Research Guides

Beyond Wikipedia: Background & Reference Sources

Library Catalogs

Identify Subject Headings

Search Library of Congress Authorities to identify subject terms for more effective searching in library catalogs and databases.

You can also do a keyword search in CUNY's OneSearch to find a book on your topic and then click on the subject headings that index that book to find similar titles.  

Browse the Library Shelves

Use the Library of Congress Classification system to find the call number for your subject area.  Then, browse the general and reference shelves in the library to discover books on your topic. 

Serendipity can lead you to titles you never thought to search for and enhance your research in unexpected ways.

Book Reviews

Please see the separate Book Reviews tab in this guide for tips and resources for finding and writing book reviews.

Google Books

Google Book Search

Books on the Open Web

See the Digitized Texts tab in this guide for links to a few good sources for books online.

Catalog Search Tips

Subdivisions added to LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings) narrow broad topics and make it easier to zero in on relevant sources in a library catalog search.

For example, a search of the LCSH "New York (N.Y.)" in LC Authorities yields dozens of pages of subdivided headings related to NYC. 

The chart below shows just a few of the common subdivisions you can add to a subject to narrow down results in a library catalog search. 

E.g., "New York (N.Y.) -- Social life and customs"

Description and travel

Economic conditions
In literature
Personal narratives
Pictorial works
Politics and government
Social conditions
Social life and customs


(Source:  Oxford Guide to Library Research, 37-52.)