Researching the “Old Fashioned” Way

Often, when we are told we have to write a Research Paper, our first question is: Where do I start??

Once you have a topic, a few questions, and the number and type of resources you must use, you are actually ready to begin!

If you have access to a library, most libraries use a system of numbering that helps patrons find the resources they are looking for. Every book in the library is given a unique code to help you find the book on the library shelves. This code is called a call number, and is comprised of two parts: the Dewey Decimal Classification and a Cutter number.

The Dewey Decimal Classification System has ten main classes, which are listed below:

000 Generalities

100 Philosophy and Psychology 200 Religion

300 Social Science

400 Language

500 Natural Science and Mathematics 600 Technology (Applied Sciences) 700 The Arts

800 Literature

900 Geography and History

From this classification, each class is further divided into 10 parts. For example, under 500

Natural Science and Mathematics you would find:

510        Math

520        Astronomy

530        Physics

540        Chemistry

550        Earth Sciences

560        Paleontology

570        Life Sciences

580        Plants

590        Animals

Cutter numbers classify the book by the author’s last name, in alphabetical order.

For example, if you were researching American author John Steinbeck’s writings, and are interested in the novel California Writers: Jack London, John Steinbeck—the Tough Guys by Martin Stoddard, you would look under the call number 800, then 810 for American Literature, and for cutter number STO, which are the first 3 letters of the author’s last name.

To keep biographies straight, every subject (person) has been given his or her own unique call number. If you wanted to find a biography on Steinbeck, you would look in the biography section, under 92 (92 STE), which shelves all the biographies about Steinbeck.

Once you have found resources that you feel will help you in your research, read and take notes for information on your topic. Some suggestions:

  • Read the whole paragraph or article before you decide what is
  • Reflect on the writing. What is the most important information?
  • Retell those points in your own words using the Research Notes
  • Write down the source