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Library Research at CTU: Home

Reference Help

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Deb Winarski
Paul Bechtold Library
5416 S. Cornell Ave.
Chicago, IL
5th Floor

Steps to Effective Library Research

See the tabs above for details on these steps.

  • Use Reference Sources for Background and Context on a Topic
    Find articles that summarize the topic, explain key concepts, define terminology and much more
  • Finding Books
    Find items held at CTU (books, videos, journal holdings, etc.)
  • Finding Articles
    Find articles, essays, and book chapters
  • Requesting Items not available at CTU
    I-Share and Interlibrary Loan
  • Evaluating Your sources
    Some tips on how to evaluate the sources you've found
  • Citing Your Sources
    Guides and resources for preparing your bibliography
  • Getting Help

Once you have selected your topic, find and read articles in subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks. These articles will help you understand the context (historical, cultural, disciplinary) of your topic. They are the foundation supporting further research. The most common background sources are subject encyclopedias and dictionaries from print and online reference collections. Class readings also provide definitions of terms and background information.

Finding Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Use the Advanced search in the catalog. Enter the word encyclopedia (or dictionary) on the first line and then change "All Fields" to Title. On the second line, enter the area of study related to your topic.








Explore the Online Encyclopedias and Dictionaries Below

Tip: Exploit Bibliographies

  • Read the background information and note any useful sources (books, journals, magazines, etc.) listed in the bibliography at the end of the encyclopedia article or dictionary entry. The sources cited in the bibliography are good starting points for further research.

  • Look up these sources in catalogs and periodical databases. Check the subject headings listed in the subject field of the online record for these books and articles. Then do subject searches using those subject headings to locate additional titles.

  • Remember that many of the books and articles you find will themselves have bibliographies. Check these bibliographies for additional useful resources for your research.

By using this technique of routinely following up on sources cited in bibliographies, you can generate a surprisingly large number of books and articles on your topic in a relatively short time.

Search the Bechtold Library Catalog

Find the locations and call numbers of hundreds of thousands of books and periodicals available on campus.

Library of Congress Call Numbers

We use Library of Congress call numbers to shelve our books and bound periodicals. For a brief introduction, ask at the desk for our Library of Congress Classification handout or see the Library of Congress Classification Outline.

To find books outside CTU, use I-Share or OCLC WorldCat.

I-Share is the combined online catalogs of the ninety-one members of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI). I-Share books are delivered to the Bechtold Library and you are notified by e-mail when they're ready to be picked up. Most arrive within five business days. 

OCLC WorldCat is the combined online catalogs of tens of thousands of libraries around the world. You can request books in WorldCat that are not available at CTU or through I-Share by using our free interlibrary loan service

Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS) Member Catalogs

Your registered CTU identification card combined with an ACTS card (available in the Library at the front desk) enables you to check out books from any ACTS school by going there yourself. Check their locations and hours, and be sure to bring a state-issued identification card (like a driver's license) on your first visit. 

Libraries at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago McCormick Theological Seminary, North Park Theological Seminary, Meadville Lombard Theological School, Northern Seminary, Northern Seminary, Trinity International University, and the University of St. Mary of the Lake are ACTS schools that are also members of CARLI. Their collections can be searched through the I-Share Catalog. 

Catalogs for the ACTS school libraries not available through I-Share are:

Chicago Theological Seminary :  Lapp Learning Commons

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary : The Styberg Library

Loyola University Libraries : Cudahy and Lewis Libraries

Finally, CTU card holders may borrow from the University of Chicago Libraries. Visit the ID & Privileges Office at Regenstein Library to register.  

University of Chicago Library Catalog

What Are Periodicals?

Periodicals are continuing publications such as journals, newspapers, or magazines.
They are issued regularly (daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly).

The Bechtold Library Catalog includes records for all the periodicals which are received in physical form and a selection of some (but not all) periodicals held electronically.

