Search in library catalogs for books, documents, and videos about your topic. Keyword searching usually works fine, but may yield many off-topic hits. Instead of keyword, try subject searching, experimenting with various terms for your topic. For instance, in the MSU Library Catalog....
- EXPERIMENT: Go into Advanced Search and put a term for your topic, such as "nuclear power," into the subject box; then create another subject box to add a second term of "history" or other terms that make sense for your interest
- IDENTIFY ALTERNATIVE TERMS: If your topic is known by a common popular term, such as "fracking," try that term first as a subject and see if the catalog leads you to the formal term of "hydraulic fracturing." This is known as cross-referencing. If nothing comes up for your term, search a basic database such as Academic Search Complete or look around in Google to see if you can find some alternative terms to use in the library catalog.
- BROWSE THE SUBJECT INDEX: You can definitely search for subject terms even from the Basic Search screen in the MSU catalog. Type in your term but before you hit enter, click on the Begins With radio button and then click the Subject button below the dialog box. This will take you into the index of subject headings where your term appears. Explore that index to see if there's a better term to use for your topic.
- FIND LIKE ITEMS: Whenever you find a book in the catalog that's a good match for your topic, use the catalog record for that book to help find more books like it. Inside the full record for the book you've found, click on the Catalog Record tab; then scroll down to the subject term fields. There you'll find other terms that describe your topic and that you can click on or use in the basic search box to find more on-topic items.