How to Do Library Research

This set of pages has information on how to do library research. In all cases, once you have located sources, be sure to evaluate them, using the evaluation guides.

Introduction to Finding a Book on the Shelf

Finding a Book or Journal on the Shelf

LC call numbers begin with letters of the alphabet. Each letter stands for a broad subject grouping; each letter and number that follow the first letter narrow down the subject. No two books have exactly the same call number. Numbers used in the following examples are hypothetical.

An example call number looks like this: QA
349
.M613
W4
1993

The first line just needs to be treated alphabetically. Thus,

E
185
.E52x
D68
1988

    Q
    375
    .L36
    N49

 

    QA
    349
    .M613
     W4
    1993

    R
    128
    .G584
    F5
    1995

    TX
    719
    .L783
    E8
    1977

Line two is read in straight numerical order; numbers range from 1 to 9999 and are shelved accordingly:

R
169
.Y29
K5

    R
    170
    .H7
    T43

    R
    170.2
    .H7
    J64

    R
    171
    .R67
    B33

    R
    1051
    .T45
    L2

    R
    3948
    .P22
    N43

    R
    7428.6
    .M42
    A1

    R
    9462
    .B16
    E24

Line three is often misunderstood. Line 3 is the Cutter number (named after Charles A. Cutter). It is a DECIMAL number, not a whole number like the second line. Therefore, .K79 comes before .K8. (There is usually a decimal point before the letter on that line, but even when the label does not show the point, line three is treated as a decimal number.)

R
128
.K79
Y56

    R
    128
    .K8
    T43

    R
    128
    .K8149
    M35

    R
    128
    .K825
    M35

Line four is called the Double Cutter number. It too is treated as a decimal number even though there is no decimal point showing:

R
128
.K8
T398

    R
    128
    .K8
    T43

    R
    128
    .K8
    T5

    R
    128
    K8
    T51

Sometimes call numbers do not appear vertically, but horizontally.

Thus,

R
128
.K8
T43

could appear as:

R
128
K8T43

or even as: R128 K8T43

Whether vertically or horizontally arranged, the Cutter number and Double Cutter numbers are always treated as decimal numbers.

One important thing to remember with call numbers is the rule, "nothing comes before something":

QA 349 .M613 W4 goes on the shelf before QA 349 .M613 W4 1993

 

A second way of describing call numbers follows

A call number is an address for a book or other material. In LC classification, numbers before the decimal point are read in ordinary numerical sequence, but after the decimal point, they are read decimally and not as whole numbers. The following represents how these books are arranged on the shelf:

SB
13
.H3

    SB
    103
    .H3

    SB
    411
    .P262

    SB
    411
    .P34

Because there are two books with the same class number, SB 411, they are arranged by the number after the decimal point. To find a book on the shelf, look at each element of the call number.

Q =  Science Single letters are filed before double letters in alphabetical order.
QA = Math Call numbers beginning with QA come AFTER those beginning with Q and BEFORE those beginning with QB.

QA
303

= Calculus The second line is always a whole number that occasionally is followed by a decimal. The number 303 is actually three hundred three and would be shelved accordingly.

 

QA
303
.F
= Calculus
book by
Flanders
Once you find the QA 303's the call numbers are once again arranged alphabetically.

 

QA
303
.F56
  Now comes the tricky part. The number following the .F is a decimal number, not a whole number. The number is .56 (not fifty six). This .F56 book would be shelved after QA 303 .F455 but before QA 303 .F6 (Or add the remaining decimal zeros: 560 is bigger than 455 and smaller than 600.) (This number is read as a decimal whether or not there is a decimal point.)

 

It may be helpful to think in terms of money: 45 1/2 cents is less than 56 cents which is less than 60 cents.

The following example of call numbers represents a shelf of literature books arranged in the order in which they appear on the shelves.

     P    PC    PC    PN
whole numbers    3    86    156.5    34
decimal numbers    .A86    .U6    .S48    .K7
     PR    PR    PS    PS
whole numbers    1990    1991.3    1629    1629
decimal numbers    .C5    .C3    .W35    .W4

Finding a Document on the Shelf

The following shows you how to find a document with a Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) Classification number at Colorado State University. For an outline of the scheme see Superintendent of Documents Classification Outline.
SuDocs call numbers begin with letters of the alphabet. Each letter stands for the issuing agency of the document (not the subject, as does the Library of Congress Classification). No two items have exactly the same call number, but there are Government Documents found at Colorado State University in both print and microtext format. The shelflist (located on the 2nd Floor West) has information about government documents owned by the Library that are older than 1976.
An example SuDocs number looks like this: SI 1.
1/A:
AE 82/5
The number before the period is read as a whole number:

C 76.