The Library Catalog does not include information on individual articles in periodicals. To find individual periodical articles by subject, article author, or article title, use periodical databases.


Finding a Periodical When You Know the Title

When you know the periodical title (The Bible Today, Theological Studies, International Journal of Islamic Thought) search the Bechtold Library Catalog by journal title to find print journals.

  1. Choose "Journal Title" in the drop-down menu to the right of the search box, click in the search box, type in the title of the periodical in the search box, and press <enter>. Don't use the abbreviated titles that are often used in periodical indexes; remember to omit "a," "an" or "the" when you type in the periodical title.
  2. If you see the title you want in the results list, click the title for details on the issues held and their location.
  3. Current periodicals are on (and under) the shelves around the reading area at the south end of the library. If you see a call number in the catalog record, it means the issue is bound and shelved by call number in the periodicals stacks (next to the reference section).

Search the Publications tool in EBSCO Discovery Service to find electronic journals.

The journals listed within the Publications tool are available in full text for at least part of their publication run. If the date of the issue you seek is not included in CTU's holdings, you can check for the title in print (see above) or submit an Interlibrary Loan Request.

What is a Scholarly Journal?

Scholarly journals are also called academic, peer-reviewed, or refereed journals.
Strictly speaking, peer-reviewed (also called refereed) journals refer only to those scholarly journals that submit articles to several other scholars, experts, or academics (peers) in the field for review and comment. These reviewers must agree that the article represents properly conducted original research or writing before it can be published.

What to look for:

  • Scholarly journal articles often have an abstract, a descriptive summary of the article contents, before the main text of the article.
  • Scholarly journals generally have a sober, serious look. They often contain many graphs and charts but few glossy pages or exciting pictures.
  • Scholarly journals always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies. These bibliographies are generally lengthy and cite other scholarly writings.
  • Articles are written by a scholar in the field or by someone who has done research in the field. The affiliations of the authors are listed, usually at the bottom of the first page or at the end of the article--universities, research institutions, think tanks, and the like.
  • The language of scholarly journals is that of the discipline covered. It assumes some technical background on the part of the reader.
  • The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report on original research or experimentation in order to make such information available to the rest of the scholarly world.
  • Many scholarly journals, though by no means all, are published by a specific professional organization.

Electronic Databases Commonly provide search limiters to help when you want to restrict a search to a scholarly journal. For instance, EBSCO databases have a checkbox on the left side of each result screens that lets you limit your results to only "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals"





How to Evaluate the Information Sources You Find

Evaluating the authority, usefulness, and reliability of the information you find is a crucial step in the process of library research. The questions you ask about books, periodical articles, multimedia titles, or Web pages are similar whether you're looking at a citation to the item, a physical item in hand, or an electronic version on a computer.


All Sources

Critically Analyzing Information Sources in a guide from Cornell University Library that lists some of the questions you should ask when you consider the appropriateness of a particular book, article, media resource, or Web site for your research.


Evaluating Books

Use book reviews to gather critical information about books. Some quick ways to access them online:

  • Academic Search Complete (EBSCO)
  • Atla Religion Database
  • Amazon


Evaluating Articles

  • See the "Find Articles" tab above to learn how to recognize whether a periodical is a "scholarly" (i.e. peer reviewed) title.
  • Titles that are not peer reviewed are still good candidates for your research, depending on the topic and your specific needs. Use the same criteria that you would when evaluating a web site (see below)


Evaluating Web Sites

Evaluating Web Pages: Questions to Ask & Strategies for Getting the Answers is an excellent guide from UC Berkeley.


Evaluating Data Sources

"Become Data Literate in 3 Simple Steps" shows how to evaluate the numbers used in articles, books, and the media.

(Source: Understanding Data, part of The Data Journalism Handbook, Version 1.0 beta online)


Cite Your Sources Using a Standard Format or Style

Citing or documenting the sources used in your research serves two purposes, it gives proper credit to the authors of the materials used, and it allows those who are reading your work to learn more by reading the sources that you have listed as references. Cite when you are including:

  • Direct Quotes
  • Paraphrase 
  • Summary 
  • Facts, Data
  • Anytime anything originated outside of your own skull!

