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#1 Recommended Guide: Library Research 101 (Great for First Year Seminars)


This research guide will provide you with an overview of how to do library research.  From finding books and articles to citing sources, it's your one-stop-shop for research tips and tricks.  If you have any questions, please Ask a Librarian

Choosing a Topic

nullChoosing a research topic can be challenging.  Here are some tips:

  • Brainstorm...write down your ideas.
  • Don't bore yourself!  Choose a topic that you are interested in. 
  • Narrow your topic, don't choose something too general.
    • If your topic is too broad, you will find too much information making it difficult to focus.
    • Do a bit of background research with a simple internet or Wikipedia search.  This can help you choose and limit the scope of your topic. 
  • Consult interactive/browsable subject lists in various databases.
  • Remember that your topic will evolve as you complete your research, embrace this fluidity.

Read more:  Purdue OWL's Choosing a Topic

Why Use Reference Materials?

•  for a quick overview of a topic

•  to develop vocabulary or keywords for searching

•  for suggestions of additional sources

Recommended Reference Databases

What about Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is a general encyclopedia that is a good place to begin research. It is useful for learning the basics of a topic and finding links to outside references which may provide deeper information, but NOT for citing in a research paper.

Finding Books and Media is as Easy as 1, 2, 3!

null1.  Start by using LibrarySearch to find books, eBooks, videos/DVDs, journals, newspapers, and other materials owned by Albion College Library. Use the filters on the right to refine your search.  If you find what you are looking for, you are done!  If not, continue to step 2.

Interlibrary Loan

2.  MeLCat lets Albion College students, faculty, and staff borrow physical materials from libraries across Michigan. If we don’t have what you’re looking for, you can directly request physical materials through MeLCat. We will contact you as soon as your materials are delivered. There is no charge for this service.  If you found what you are looking for, you are done!  If not, continue to step 3.

3Rapido allows for the efficient exchange of resources from throughout the world. With over 500 member libraries, Rapido has an impressive fulfillment rate of 95% and an average turnaround time of 11.2 hours for electronic articles and book chapter requests. Physical resources not available via MeLCat may be available through Rapido.

Follow these instructions to place an interlibrary loan request. 

About Call Numbers

Library Map

Where to Find Materials in the Library


Call Number/Location/Item Description Location
A – E Mudd 3
F – N Mudd 1
P Tiers 1, 2, & 3 (Stockwell)
Q – Z Stockwell 110
Juvenile Tier 3 (Stockwell)
DVDs Mudd 1
Music CDs Mudd 1
Bound Journals Tiers 4 & 6 (Stockwell)
Current Journals Main floor of Stockwell near the cafe
Rare Books Mudd 3 Rare/Archives
Storage Mudd Attic (ask staff for assistance)

Where to Start

  • LibrarySearch is a great place to start your research.  It's a one-stop-shop for searching all of Albion College Library's resources.  It includes access to the library's catalog of physical holdings, electronic resources in subscribed databases, and open access articles outside of our collection.  What are you waiting for?  Give it a try.
  • Multidisciplinary databases are helpful for finding a wide variety of information on a topic.  General databases typically include articles from many disciplines, but don't cover any discipline as comprehensively as a subject-specific database.  Articles retrieved from general databases may include citations for more specific articles that can be retrieved from subject-specific databases (or directly from journals using Journals A-Z).
  • Subject-specific databases provide content related to a particular discipline; these tools typically provide comprehensive coverage of scholarly literature in a defined field.  Subject-specific databases are useful for finding information about obscure or lesser-studied topics.

Identifying Articles

What is lay or popular literature?

Popular Literature

Layman- is a person who does not belong to a particular profession or who is not expert in some field.

Lay literature is written for the non-expert, or non-professional.


  • Newspaper article
  • Article from a magazine
  • Article from most websites 

What is professional/trade literature?

Trade Journals

Professional literature is written for professionals in a field.


  • Literature put out by professional societies
  • Government reports
  • Trade journals
  • Publications by companies 

What is scholarly literature?

Scholarly Journals

Scholarly literature is written for experts and researchers.

  • Heavily cited in the form of either footnotes or bibliographies
  • Often peer-reviewed
  • Organization based on Scientific Method
  • Format designed to communicate research results to others in field
  • Standard format allows easy comparison

Highly Recommended Multidisciplinary Databases

  • ProQuest Central
    ProQuest Central is a multidisciplinary database which provides access to millions of full-text articles from thousands of scholarly journals.
    JSTOR features full-text search of scholarly journals in many disciplines, going back to the first volume of each journal it carries.

Click here for a comprehensive list of multidisciplinary databases.

When to Use Interlibrary Loan

If you have exhausted all of the Library resources and cannot access the full-text of the desired article, you may request it from another library using Rapido, which is integrated into LibrarySearch. Rapido allows for the efficient exchange of electronic resources from throughout the world. With over 500 member libraries, Rapido has an impressive fulfillment rate of 95% and an average turnaround time of 11.2 hours for electronic articles and book chapter requests. Follow the instructions here under the section, "For electronic items (book chapters and articles) and Books, DVDs or CDs not available through MeLCat." If you need help placing a request, please consult a Library staff member or email

Evaluating Resources

nullJust how good is that resource? Give it the CRAP test! 

The CRAP test offers researchers a system to evaluate the validity of a source using the following:

  • Currency
  • Reliability
  • Authority
  • Purpose/Point of View

CRAP Test Worksheet
Use this helpful worksheet from Ohio University Libraries to evaluate your resources.

Fake News How to identify and avoid fake news
Resource developed by Indiana University East.

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)

Purdue OWLIt’s only right if you cite:  Having trouble creating citations?  Don’t scowl, use the OWL!

Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab,,  contains information on APA, MLA, and Chicago Manual styles.  Learn how to format your paper, do in-text citations, create reference citations, and more!  WHOOOOOO knew?!?

Online Citation Managers

  • EndNote Basic
    EndNote Basic is a free, limited online version of EndNote is perfect when you're new to research and writing.
  • Mendeley
    Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network. Make your own fully-searchable library in seconds, cite as you write, and read and annotate your PDFs on any device.  
    (Requires free software download)
  • Zotero
    Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.  
    (Requires free software download)

Citation Tools in Library Databases

What's an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

MLA Annotated Bibliography Format Example:


The Writing Center

The Writing Center is located on the upper level of Stockwell.  From the main entrance of the library, go up the stairs and turn left.  The Writing Center is a teaching and learning workplace that provides both appointment and drop-in writing consulting.  For more information, email

Off Campus Access

All of the Library's subscription online resources are available to Albion College faculty, staff, and students from off-campus.  When accessing resources from off-campus, you will be prompted to authenticate with your Albion College network username and password*:
Screenshot of off-campus access authentication web page.

Once you have authenticated, all resources will be available to you throughout your session in the browser.  

It is possible the page may time out due to high traffic.  If so, try clicking the login button again or refreshing. 

*If you do not know your Albion College network password, you can reset it following the instructions here: (enter your email address, i.e.,, and follow the on-screen instructions). If you are having trouble resetting your password, contact the IT help desk at 517-629-0479 or