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Willis N. Hackney Library

IB: International Baccalaureate High School Students (Wilson County)

When to Use (and When NOT to Use) Books as Information Sources for Your Research

DO USE a book or e-book as your information source. . .
  • . . . if you're looking for both breadth and depth on your topic
  • . . . if you're interested in learning the story behind your topic and what has led up to it
  • . . . if you're interested in placing your topic in broader context
  • . . . if you're interested in learning about your topic in great detail
DO NOT USE a book or e-book as your information source. . . 
  • . . . if you're looking for a quick overview of a complex topic
  • . . . if you're looking for very current information (books take several years to publish, so by the time of publication, some of the data may be a year or more old)

Search for Books

Search our online catalog (the same tool as the One-Search link on our library home page -- -- in the search box below for print books. 

  • Our online catalog contains items that are physically located in the library, primarily on the second floor, as well as eBooks and other e-resources.  You can also find eBooks by scrolling down to the individual databases that contain them.


Remember that you may need to search the online catalog using only one keyword (such as immigration) or phrase (such as gun control), or a broader term to find book sources on your topic. If you are too specific when searching the library catalog, you may get zero hits; if that happens, keep it more broad and try again using only one keyword. Or search one of the e-book databases individually, which allows you to search every word of every book, and therefore allows you to use more than one keyword.

Searching for eBooks From Within Each eBook Database

Although you can search the library catalog for eBooks as well as many other things (and while eBooks do still show up in a Summon search that searches everything we own), the best way to search for eBooks is by searching each eBook database itself individually.  One of the reasons is that by doing so, the eBook databases are able to search every single word of every single eBook for the terms you input.  This allows you to find very specific information or otherwise-hard-to-locate information, which you might not be able to do otherwise.  Several eBook databases that have eBooks on a variety of topics are listed in the box below.

Individual eBook Databases

When searching eBook databases, you can be much more specific in your search than you can searching our catalog for print books, and you can use several keywords at a time since they search every word of every single e-book in the many thousands in its collection.  

  • When entering an eBook database, always look for an Advanced Search link (if available) and click on it (it gives you many more options than the Basic Search).
  • In your search results list, click on the title of an eBook you want to explore
  • Then click on the full text link in the record for it (or sometimes, the "read online" link) to get into the individual eBook.
  • Navigational tools in these eBook databases are usually on the left side of the screen (links to the Contents page, individual chapters, index, etc.). 
  • The actual content of the book appears on the right side of the screen.  You can also navigate within the content by scrolling down or using the forward and backward arrows to move through one page at a time. 
  • You can also search each individual book for specific words or phrases in the search within book or search within boxes (if searching for phrases such as "political science", enclose the phrase in double-quotes in these boxes to keep those words next to each other and in that order.)

You can also usually print, save, or email a certain number of pages from each eBook (usually a percentage of the total length of the book).

(For access to e-books from off campus, log in with your Barton network username and password.)

Search Electronic Reference Book Collections