When in doubt, cite!

Citation: A (Very) Brief Introduction
Created by North Carolina State University Library:

Understanding Plagiarism

Failure to properly cite sources for your paper (whether intentionally or unintentionally) is plagiarism. See this Understanding Plagiarism tutorial from the University of Connecticut Library to check your knowledge of what needs to be cited.

When You're Ready to Create Citations

The Chicago/ Turabian citation style is the standard used at CTU. You can find an overview of it at the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).

You can find examples of how to cite journal articles, books, online newspapers, websites, primary sources, edited works, chapters, and much more (for both notes and bibliographies) at the Ashford University Writing Center guide.

Use the information below to find the Chicago Manual of Style Online (CTU users only) or in the Library.


Barcode Number
The 14-digit number appearing beneath the barcode found in the beginning or end papers of a book. Barcode numbers are used to record checking out, returning, and renewing library books and other items (DVDs, etc.).

Circulation Desk
A service desk where books and other materials are loaned or charged out to library users. Library materials which do not circulate (reference books and some periodicals, for example) can be used within the library.

Interlibrary Loan Services
Interlibrary lending and borrowing services (ILL or ILS) provide access to materials (journal, newspaper, or magazine articles; books; video; dissertations, etc.) that cannot be found in the CTU system. To borrow such materials, fill out the Interlibrary Loan Request form.

Library users may place recalls on books charged out to other people. The people to whom the materials are charged are notified by email that another library user wants the book. Recalled books must be returned within a short period of time.

An extension of the loan period for charged library materials. Renewals may be handled in person at the circulation desk, by phone, or by logging into your account in the catalog.

Reserve Reading
A selection of specific books, periodical articles, and other materials which faculty have indicated that students must read or view for a particular course. These materials are kept together in one area of the library and circulate for a short period of time within the library only.


A one-paragraph description, often written by the author(s), at the beginning of a journal article or other document. Compare with Annotation.

Annotation, Annotated Bibliography
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited. 

A bibliography is a list of citations for books, periodical articles, articles in books, theses, and other materials. Published bibliographies on specific subjects are often found at the end of articles and entries in reference books. The presence of a bibliography is one of the signs of a work of scholarship as opposed to a popular work, for example.

Information which fully identifies a publication: a complete citation usually includes author, title, name of journal (if the citation is to an article) or publisher and place of publication (if to a book), and date. Often pages, volume numbers, and other information are included in a citation. Citations to online sources may contain URLs.

Periodical Indexes, Abstracts, and Databases
Periodical indexes are searchable databases of articles which have appeared in journals, magazines, or newspapers. They cite the author, title, name of periodical, volume, pages and date of publication. They often include abstracts--brief summaries of the content of the article--and links to the full text of the article online. These online database are available in the in the A-Z list of Databases. Some specialized indexes that are not online are available in the library's reference collections in print.

Reference Collection
A selection of online and printed library materials used by reference librarians to help people find information or to do research. Reference collections contain many sources of information, such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs, directories, or statistical compilations. They may also have bibliographies, indexes, and abstracts. Printed reference materials do not leave the library. 

Reference Librarian
Reference librarians are specialists in the field of information retrieval. Generally they have a Masters degree in library and information science, and many have other graduate degrees as well. They are available at reference desks, via e-mail, and on the phone to help you find the information you are looking for.

Locating Materials

Call Numbers
Each item in a library collection is classified in a subject area by assigning it a call number. These call numbers are placed on the spine of the book or bound journal. These books or bound journals are shelved by these call numbers in the stacks. The call numbers are entered in the records in the Library Catalog so you can locate the book on the shelf. At CTU we use Library of Congress call numbers, a combination of letters and numbers (e.g., PQ 1756 .I15 1990).

