3. Beginning with books

Books are usually an excellent place to start. Though they may not contain the latest research findings, they can give you background information and help you understand the context of your topic. This can prove helpful later on, when you're searching for and reading research articles. The Dental Library's books are listed in U of T's online Catalogue.

To learn how to search the Catalogue, see Finding books (part of the Gerstein library's Research Skills Tutorial). The Dental Library also offers hands-on classes on searching the Catalogue, each fall.

Your topic may be too specific to have merited an entire book, but it's worth checking the Catalogue for your topic in case there are books on it. But remember that a book on a broader topic could well contain a chapter or section on your specific topic.

If your essay were about aphthous ulcers, you would want to look at some books on the broader topic oral pathology, and check their table of contents and index for information on your topic. (Remember to check the index for synonyms -- e.g., if you don't find "aphthous ulcers", try looking under "ulcerative stomatitis", and so on.)

In the U of T Libraries Catalogue, books are "indexed" with official Library of Congress Subject Headings. It helps to know what the official subject heading is for a given topic.

The official subject heading for oral pathology is actually Mouth Diseases. If you didn't know this, you could try a keyword search for oral pathology, and you would find some books which happened to have these words in the title (such as Neville's Oral & maxillofacial pathology). But you would miss many other books which don't happen to have those exact words in the title, such as Laskaris's Color atlas of oral diseases. It would be better to search for Mouth Diseases (the official subject heading) -- this way you'd find both of these books, and many others.

Mouth Diseases

Another thing to be aware of is that a book on a broad topic will have a broad subject heading, while a book on a more specific topic will have a more specific subject heading.

You will find books about oral diseases in general under the subject heading Mouth Diseases, but you will find books on the more specific topic of tooth diseases under the subject heading Teeth Diseases. And (getting even more specific) you will find books about the particular tooth disease dental caries under the heading Dental caries.

Often you can figure out what the official subject heading is for a given topic by doing "detective work" in the Catalogue.

If you searched for items containing the words forensic dentistry in any field, you would find the book Forensic dentistry by Mertz. If you looked at the detailed Catalogue Record for that book, you'd see that the official subject heading for this topic is not "Forensic dentistry" (as you might have imagined), but rather Dental jurisprudence.

Another way of finding out what subject heading to use is to ask a librarian! We would be glad to help you find the heading(s) for your topic.

Next section: So many articles, so little time

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