Use Vassar's library catalog to identify what areas of the stacks (aka shelves) have books on your topic. GO TO THE SHELVES AND BROWSE. You will always find a book browsing that gets overlooked just catalog searching.
Most of the sources you need will be published in print, but the catalog also provides access to digital material available through the library.
ALWAYS note subject headings. Let them suggest effective keywords and click on them to navigate through our collection and explore.
A great place to start instead of a keyword search is to look up a known title, either from your syllabus or suggested by your professor. Then click on subject headings for that title to find more books like it.
Library of Congress Subject Headings are assigned to every title (with a few exceptions) in our catalog. Usually more than one subject heading is assigned to each title. Only one determines its call number, but all are helpful tools for navigating the catalog and confirming what the most effective keywords for your topic are. Searching using words from the Subject Heading's controlled vocabulary is a great practice to get in the habit of doing.
Speak the catalog's language - use Subject Heading vocabulary in your keyword searches. Click on Subject Heading links at the bottom of a catalog record to browse the collection for more materials in that subject.
Try these Subject searches:
Always consult the footnotes and bibliographies in secondary sources or reference books. Citations there are your best leads to findng sources for your paper. Exploring other scholars' citations is engaging in the "scholarly conversation" and an important research practice.
Reference books are encyclopedic in scope and length of articles/entries. They provide historical context, confirmation of discrete facts such as dates, and a sense of what background information may be considered "common knowledge". Generally, reference books are not included in your final bibliography.
Some reference books are shelved in the main stacks of the library. Others have a location REFERENCE, which is in room 123.