Saturday, September 18, 2010

Resources for High School and College Students at the Worcester Public Library

Many people are not aware that public libraries house a vast collection of magazines, newspapers, newsletters and scholarly journals. Scholarly journals are a great source for research topics for a number of reasons: they are written for students and/or professionals, the articles are reviewed by other scholars, and these articles frequently contain tables, charts, graphs and statistics.

Scholarly journals qualify as primary source material when the article was written at the time of the topic. They also qualify as such when the article constitutes a report that reflects the results of a scientific experiment or study. Other primary sources, such as a letter, speech, or interview, can also be found in these journals.

The easiest way to find an article on your topic is by searching one of several online databases. Many of the articles contain the full text and can be printed or emailed. Online databases are a fairly new technology. Consequently, the articles available will only date from about the 1980s to the present. However, database articles do cover all topics: literature, social sciences, health, business, biography, law, and more.

With a valid library card you can search the databases from home or in the library by clicking ONLINE DATABASES from our homepage: The following are just some of the databases:

Contemporary Literary Criticism
Biography Resource Center
Health Reference Center
General Business File
Expanded Academic
General Reference Center

If the database does not have the full text of an article the library will get it for you. Just write down all or most of the following information:

  1. title of the article
  2. author
  3. name of the magazine the article is in
  4. volume or issue number of the magazine
  5. date of the magazine
  6. page(s) tht the article appears on

If the topic of interest dates back further than the database (pre-1980) you can still find articles. The library retains and archives back issues of its magazine subscriptions. Simply use one or more of the appropriate "indexes" that are kept in our periodicals department. Ask any librarian to assist you. Some of the indexes include:

Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature
International Index Guide to Periodical Literature
Humanities Index
Social Science Index

Newspaper articles are another great primary source if the article was written at the time of the topic. The Worcester Public Library has an online resource called MASSACHUSETTS NEWSTAND that provides full-text articles from the following newspapers: the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and twelve other newspapers from cities and towns in Massachusetts. Most of the newspapers in the database date back to 1990 and some as far back as 1980.

If the topic precedes these dates you can try using the newspaper indexes in the periodicals department: the Boston Globe Index or the New York Times Index. The library has every copy of the New York Times on microfilm back to 1851, the Boston Globe back to 1960, and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette back to 1888. The library also has another half dozen or more Massachusetts and Worcester newspapers on microfilm that date back to 1821 and are kept in the history department.

Official Records are also considered a primary source. Consequently, some of the best primary source material at the Worcester Public Library can be found in the large collection of government publications. The federal government is one of the largest publishers in the world and the Worcester Public Library was designated to collect and archive many of those publications.

For instance, government publications contain current and historical Census materials, Congressional publications and reports, as well as laws and regulations. Other primary sources include presidential papers and speeches, military histories and tactics, maps from the U.S. Geological Survey, transcripts of war trials, and publications of the National Archives. Government publications are also your best source for statistics on every subject imaginable.

Government publications can be found by using the Library Catalog. The library uses Library of Congress subject headings to classify those publications as well as all other books, video, and audio recordings. Primary source keywords are:

  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • interviews
  • speeches
  • personal narratives
  • documents
  • sources

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