Card Catalog
Card catalogs are pieces of furniture containing drawers filled with cards that provide information about materials in the collection. At CTU, card catalogs have been replaced by the online Catalog.

Cross Reference
A term used in catalogs, thesauruses, reference books, and indexes to lead you from one form of entry to another (e.g., American poets see Poets--American).

Ebooks or electronic books are digitized versions of books available online. 

Ejournals are digitized versions of journal articles available online. 

Library web site
An online site that provides access to a large number of library resources (databases, journals, and reference materials, for example), library services, and information about the Bechtold Library.

The stacks are the part of the library which houses the physical collection. Books, periodicals, and disks (CD-ROMs, DVDs) are arranged on shelves in the stacks.

Subject Headings
Words or phrases assigned to books and articles and used to index these items by topic. Determining the subject  headings and descriptors used by a specific database or catalog can be an important part of effective research. 

A list of all the subject headings or descriptors used in a particular database, catalog, or index. The thesaurus for our Catalog is called Library of Congress Subject Headings.

Kinds of Materials

Films, tapes, disks and other audio-visual materials that require the use of special listening or viewing equipment.

Documents, often ones that are bulky or liable to deteriorate rapidly, which have been photographed and reduced in size to preserve them and to reduce the storage space required. Common formats for microforms are microfilm, microfiche, and microcard (micro-opaque). College catalogs, telephone books, newspapers, magazines, and government documents are also commonly available in microform formats.

Books. They may be in print format or online--ebooks. 

Publications which are issued at least twice a year, including journals, magazines, and newspapers. Current periodicals are those which have recently arrived and are usually kept in loose binders, or on open shelves. Bound periodicals are back issues which have been sent to the bindery, covered with a binding, and placed in the stacks. 

Publications that appear more or less regularly--daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, or biennally, for example. Newspapers, journals, magazines, and almanacs are all examples of serials.

Database Terms: Online Indexes and Catalogs

Accession Number
A unique number or combination of letters and numbers assigned to each record in a database. OCLC WorldCat's accession number, listed near the bottom of each record, uniquely identifies each item.

Boolean Searching
see Operators (below)

Compact Disk-Read Only Memory. A computer-based technique for storing and reading information from a compact disk using a Compact Disk player and a personal computer. Also used extensively for music.

A collection of information arranged into individual records to be searched by computer.

Digital Video Disk. A computer-based technique for storing and reading information from a laser disk using a DVD player and a personal computer. Also used extensively for showing movies using a DVD player hooked up to a televsion.

See Record (below)

A part of a record used for a particular category of data. For instance, the title (ti) field displays the title for each record in the database. Some of the other fields names are author (au), journal (jn) and abstract (ab). Our catalog contains additional fields that give the description, call number, location, holdings, and circulation status of each item at CTU.

A set of fields in the catalog in serial (newspaper, journal, or magazine) records that shows exactly which years and volumes of that serial are available at CTU. Records for multi-volume books also contain a holdings field.

Keyword Searching
Searching for the occurrence of a word within or across many fields in a database. The All Fields search in our Catalog is based on keyword searching.

Choices and commands that are displayed on the screen and can be selected by the user.

Words such as AND, OR, and NOT that are used to combine search terms to broaden or narrow the results of a keyword search. Combining terms using operators is sometimes called Boolean searching.

A collection of related data, arranged in fields and treated as a unit. The data for each article in an online database makes up a record. The complete information for each item in our catalog is also a record.

Truncation and Wildcard Searching
Truncation is typing a special symbol at the end of a word to retrieve all possible endings of that word. Wildcards add the possibility of searching for variant letters or spellings within a word (wom?n retrieves woman and women, for instance). 

This guide adapted from content provided by Research & Learning Services, Olin Library, Cornell University Library (Ithaca, NY, USA) except for content on the Cite Sources tab, which was adapted from the University of Connecticut's "Understand Citations" guide. 

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