Skip to Main Content

The Research Process

Quick Tip

Find a book on your topic, but afraid it's outdated? Search SUMMON or the library databases using the book's author to see if they have published any recent articles related to the same topic.

When to Use a Book

When to use a book:

  • when looking for lots of information or ideas on a topic
  • to put your topic in context with other important issues
  • to find historical information
  • to find summaries of research to support an argument
  • to get a broad overview on a subject, as opposed to something very specific

Books can provide you with important background information for a research assignment. They might be popular or scholarly, and might be influenced by the author's point of view, so always use your critical thinking skills to evaluate books, just as you would any other source.

Bear in mind that the lengthy publication cycle of a book can take 6 months to many years, given the time it takes to research, write, edit, publish, print and deliver books, so don't expect a book to cover the most recent ideas or events. If you need very recent information, look for articles and information on the Web.

Library Catalog

Search the online catalog for books, DVDs, e-books, audio books, etc.

When searching, use more general search terms than you would when searching a database of journal articles.

When you find an item that looks useful, check the subject headings - you can click on them to see similar items.  Also, it may be useful to click on the call number in the record. This allows you to virtually browse the titles as though you were standing in the stacks, except you'll also see any e-books in the collection. 

Can't find the specific book you are looking for? Request a book using Interlibrary Loan and have it in 1-2 weeks!

Types of Books


According to the Dictionary of Library and Information Science, a monograph is "a relatively short book or treatise on a single subject, complete in one physical piece, usually written by a specialist in the field.

Currency: Look at bibliography and the publication of the most recent item to gage currency.

Scope: Specific field of study.

Type of information: Detailed & scholarly.

Popular Nonfiction Book

A piece of prose literary work that depicts actual people, places, events and as they exist or have existed. These books are open to creative interpretation and may include opinion.

Currency: Varies widely. Check references if available.

Scope: Varies widely, but usually centers around a person, place, event, or theme.

Type of information: Non-scholarly information and opinion.


A book intended for students enrolled in a specific course of study and preparing for examination on a specific subject within an academic field.

Currency: The latest edition should be current up to the year.

Scope: A specific subject within an academic field of study.

Type of information: Includes both breadth and depth on a subject necessary for basic understanding.