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The Undergraduate's Guide to the Yale Library System: Created by Students for Students: Research Tips

Starr Reading Room

Researching a Topic in Four Easy Steps

Visit this helpful guide to help you start researching your topic! Below is an abridged version of the guide.

Step 1: Define your topic
Basic reference tools like encyclopedias, bibliographies, and the Subject Guides developed by Yale librarians can help you define the parameters of your topic.
Step 1a: Defining your topic -- Use the Subject Guides that have been developed by Yale librarians
Step 1b: Defining your topic -- Reference Sources can help you define your topic. Encyclopedias and dictionaries, bibliographies, and other general reference sources exist for nearly every imaginable subject. They provide concise overviews of various topics and point to relevant documentation.
Step 2: Find out what has already been written on your topic
             Once you have chosen a topic, the next step is to search the literature to see what has already been written. Look
             first for books and journal articles.
Step 3: Consider other types of materials that might be relevant to your research
For more thorough research, go beyond books and articles to identify information in other formats.
Step 3a:Primary Sources
Step 3b: Manuscript and Archival Materials
Step 3c: Internet Resources (websites, electronic texts, information about people and institutions, and discussion groups)
Step 3d: Book Reviews
Step 3e: Dissertations and Theses
Step 3f:  Statistics
Step 3g: Microforms
Step 3h: Pamphlets
Step 3i:  Maps 
Step 3j: Music Scores 
Step 3l: Video Recordings
Step 4: Locating materials at Yale and beyond
Choose the "Locating Yale resources" link below for tips on finding material in the Yale libraries. For a major research project, it will often be necessary to locate materials that Yale doesn't own. Use the remaining links below to identify and locate materials and collections outside of Yale.
Step 4a: Yale Determining the location of materials at Yale:Records in Orbis indicate which library at Yale holds the item in question.
Step 4b: Interlibrary Loan If the item you want is not available at Yale, don't despair.
Step 4c: Other Online Catalogs Various online catalogs can help you identify materials not held at Yale. 
Step 4d: The National Union Catalog Many materials held by U.S. libraries still do not appear in any online catalog. The multi-volume National Union Catalog published by the Library of Congress is an excellent source for tracking down these items.
Step 4e: Dissertations - Obtaining Copies of Dissertations: Some Common Questions.
Step 4f:  Archival Collections You may need to identify archival collections beyond Yale when doing primary source research.
Step 4g: Union List of Serials/ New Serial Titles The Union List of Serials is a five volume set that provides the location of 157,000 journals in 956 United States and Canadian libraries as of 1966. New Serial Titles supplements and updates the original Union List. It is issued monthly, with cumulations.

Subject Guides

This website is a subject guide! Subject guides are websites prepared by Yale staff that can help students navigate research in certain majors or programs - they feature helpful databases and and resources to help guide research on a particular topic. Please visit the complete list of Yale subject guides for more information.

For help on researching something within your specific major or discipline, find your subject specialist in this directory.

Below is an example of the library guide website (simply click on the plus sign symbol to view library guides on the subject).

Finding Aids

Finding Aids are inventories created by library staff of archival and manuscript collections (photographs, diaries, letters, and other unpublished materials) the library has, including the holdings of Manuscripts & Archives, Beinecke, the Yale Center for British Art and many more. Access the Finding Aid Database here.

Step #1: Search the finding aid database by subject.

Step # 2: Find the relevant collection and open it by clicking on the collection title.

Step #3: After you find and open the relevant collection, scroll down to the Overview subsection "View/Search" and click the "full HTML" link. This expands the finding aid and offers descriptions of particular items in the collection sorted by box. 

Step #4: If you find a relevant item and would like to view it, click the "Request Box #" link left of the descriptions. It will open a new page.

Step #5:  Fill out the request form, where you can describe the box you want and schedule the date you would like to come in to the reading room to view the item (most items in the Beinecke, etc. are non-circulating). When you have submitted the form, you will be given a transaction number. You can order up to ten items at a time.

Below is an example request:


Aside from the vast number of physical volumes Yale owns, the library also has e-Books students can check out. You can filter Orbis searches for online books. Simply click on the “quick limits” dropdown menu and select “online books and serials” (Note: you can only use this filters if you are searching by “keyword” or “title”).

There are many services Yale uses for eBooks, among them Overdrive and Ebrary. Some websites only allow you to view the eBook online. For those websites that allow you to "check out" (download) the eBook for a limited time period, Adobe Digital Editions is a helpful reading app you can download for free here.


Images: Digital Collections

Many of the images Yale owns are digitazed and easily searchable - visit the Digital Collections page. For access to more digital collections, browse the Digital Collections list.

Articles, Databases & Online Journals/Newspapers

If you know the name of the database you are looking for (such as ProQuest or Latin American Women Writers), please look up the database on this website.

To look up articles on a specific subject, please visit Articles+.

To access online journals and newspapers and other online resources, please visit this website.

To search for more online materials, such as books, videos, dissertations, etc., use QuickSearch. If you have any feedback about our QuickSearch service, please fill out this form.