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Research Skills for Students

An Open Educational Resource

Books and reference works

Books come in a variety of different formats. You may be using textbooks in a number of the modules you are taking. In some disciplines, particularly the humanities and some social sciences, original research is published in the form of monographs or multi-authored and multi-chapter, edited volumes.

Another type of book is reference works, such as dictionaries, thesauruses, and encyclopedias. These sources can be useful as places to get started with your research. Many are now in electronic format and can look more like a website or database than a book.


Books can be found in print format but are increasingly available in electronic format, as e-books. The advantage of e-books is the same as any other information in digital format - it can be accessed from anywhere, including from home, straight from your browser.

See the video below on how to access an e-book via the Library catalogue.

Print books

Print books are organised in the 'stacks' (the bookshelves) around the Library according to subject matter, using the Dewey Decimal system. When looking for a book, first you will find its Dewey 'call number' in the Library catalogue (it may also be on your module reading list), then use that call number to find it on the shelf.

In general, you can find Science and Engineering-related books on floor 2, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Business on floor 1, and Law on the ground floor. You can also find a selection of popular reading material on the ground floor. A small general reference collection can also be found on the ground floor, but most dictionaries, encyclopedias and similar reference works will these days be found in electronic format, as e-books.

See the video below on how to locate a print book in the Library catalogue.

Unsure how to use the Dewey call number to find your book? Take a look at this video How to locate a print book in the Library