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Grafton Library FAQ

Doing Research Borrowing from the Library
Technology Issues Library Terms

Doing Research

How do I focus a paper topic?

William Badke, in his book Research Strategies, recommends beginning your research by developing a "working knowledge" of a topic. A working knowledge is the ability to talk about a topic for one minute without repeating yourself.

Identify the Four W's of a topic: Who are the populations effected? (e.g. women, Americans?) What are the facts/causes/issues surrounding the topic? When were the people and issues affected? (e.g. a current or historical time period). Where has this topic taken place? (e.g. the US, Ancient Greece)

To find information on the Four W's, try Grafton's Research Guides by Subject. We have links to useful web resources, encyclopedias online and in print, and article databases.  If you can't find information on your topic or can't decide where to start, use the Ask A Librarian form.

Once you have answered the 4 W's you should be able to talk or write about a topic briefly without repetition. From the facts you have gathered pick the aspects that most interest you. So instead of strugglling with the very broad topic of eating disorders, you might choose to research the causes of obesity and overeating in American adolescent females.

What about the 5th W, Why? Why? is your responsibility. Why were these people in this place at this time affected by your topic? You answer why with a thesis statement and the evidence you have gathered in your research and reflection.  The more information you have gathered, the easier it is to answer the question why.

I need to find articles for my research paper. Where do I go?

When you need articles, the first place to look is in the library databases. Some databases are general and others cover specific subject areas. A good place to start searching for articles is the database Academic Search Complete because it covers a wide range of subjects and contains some articles in full-text. 

If you are searching for newspaper articles try Lexis-Nexis, which is another general database .

If, after checking Academic Search Complete, you need additional articles go to the Subject List of online periodical indexes.  This list allows you to locate databases that cover specific subject areas. 

For example, if you need articles about attention deficit disorder, select the Psychology category to view databases which contain articles on Psychology.  PsycINFO is a good choice for finding articles from psychological journals, MEDLINE for the medical aspects of the topic and ERIC will find articles written in education publications.

How do I choose a database?

Go to the All Databases page.  All of the library's databases for article searching are grouped under subject categories. Not all research topics fit neatly into one subject category, therefore look for databases in related subjects. For example, research on self disclosure in online dating is an appropriate topic for communication, psychology, and sociology databases.

To become acquainted with a database read its description:

  • Title of the Database: Click on the title to open the database. If you are off-campus you may have to sign in through the campus proxy.
  • Type (or format) of results: Database results vary widely. A citation index will only provide the citation to an article, generally title, author, and publication information. A citation index with abstracts will provide the citation and a brief summary of an article. A database with full text will, cite, summarize, and provide the actual text of articles. A caveat, not all results in a full text database will have the full text! Database creators loose and gain permission to carry the full text from journal publishers every year. If you find a citation and want to find the entire article read the next question.
  • Description: A brief description of the nature of the database coverage.
  • Holdings: Provides the span of years covered by articles in the index.
  • Make sure the database covers the appropriate years for your topic.
  • Access: Identifies how the database is available to MBC-- e.g. subscription (available through MBC network); or free internet access; some index databases may need a password available from the library staff.

I found a citation for an article that I want, but how can I find the full-text article?

Many index databases contain citations and abstracts to articles but do not have the full text online. The following steps will help you locate the full text of the articles you need.

  1. Go to the library's Journal Finder to see if Mary Baldwin College has access to the journal.
  2. Search for the journal title by entering the first few words or use the Alphabetical list to browse for your title.  For example, if you are looking for the New England Journal of Medicine, set your search to Title Begins With and type new england journal  in the search box.  Or use the alphabetical links and scroll to the spot where new england journal of medicine would appear alphabetically.  You can also search the journal by ISSN or by keyword (Title Contains All Words), which is helpful if you don't know the exact title of the journal.
    Note: If you do a search and come up with no results, check your spelling and/or search in another way, either alphabetically or by Title Contains All Words.  If you still get no results, jump to step number 6 below.
  3. If MBC has access to the journal you will see our holdings listed.  The holdings information includes the years of coverage and where or in what database you will find the journal. Compare the holdings to your citation to be sure the year your article was published is available.  
  4. If you see "Mary Baldwin Print Holdings," that  means the journal is in print in the periodicals room of Grafton Library.  If you click on the Mary Baldwin Print Holdings link, you will get more information such as whether the journal is bound, on microfiche, in storage, etc. If you are an ADP, MAT, or MLitt student working from off-campus, use our online forms to request your article.
  5. If the journal is full text in a database, the holdings information will supply the database name and a link to the database and sometimes to the journal itself.
  6. Sometimes we do not have access to the journal either in print or online. If this is the case, you can place a request for the article through our interlibrary loan department.

How do I find books?

To find books, you'll want to visit the Grafton Library Catalog. The default search is a keyword search, so you can either enter in a few words about your topic, an author's name, or the title of a book.

You also might want to watch our Using the Library Catalog tutorial.

How can I tell if a website is okay to use in my paper?

Currently, the largest search engine, Google, claims to have a searchable database of over three billion web pages. While being able to search that many pages makes it easy to find information on just about any topic on the web, it also makes it increasingly difficult to find good, reliable sources. When you are thinking about using a website in your paper, you'll want to consider what type of website it is, the credibility of the author, the purpose of the site, the content, and currency. One quick way to start evaluating a website is to look at the URL. The most authoritative sites are ".gov" websites (from the government) and ".edu" websites (from educational instituttions). Websites that end in ".com" are for commercial purposes and need to be thoroughly evaluated.

