We do not want to exaggerate, but sometimes students forget that they have libraries in their study houses that may have the books they need to consult for their theses. With the overwhelming advance of the Internet, a bookshelf full of books may seem like a thing of the past. However, libraries are still there to help us and safeguard a patrimonial and cultural knowledge that should not go unnoticed.
It would be worth asking ourselves how many times we look for a material in digital before a physical copy. That could tell us a lot about our reading habits. However, we must bear in mind that not all books, magazines, documents … are digitized.
It depends on the knowledge or appreciation you have of a work. Although it is possible to find works with more than two millennia old, the same does not happen with one that was edited just five years ago, not to mention the most current ones.
Of course, how up-to-date the library is or will not be decisive, but the important thing is not to dismiss it as an excellent option to find sources of information for our thesis.
WHERE TO BEGIN?
You may have a subject for your thesis, but you still do not have a bibliography to advance in the process of your research. We can enter a library with an idea and leave with a specific work topic and support material.
Large libraries, in general, are organized by areas of knowledge. Upon entering we will find a room of natural sciences, one of social sciences, medicine, humanities and so on.
Next, we have to evaluate the library catalog. This will surely be distributed in such a way as to facilitate the search of the users. The most recommendable thing is to start the revision by subject, because by author it is done when you know exactly what you are going to look for. Although, it could be the case that the student knows the writer but not the name of his work and vice versa.
When we search by subject area, we must use the keywords that enclose the idea or research topic. For example, if our intention is to study “the process of creation and composition of books in the Middle Ages”, placing a sentence like that in the catalog search engine, may not give us any results. Therefore, we must deal with key words such as: “books in the Middle Ages”, “medieval book market”, history of the book “or” history of the edition “. Now, if the student has prior knowledge, even if it is superficial, he can use more specific terms: “illuminated books” or “medieval miniatures”.
In principle, this mechanism can be enough to find what we need. However, some libraries have more complex catalogs, of several subdivisions by authors and subjects. Magazines and other periodicals could be in a separate catalog, in separate rooms or building. In such a way that, before searching, it is important to learn about the functioning of the library.
THE BIBLIOGRAPHIC REPERTORIES
Some libraries have manuals or journals that contain the most recent information on the most relevant acquisitions or publications by subject. These materials serve to be attentive to the news. Also, we can build our first bibliography from these repertoires.
In the first exploratory search in the library you will not read all the materials you get at once. You must concentrate your efforts on putting together a first draft of references. Check the index of the books or magazines that you think you can use and review their own bibliographies. Thus, you will be able to notice which sources are common to all the results and, in this way, to come up with obligatory reference texts, classic in the matter and the subject to be developed.
Copy all the reference lists. In addition, you can prepare bibliographic records to have at hand the data of the materials when you need to consult them.
If yours are not the cards, you can always photocopy the bibliographies and archive those materials to keep an appropriate record.