What types of information can you find in books?

The Charger Bulletin



At some point in your life you have probably walked into a library and said, “I need a book about ___”.  But, did you know that there are different types of books and that each may contain specialized information?

How, then, do you know what source or format contains the information you are looking for? Well, to figure this out, you need to learn a little bit about how information is organized and distributed in libraries. In this article, I will introduce you to the types of information you are most likely to find in different types of books and how to choose the right type of book to search in.

Why books? Books have been the preferred method for the distribution of information since 1436, when the Guttenberg Printing Press made it possible to quickly and economically print and distribute books to those who were interested in reading. As more books were produced, it became necessary to organize the information in them so that others could find it more easily. As part of this organization effort, books became more specialized and libraries were created to store, distribute and help people find the information within these books. This is the reason that you have to know which type of book is most likely to have the type of information you are looking for.

Let’s use the example of forensic science to find out what type of book you would go to depending on the question you had.  Let’s say you were exploring the topic of “forensic science” and you didn’t know anything about it. The very first thing you would to do is find a definition of what it is. The best place to look for this is in reference books as they contain factual collections of information. The type of reference book you would use is a dictionary. Dictionaries contain definitions of words that are arranged alphabetically. After you have searched the UNH Catalog and located the Webster’s Dictionary on the shelf by the Reference Desk, you find that the definition of forensic science is “the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems including the analysis of physical evidence from a crime scene”.

Next, you realize you wanted to find out more about the field of “forensic science”. To do this, you would need to look in a different type of reference book called an encyclopedia, as this type of book has articles that summarize many different topics. After reading the entry in the encyclopedia, you decide you would really like to learn more about the field of forensic archaeology. To do this, first you would use a subject specific encyclopedia, such as the Encyclopedia of Forensic Science. Then, if you wanted to find chapter articles or books that were written about this field you would search the UNH-Catalog.

As you can see, there are many types of books that you might need to find different types of information. Recently many of these books are also published in an electronic format so that the information can be accessed without physically coming to the library.  We will discuss electronic books and how to use them in another article.  And don’t forget, you can always contact a librarian through via email: [email protected], by phone 203.932.7189 or in person at the Reference Desk during all hours of operation for any additional questions you may have about using books or completing research.