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Study of Religion

UC Library Search

How to Find and Evaluate Books

The surest way to find books is to search the online catalogs listed in the side box. Here are some other tips for locating and evaluating books:

Tips for General Book Searching

When searching for books, there are a few useful starting strategies to keep in mind:

  • Searching a library catalog is different from searching Google or full text databases. The data provided is usually quite basic, including title, author, subject, and sometimes table of contents. You may need to broaden your search or try alternate keywords before finding books on a particular topic.
  • Most library catalogs do not contain articles or article indexing. Instead, they will tell you if the library has a subscription to a specific journal or magazine, and if this includes any electronic access. Use an article database to find specific journal articles.
  • If you already have a relevant book or article in hand, use its bibliography to find other sources on the same topic.
  • Do a subject word (not just a keyword) search in a catalog. The Research Library has print copies of Library of Congress subject headings available, and advanced researchers may also want to consult the LC Authorities catalog to locate subject headings on different topics.
  • Due to major space restrictions in the Library, note that some materials may be located at the Southern Regional Library Facility, or SRLF. These can usually be requested via the UCLA Library Catalog, and are usually available for pickup within 48 hours at one of the UCLA Libraries.

What about Google Book Search?

Though still in beta, Google Book Search can be a useful tool for discovering books. However, keep these suggestions in mind for making the most of your Google book searching:

  • Use the advanced search screen so that you can do more targeted searches. For example, do a subject search rather than a keyword search if you are looking for literature or criticism in a particular period or genre (e.g., "medieval literature).
  • Remember that Google is a commercial site that is designed to get you to buy things.  Be sure to use the "Find it in a library" link to see if we have it here at UCLA.
  • Keep in mind that not everything is in Google Book Search, so don't assume that if a book is not there that it doesn't exist. Use Google in addition to library catalogs and databases, not instead of them.