There is an area in a research library called the reference desk where you can find the answers to many of your research questions. The person who helps you with that is the reference librarian.
The reference area is usually located toward the center of the library (as opposed to the circulation area).
Reference librarians can be the answer to your dreams, especially if you feel a little overwhelmed and lost in the rows and rows of books and other items. These librarians know where to locate just about any item you need in the large expanse of a big library, but keep in mind that their job is to point you to the right resource, and not to go find the answers for you!
So what exactly can they do for you? The librarian may direct you to a set of computers and show you how to search for answers in an electronic database. The search will turn up books and articles that might be good sources for you.
Once you find a few possible “good hits” or possible resources, the reference librarian will help you find them in the building.
Sometimes the information you need will be located in scholarly journals. These journals look like encyclopedias, because they contains many volumes. Some libraries contain hundreds of sets journals, but they’re not too difficult to navigate. The reference librarian will show you that they are arranged in a logical order.
Another service that is offered by the reference librarian is to help you narrow down your research topic. The librarian can tell you if the topic you’re considering is too broad—or if it’s just off base completely.
Questions to Ask Your Reference Librarian
Most reference librarians are happy to help you. Don’t be afraid to come to them with questions; after all, they’ve probably already heard whatever you want to ask them.
- I have to write a paper about obesity but I don’t know where to start. Any suggestions?
- I’m lost. Can you help?
- Do you think my topic is too broad?
- Do you think I’ll find enough sources to support my thesis statement?
- Is my topic relevant?
- Is this topic too commonplace?
- Where can I find an article on women’s work during the Civil War?
- Where is the microfiche?
- What’s the difference between microfiche and microfilm?
- Why won’t this microfiche fit on this microfilm machine?
- How do I use the microfiche machine?
- Is this resource acceptable for a research paper?
- Is this newspaper article considered a primary resource?