Books can provide a comprehensive overview of your topic by pointing you towards key ideas, arguments, and thinkers. Scan the index or the table of contents to find the most relevant chapter. Use the bibliography for leads.
Searching keywords and topical phrases in Google Books often yields page previews that allow you to read your keywords in context. This gives you a more definite sense of a book's relevance to your project. Use this technique to efficiently skim books or to expand your working bibliography.
You can also search the full text of Coates Library's ebooks this way, and then download the book section you need. For help using our ebook collection, see the Tips and Tools tab of this guide.
Use subject headings to create narrowly tailored search queries.
Subject headings constitute a controlled vocabulary that can help you find sources by their primary subjects. The Library of Congress maintains this vocabulary making it standard across many different databases and catalogs.
For example, imagine you're developing a topic on theme parks. Searching that term in LC's subject heading thesaurus reveals the preferred subject heading, "amusement parks." Using the advanced search interface in a given database, you can change the search field from keyword to subject as pictured below. Searching "amusement parks" in the subject field returns all results tagged with that heading. Now cross-reference your subject search with keywords specific to your interest in amusement parks, such as the way they're marketed.
Caveat searcher! Narrow queries of this kind may inadvertently filter relevant results. It's often best to begin with broad, keyword-based searches, before moving to subject headings.