A deep and continuing theme in American literature is the hero, who must leave society, alone or with one or a few others, in order to realize the moral good in the wilderness, at sea, or on the margins of settled society. Sometimes the withdrawal involves a contribution to society.

Taking a Tour

Your instructor may arrange a library orientation tour for your composition class. If not, you can join one of the regular orientation tours scheduled by the librarians. Unless you are already using the library frequently, a tour is essential because nearly all college libraries are more complex and offer more services than typical school or public libraries. On a library tour, you will learn how the library catalog and reference room are organized, how to access computer catalogs and databases, whom to ask for help if you are confused, and how to get your hands on books, periodicals and other materials.

Pick up copies of any available pamphlets and guidelines. Nearly every library offers handouts describing the resources and services it provides. Also, look for a floor map of materials and facilities. See whether your library offers any research guidelines, special workshops, or presentation on strategies for locating resources.

Consulting a Librarian

Think of a college librarian as advisors, whose job is to help you understand the library and get your hands on sources you need to complete your research projects. Think of them also as instructors, who can help you with the business of learning. Librarians on the information or reference desk are there to provide reference services, and most have years of experience answering the very questions you are likely to ask, you should not hesitate to approach them with any questions you are likely to ask. You should not hesitate to approach them with any questions you have about locating the sources. However, they can be most helpful to you, if you can explain your research assignment clearly.

Knowing Your Research Task

Before you go to the library to start an assigned research project, learn as much as you can about the assignment. Should you need to ask a librarian for advice, it is best to have the assignment in writing. Ask your instructor to clarify any confusing terms and define the purpose and scope of the project. Find out how you can narrow or focus the project once you begin the research. Asking a question or two in advance can prevent hours-or even days-of misdirected work.

A Recommended Search Strategy

In order for your library research to be manageable and productive, you will want to work carefully and systematically.