One of the perks of working in higher education is the access to scholarly resources and tools for conducting your research. This access also includes librarians and library staff who can save you time and answer your questions as they arise. If you are employed at one institution and pursuing your studies at another, you have even more resources available to you.
Jumpstart your success by stocking your toolkit. At a minimum, know the following:
Academic libraries in the 21st century are complex systems of interconnected digital resources and tools. To make the most of these resources for your graduate studies, here is a brief overview of what you need to know.
Discovery system or single-search: A stand-alone single search box is often the first thing you'll see on a library website. That is usually the library's discovery system. A discovery system is a system based on search engine technology that searches content from many different sources (such as the library catalog, some databases, selected external content), and provides search refinement options called facets or limiters. Making the best use of a discovery system requires understanding what it does and does not cover with its search. Individual databases search interfaces may include specialized search functions useful to graduate level research that cannot be replicated when using the discovery system.
Databases list: Most libraries provide an A-Z list with links and descriptions for the online research databases that the library licenses for your use. The databases will have different search interfaces and cover different types of content. Some are specific to disciplinary areas of research and have specialized search options. Some cover certain types of information like streaming video or images. Some will contain a lot of full text content, but most will also include some citations without full text. Some will be platforms for content from a single publishing group. You will want to become familiar with the most important research tools for your research area and scholarly community.
Journal search or list: If you just need to get to a specific journal, the quickest way to get there is through this search or list. The results will show you your options for accessing the journal online and in print, and for what dates. You will want to become familiar with the most impactful journals in your research area as well as the most respected and frequently cited journals in the discipline.
Library catalog: The library catalog is a searchable database of records used to determine what materials are available in the library's collections. This would include books, journals, newspapers, DVDs, and other tangibles, as well as links to some digital content such as streamed films and Ebooks. The degree to which the catalog is useful for accessing digital content varies greatly from one library to another.
Digital collections and repositories: Many libraries or archives also offer repositories of digital content specific to the institution or consortium. This could be a digital collection of dissertations completed at the school, a repository of faculty or student research output, or a digitized special collection such as fanzines, medieval manuscripts, or school board records.