Skip to Main Content

Research Basics Tutorial: Finding Books & Articles

How do I find a call number on the shelf?

Follow these steps when you're looking for a book on the shelf.

  1. Find the correct letter combination. L comes before LA on the shelves.
  2. Look for the number - be sure to look for the whole number. 19 comes before 23 and 23 comes before 2340 (two thousand three hundred forty).
  3. In the last line, first locate the letter and then the decimal. .M371 will come before .M38

This image shows the order in which some sample call numbers would appear: L 19. M322, LA 23. M38, LA 2340. M371, LA 2340. M38

What are the characteristics of a scholarly publication in the digital age?

Web publishing has complicated the identification of scholarly communications. Traditional cues such as publisher, press, and durability are no longer constant in the world of digital, scholarly communications. Findings from Leah Halliday’s work with scholars, librarians, and researchers has identified three characteristics:


  • Scholarly Publications, such as articles and books, should not be changed after digital distribution.  
  • Different versions should be clearly identified so as to alert the community to changes.
  • To satisfy all potential interest, trustworthiness should be based on 'institutionalised' measures such as peer review and this process should be evident to the community.
  • Each publication should have at least one identifiable author.


  • The potential audience must be made aware that the publication exists. Libraries are great partners for publicity.
  • The publication should have metadata containing a minimum set of information, preferably including information about all versions. Metadata will enable others to find it.


  • The author must intend that the publication be made publicly available in a durable form over the long term.
  • The publication must be durably recorded on some medium.
  • The publication must be reliably accessible and retrievable over time. Supporting institutions have a responsibility to support long-term accessibility.
  • There should be a commitment not to withdraw the publication by the author(s).
  • The publication must be publicly available, i.e. available to any member of the public on demand as of right, whether for payment of a fee or not.
  • The publication should have stable identifiers.

Works Cited

Halliday, L. (2001). Scholarly communication, scholarly publication and the status of emerging formats.Information Research, 6(4). Retrieved from: Available at:

When you search a database you may learn something about the topic, just from the way the database organizes your search results. Databases are enriched with meta-data-- information about the information-- that makes searching more sensitive, but can also guide you to new ways of thinking about the sources you see in your results. Subject headings and other facet systems can also help you learn more about your research topic.

Vocabulary systems, like the Library of Congress Subject Headings in this graphic, guide you to more precise language and subsets of your topic. In this example of a search for Hip-hop, the database gives the user links to search Rap (music) as well as some narrower aspects of Hip-hop.The subject headings are like categories for discovering and searching more precise aspects of the topic.

This screen grab shows some of the subject headings related to hip-hop. For example it a suggested alternative subject heading is "Rap (Music)." There are also more specific subject headings that deal with specific aspects of hip hop. Examples include, "Hip-hop--New York (State)-- New York," "Hip-hop--Political aspects," "Hip-hop-- Religious aspects," "Hip-hop--Social aspects," "Hip-hop--Social aspects--United States," "Hip-hop--Social aspects--Wisconsin--Milwaukee," "Hip-hop--United States," "Hip-hop--United States--History," and "Hip-hop--Wisconsin--Milwaukee."

As you review the results of your search, subject headings and facets prompt you to ask critical questions about the results. What do I want to know about Hip-hop? What are the social aspects? What is meant by the “religious aspects” of Hip-hop?

Large search systems like Avalon use meta-data to describe books, articles and media. Tags are assigned to each source to provide descriptive organization for those sources in the database. When you review your search results you will see various facets that can be used to narrow down the results.

  • Image from Avalon

You can use the facets to ask critical questions about the sources you see in the results. In addition to these basic facets, the database also tags each source with vocabulary terms to help you identify the key concepts in that source. As you review the list of vocabulary terms, ask yourself questions about how you want to work with the results.  What specific topics in the list address your research question? For example, you may wish to explore aspects of Hip-Hop that are connected with Race. While the effect of choosing to include Race in your search results narrows down the number of sources, it also allows you to ask critical questions about the bigger topic of Hip-Hop with Race as the focus of your question.


The contents of the Information Literacy Tutorial may be reused with attribution. Please copy the following into new works based on the Information Literacy Tutorial.