C 77.

C 79.

C 80.

Complete Numbers:

A 88.62:P 32/5

         A 89.4/2:33/3

              A 93.2/2:AG 8

The next part differs from LC numbers in that the number after the period, and before the next punctuation, is read as a whole number (not as a decimal), just like the number before it. Therefore, 8 is shelved before 30, 30 is shelved before 246, and 246 is shelved before 3023. A "/" (slash) or a ":" (colon) indicates the next section:

I 19.
8:

 

I 19.
75:

 

 

I 19.
412:

 

 

I 19.
1008:

 

 

I 19.
2486:

 

or

LC 2.2:

LC 2.12:

LC 2.981:

LC 2.982:

LC 2.4642:

 

 

complete numbers:

 

A 89.
8/A:
4

 

A 89.
12
151

 

A 89.                    A 89.
15:                       26:
4/10                     14/3

 

 

or

A 93.9/2:AG 8

A 93.18/3:F 5

A 93.249:28/985

A 93.2486:46

Generally, if one understands the number this far, locating an item should be possible most of the time.
When a string of numbers is followed by words or abbreviations, the words go in alphabetical order:
Y 10.2:B 85/2/978-82/SUPP then

      Y 10.2:B 85/2/978-82/UPDATE

In SuDoc numbers, sections are divided by dots (.) or colons (:); between the two there can be sections within numbers divided by slashes (/) or hyphens (-).
Within a section (between a period and colon in the example below), the nothing comes before something rule applies:

Y 4.W64:W 325

                 then Y 4.W64/2:ST2

                  (W64: before W64/2:)

 

When the number matches up to a punctuation point and letters follow, items are shelved alphabetically:

SI 1.1/A:AE 82/5

         SI 1.1/A:B 615

              SI 1.1/A:UL 8

           SI 1.1/A:W 419

Library of Congress Subject Headings

The Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) provides an alphabetical listing of authorized or preferred terms established by the Library of Congress since 1898. These "official" terms should be used when doing Subject searches in Colorado State University's library catalog. LCSH was published in large volumes with red covers, but is now available online in PDF files on the Library of Congress Web site.

Many names of places and people (i.e., proper nouns) are not listed in LCSH, however, they may be used as subject headings.

Use References

USE references are made FROM an unauthorized or non-preferred term TO an authorized or preferred term. They are made for synonyms and for older and variant forms of headings. For example,

  • Child raising
    • USE Child rearing
  • Stained glass
    • USE Glass Staining and painting

Componets of LCSH Entries

Subject heading is in boldface.

CODE (May Subd Geog) or (Not Subd Geog) (in italics) indicates whether or not the heading can be subdivided geographically.

LC class numbers are given when there is a close correspondence between the subject heading and the LC classification. (Approximately 36% of headings have class numbers.)

Scope note gives guidance in the meaning or application of the heading. (Approximately 4000 scope notes appear in LCSH.)

References express the relationship between terms:

UF Use For (equivalency)
BT Broader Terms (hierarchical)
NT
Narrower Terms (hierarcical)
RT Related Terms (associative)
SA See Also (a general reference to an entire group of headings or subdivisions
rather than to individual headings or subdivisions.)
  Dog Breeds
SA names of specific breeds, e.g. Bloodhounds, Collies

Example LCSH entry:

Glass painting and staining Subject heading
(May Subd Geog) Code
[NK5300-5410] LC class
UF Glass, Stained Use For
  Stained glass
BT Art Broader Terms
  Glass craft
RT Glass, Colored Related Term
NT Glass painters Narrower Term
  ---Patterns Topical subdivision

Subdivisions

Subdivisions combine a number of different concepts into a single subject heading. Only a fraction of all possible heading and subdivision combinations are listed in LCSH. Most subdivisions are indicated by a general reference under the heading that is the same as the subdivision as in the following example:

Periodicals

SA subdivision Periodicals under specific subjects, e.g. Engineering--Periodicals;
United--States--History--Periodicals

There are four types of subdivisions:

Topical: Corn--Harvesting
Form: Corn--Dictionaries
Chronological: Corn--To 221 B.C.
Geographic: Corn--Iowa

For details on what subdivisions are used for literary authors, look up the pattern heading "Shakespeare, William" for possibilities (some of the subdivisions don't make sense in the context of Shakespeare, but using only one author saves a lot of space).

