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English Composition (100, 101, 102): Books

Using Books for Research Purposes

Responses to the question "Are you using books as part of your research?" 

"Why should I use books for researching my topic? Isn't that what articles are for?"
"I don't have time to read a whole book before writing my paper."
"There aren't any books on my very specific topic."
"I could only find an E-book and I don't like using them." 

Let's talk about why books are a great way to research your topic, how to use them, and how to find them.

Why Use Books For Research Papers?

Books are excellent sources for researching...

  • Background information (such as people and dates)

  • In-depth information on the topic*

  • History of the topic

  • A general overview of the broader topic*

*Books are different from journal articles because they have they option to have much more information contained inside. Sometimes a book on a very specific topic cannot be found, but there may be a chapter on the very specific topic within a book on the broader topic.

How to Use Books

You may be thinking "I know how to use a book. You just open it and read it." While this is true, there is so much more to reading a book for research purposes. For example, when researching a specific topic, students rarely need to read an entire book.

There are tools to help discover what chapters or sections of chapters would be useful. Listed below are four of these tools. Knowing how to use them will save you time and effort, as well as make you a better researcher. 

  • Table of Contents
    • Located at the front of a book; laying out what the book is discussing. Find the chapter title that connects with your topic. 
  • Preface, Forward, or Introduction
    • Learn what the author is trying to prove or the information the author is presenting first. This is a great place to gain basic knowledge on a topic and find keywords. 
  • Bibliography
    • Located at the end of the book. (Not all book have bibliographies.) This tool will help you locate the sources the author used to prove his/her point. Look up these resources for more useful information. 
  • Index
    • Located at the very end of a book. (Again, not all books include an index.) Look for your topic/keywords in the index. This will guide you to the sections of the book which will be most useful. 

Use the AU Catalog, the OhioLINK Catalog, or OneSearch to find books and E-books. Remember to write the call number down for print books! If you need assistance, contact your reference librarian: in-person, by phone, by text, through chat, or through email. 



Ashland University Library Catalog

This library catalog is a great place to start your search for resources. It will help you find books and E-books.


AU Catalog

  • Remember to use keywords instead of whole sentences when searching.

  • When searching by author, remember to use the format Last Name, First Name. 

  • Subject searches use specific phrasing.

    • Subject Search = Womens Rights United States

    • Subject Search = women's rights in the US 

OhioLINK Catalog

OhioLINK provides a shared catalog displaying information for items owned by the 120 member libraries. It lists over 46 million items, including books, periodicals, maps, music scores and audiovisual materials from University, Law, and Medical libraries. Items can be requested online and picked up at any OhioLINK member library. - OhioLINK Resources


OhioLINK Catalog

Your Librarian

Carrie Halquist's picture
Carrie Halquist
Ashland University Library
509 College Ave
Ashland, OH
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