend a few minutes trying to think of as many relevant terms and combinations of terms as you can. Authors and journals may use synonyms or related terms to describe the same concept, so you may need to brainstorm additional search terms to find the right resources.

Once you've come up with keywords and phrases to search, use the tricks below to combine them into an effective search strategy:

  • Boolean terms (AND, OR, NOT) = Use these terms to connect your keywords. Write them in all capital letters, as seen below:
    • AND combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms. Using AND narrows your search, so you find fewer results. For example, women AND rap AND music finds results that contain all three terms.
    • OR combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms. Using OR broadens your search, so you can find more results. It's good when there is more than one term for the concept you are researching. For example, rap OR hip hop finds results that contain either term.
    • NOT excludes terms so that each search result does not contain any of the terms that follow it. For example, hip hop NOT dance will remove any results that mention dance.
  • phrase searching = When a phrase is enclosed by quotations marks, the exact phrase is searched. For example, "hip hop" searches for the two words as a phrase. Be careful to only use this when searching common phrases. Putting quotation marks around phrases will narrow your results to only those that have those two words in that exact phrase.
  • truncation = To use truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an * (asterisk). For example, type music* to find the words music, musician, musical or musicology. Be careful to have a meaningful root to avoid unrelated results: mus* would find music, but also muscle or mushroom.
  • Putting it all together: You can combine these Boolean terms with truncation and phrase searching to create strong searches. For example, if you are interested in finding results about women rap artists, try searching women AND (rap OR "hip hop") AND music*. Parentheses are used to group search terms to specify the order in which they are interpreted, kind of like in math. They are typically used to group search terms separated by OR.

If your first search strategy does not work, try another approach. Remember that you can also reach out to a librarian.

Why should you use the Discover tab search on the library's homepage?

  • It allows you to search a large percentage of the library's databases and our catalog of items available physically in the library.
  • You can find books, e-books, journal articles, DVDs, streaming videos, primary sources, and a whole lot more.
  • Start here if you're not sure where to begin, if you're looking for lots of different kinds of resources, or if you want to look at resources across a variety of disciplines.

Why would you skip the Discover tab search?

  • If you're looking for a specific book or DVD available in the library, it might be easier to use the catalog search.
  • If you're looking for subject specific resources, it might be easier to search a discipline-specific database.
  • If you're looking for a specific type of resource, like a newspaper article, it might also be easier to search a discipline-specific database.

Check out the video for a brief overview on using the Discover tab search:

A Note About Off-Campus Access

  • Longwood students, faculty and staff may access the Library’s resources from off campus, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • When you attempt to access a Library resource, you will be directed to a login page, where you'll be prompted to enter your LancerNet ID and Password, just like logging on to Canvas.

Why should you use a specific database?

  • If you're looking for resources from a specific subject or discipline (written by experts in a particular field), then use the 'All Subjects' drop-down menu on the Database & Resources A-Z list to see subject-specific databases recommended by librarians.
  • If you're looking for a specific type of resource, then use the 'All Resource Types' drop-down menu to sort databases by the kinds of resources that they offer (like newspapers, e-books, or streaming services).

Why would you skip searching in a specific database?

  • If you're just starting your research, and are not sure exactly where to look, it might be better to start with the main search bar.

Check out the video for a brief overview of the Database & Resources A-Z list:

Looking for Full Text?

If you come across a Find It button, that means the full-text is not available through your current database. Click the button to see if it is available in another database or in print. 

If the article you want is NOT available, you can still request it through Interlibrary Loan!

Why should you use the library's catalog search?

  • It's an easy way to search for resources that are physically housed in the library, like books and DVDs, and it gives you access to the print collections at Hampden-Sydney College's Bortz Library and the Central Virginia Regional Library.
  • There are a variety of ways to search, from searching specific titles, to seeing everything we have by a particular author, to browsing by subject.
  • You can view your account to see what you have borrowed from the library and place holds on items you would like to check out.

Why would you skip the catalog search?

  • If you're looking for electronic resources, like journal articles or e-books, it would be easier to search using the main search bar on the library's homepage or searching in a specific database.

Check out the video for a brief overview on using the catalog:

Confused about how to read a call number?

Reading a call number: 1. Read the first line alphabetically. 2. Read the second line as a whole number. 3. Read the third, and possibly fourth, line alphabetically, and then as a decimal. 4. The last line is typically a year, which is read chronologically.