See the "Table of Pattern Headings" for other terms used as patterns for possible subdivisions. (Found in introductory information for the LCSH in Vol. 1.)

Choice of Terms in LCSH

Frequently, LC subject headings are not the terms most commonly used. Examples of how different the terms are follow:

  • Your terms
    Black drama (American)
    Communes
    Movies
  • LCSH
    American drama--Afro-American authors
    Communal living
    Motion Pictures


In using the library catalog, LC Subject Headings are listed under "SUBJECTS" in the full record of the item. When you find a useful item, do additional searches for subjects you find listed there.

Searching the Library Catalog

To search for items in the library catalog using the LCSH term, type S from the main menu and then type in the term(s). From the catalog on the web, select "LC Subjects" and then type in your term(s).

S
S
Glass, colored
Child rearing

Library of Congress Call Numbers

The bulk of Colorado State University's collection is shelved in Library of Congress (LC) classification call numbers. Most of the rest have Superintendent of Documents numbers (SuDocs); these call numbers generally indicate a government document (federal or state).

Below is an outline of the Library of Congress Classification scheme. The arrangement groups materials on the same subject together on the shelf. A more detailed Library of Congress Classification Outline is on the Library of Congress cataloguing site. Click on the letter to see subclass, and on the subclass for additional detail (or scroll down through the PDF document).

Library of Congress Classification Outline
A General Works
B-BJ Philosophy. Psychology
BL-BX Religion
C Auxiliary Sciences of History
D History : General and Old World (Eastern Hemisphere)
E-F History : America (Western Hemisphere)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
H Social Sciences
J Political Science
KD Law of the United Kingdom and Ireland
KF Law of the United States
L Education
M Music. Books on Music
N Fine Arts
P-PA General Philology and Linguistics. Classical Languages and Literatures
PA Supplement Byzantine and Modern Greek Literature. Medieval and Modern Latin Literature
PB-PH Modern European Languages
PG Russian Literature
PJ-PM Languages and Literatures of Asia, Africa, Oceania. American Indian Languages. Artificial Languages.
P-PM Supplement Index to Languages and Dialects
PN, PR,/ General Literature. English and American
PS, PZ Literature. Fiction in English. Juvenile Literature
PQ, Part 1 French Literature
PQ, Part 2 Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese Literature
PT, Part 1 German Literature
PT, Part 2 Dutch and Scandinavian Literatures
Q Science
R Medicine
S Agriculture
T Technology
U Military Science
V Naval Science
Z Bibliography. Library Science

Call Numbers-Superintedent of Documents

Colorado State University's government documents are shelved in Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) classification call numbers. Materials are arranged by issuing agency, not by subject. See Finding a Document on the Shelf for how to read these numbers.

A
AE
C
C 3
CR
CS
D
E
ED
EP
FR
FT
FTZ
GA
GP
GS
HE
HH
I
I 19
IC
J
Ju
L
LC
LR
NA
NAS
NS
P
PE
Pr
PrEx
S
SBA
SE
SI
T
T 22
TD
VA
X and Y        
Y 1
Y 4

Agriculture Department
National Archives and Records Administration
Commerce Department
Census
Civil Rights Commission
Civil Service Commission
Defense Department
Energy Department
Education Department
Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Reserve System Board of Governors
Federal Trade Commission
Federal Trade Zone Board
General Accounting
Government Printing Office
General Services Administration
Health and Human Services Department
Housing and Urban Development Department
Interior Department
U.S. Geological Survey
Interstate Commerce Commission
Justice Department
Judiciary (Courts of the United States)
Labor Department
Library of Congress
National Labor Relations Board
National Academy of Sciences
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Science Foundation
United States Postal Service
Peace Corps
President of United States
Executive Office of the President
State Department
Small Business Administration
Securities and Exchange Commission
Smithsonian Institution
Treasure Department
Internal Revenue Service
Transportation Department
Veterans Administration
Congress
House and Senate Reports and Documents
Congressional Committees, Hearings

Author Information

Content: Naomi Lederer

URL: https://libguides.colostate.edu/howtodo | Print Page