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HCTC Library Orientation and Research Guide: Find Your Sources

This guide is meant to help HCTC library users locate and use library resources and aid them in their research.


You can FIND sources for your assignments in different places and in different formats.

FIND, in this case, means to locate or search collections of information for relevant articles, books, or videos to your research assignment.

The information format might evolve to fit your need. When making plans for the weekend you might consult:

  • Social media
  • Your friends
  • A local newspaper

When searching for sources of information to use in a research assignment, your instructor might prefer you use:

  • Nonfiction books
  • Library databases
  • TED Talk videos

The way you search these sources of information may also differ from each other. For example navigating Twitter is totally different from trying to find an article on The New York Times website. Access to different sources might also create an additional complication as some content requires you to pay a subscription.

In the Library

FINDING print sources in your college library will likely require you to search the library's online catalog (PRIMO at HCTC Libraries) or to ask library staff for help. This might be different from your experience when FINDING a Twitter post by Bill Nye which you can access from any computer with an internet connection and for free.

In libraries, print materials, DVDs, maps, government documents, and other items are categorized using a complex organizational system. In public libraries you might know this as the Dewey Decimal System. Most academic libraries use the Library of Congress Classification. At HCTC Libraries, you can find the location of different subjects using posters located on the shelves.

When accessing library online resources, the sources are stored in DATABASES and can be retrieved using keywords (simple words or phrases used to index a source or explain its content), search bars, and browse techniques similar to Amazon and Google.


You might initially begin searching for sources for your research assignment online using popular search engines like:

  • Google
  • Bing
  • Duck, Duck, Go

These engines search their indexed collection of websites, not the entire internet, accumulated by electronic code called spiders or crawlers. The way these search engines list and display websites is specific to their algorithm.

You will likely use keywords or natural speech ("What is the weight of a human head?") to search.


You've decided on a topic for your ENG 101 research assignment about the economy of Appalachia.

Your research question is "What are the mental health effects of the collapse of the coal mining industry in southeastern Kentucky counties?"

Determining keywords from your research question can help make your search easier.

Try It!


  1. You can FIND information in the library in print, in online library databases, or online through search engines like Google.
  2. Use keywords (important words and phrases) from your research question to search for information. 

A-Z Databases

Search Primo

Search Strategies Infographic

Search tips for multi-discipline databases and search engines. Keywords are simple words and/or phrases important to the desired topic used to index search results. Boolean operators are a basic search algorithm, or method of data filtering, using and, or, not to create search phrases called queries. For example, the query cats and dogs will return results which contain both terms, instead of one or none. Truncation retrieves variations of the search term. For example, searching farm with a truncation symbol will also search the terms farms, farmer, and farming. Wildcards are used to replace any single character, either inside or the end of a word. For example, searching for colo with a wildcard symbol will search words like color and colon. A thesaurus is a listing of all subject terms in a single database or print document which shows relationships between words like related words, broader or narrower terms. Information retrieved from ProQuest Search Help.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Search the Catalog or one of the many databases for library resources.  You can also browse the shelves for resources.

A Library of Congress call number is read, in order, alphabetically, numerically smallest to largest, alphabetically, numerically smallest to largest, and chronologically. So the number QL 121 .E579 2001 would be found after QL 120 .B2 2000 but before QM 121 .E5 2000. Library of Congress has divided their subjects into twenty-one main subjects which encompass every subject subdivision beneath those primary subjects. The top-level subjects are A-General Works, B-Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, C-Auxiliary Sciences of History, D-World History and History of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, etc., E & F-History of Americas, G-Geography, Anthropology, Recreation, H-Social Sciences, J-Political Science, K-Law, L-Education, M-Music and Books on Music, N-Fine Arts, P-Language and Literature, Q-Science, R-Medicine, S-Agriculture, T-Technology, U-Military Science, V-Naval Science, and Z-Bibliography, Library Science, General Information Sources.