To see a detailed list of what to look for in a credible website, visit our Evaluating Web Sources guide.

How do I cite a book in APA style?

Anytime you have questions about citation styles, visit our Citation and Style Guides page. We have Basic Sources handouts, links to helpful websites, and information on how to find citation manuals in the library. If you are still confused, contact a Reference Librarian.

What is a scholarly journal?

A scholarly journal is a journal with articles that have been peer-reviewed. Scholarly journals are the preferred periodical source for academic papers. You can read about the difference between scholarly and popular journals here.

You also might want to watch the Scholarly or Popular? tutorial.

Can I get help with a specific database?

Sure, there are lots of resources available online with tips on how to use the databases.

In each database, you can always try using the "Help" screen, and contact a Reference Librarian if you need more assistance.

How can I get more help with library research?

Contact a Reference Librarian! We are available at the Reference Desk until 9:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday and until 4:30 p.m. on Fridays. You can also call the library at x7085 and ask for a Reference Librarian. To send an email or look for us on IM, click here.

Borrowing from the Library

What is a library account? How do I set one up?

Having a library account allows you to see what books you have out, when they're due, and any fines you might have accrued. It also makes it easy for you to request a book--that means that workers at Grafton will find the book for you and having it waiting on the shelf behind the circulation desk for you.

To set up an account, go to the library catalog. On the top right corner of the Grafton online catalog, you should see an option to Login. When you click on the Login button, you will be asked to enter your username and password.  (New users will want to click on the link that says "Register as a new user." Once you've set up your account, go back to the catalog, go to Login, and enter your new username and password.

Once you are logged in, click on the My Account tab. You can view your what items you have checked out and when they are due, what requests you may have made, and what blocks or fines you have. These options will be at the top of the screen.

For more help, you may also want to watch the Creating and Accessing Your Library Account tutorial.

How can I request a book from the library?

In the Grafton catalog, you may place a request by clicking the Request Item button next to the title you want to request.  You should see a form that asks for your Username and Password.  If you do not have registered in the catalog see "What is a library account? How do I set one up?". After entering your User information, hit the Place Request button and the request comes to us.

If you have any problems, please contact Christina Daniel at or 540.887.7085. It is possible that you are not in the library's system, but we can add you in immediately. 

I live off campus. Can you mail a book or article to me?

You may request copies of specific articles from journals owned by the Library. Send requests to us at, , fax (540-887-7297), mail (see our address at the bottom of this page) or use the online ILL forms. We will email, fax or mail the articles to you. 

You may request books owned by the library in the same way you request articles. You may also request books from the library catalog. The books will be sent to you free of charge. However, you are responsible for sending them back. Remember to mail your books several days before they are due. You will be responsible for any late fees accrued if they arrive after their due date.

The library doesn't have the book I want. What do I do?

If you can't find what you need in the Grafton Library catalog use WorldCat to find books, movies, recordings, etc. owned by other libraries.

If you find a book in WorldCat that is not owned by Grafton library you may place an Interlibrary Loan, or ILL, request. The ILL button looks like this: Interlibrary Loan.

You can get more information about interlibrary loan here. If you would like to watch a video tutorial on using ILL, click here.

How can I get full-text of an article I found on Google Scholar?

First you'll want to check the Journal Finder . Put in the title of the journal that the article comes from. If Grafton has access, you'll see a link to a database. Follow the link and search or browse for the article.

If we do not have full-text access through our databases, visit the Interlibrary Loan page and follow the instructions for requesting journal articles.

Technology Issues


I am off campus. How do I access the library resources?

Library resources are available to all faculty, staff, and currently enrolled students.

  1. Go the Library's database page and select the resource that you would like to search.
  2. If remote authorization is required to use the resource, you will be prompted to supply your MBC Network/e-mail User Name and MBC Network Password.  If you have questions about your user name or password, please visit the Computer & Information Services website or contact the Computer & Information Services at 540-887-7075.

Some common problems: first, you must have cookies enabled. Follow your browser's directions (check the help index) for enabling cookies. Second, firewalls at large companies may prevent access to the databases through the proxy. If you are having problems logging in at work, try using your home computer. Finally, AOL software may also cause problems with the proxy login. Try using Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox as your web browser to access the databases.

If you are still having difficulties, you may send an email to or contact us at 540-887-7085.

The book I want to read is an e-book. What do I do?

Grafton Library's NetLibrary eBook collection consists of more than 21,000 titles. These books can be accessed through the library catalog. Do a keyword search with your subect and netlibrary to see all the titles, for example Shakespeare and netlibrary. Click on the title you are interested in, then click on the URL to open the eBook. For more information on e-books, see our FAQ page.

For more help, view the Viewing and Using E-books tutorial.

My professor says the book we need to read for class is on reserve. Where am I supposed to go?

Print reserves are available at the circulation desk on the main floor of the library.  Each student may checkout up to three reserves at one time.  Reserves check out for 2 hours and may not leave the library. 

Electronic reserves are limited to currently enrolled students and available through Blackboard. Once you login, you will see the list of courses you are enrolled in under My Courses (on the right side of the screen).  If you do not see the course you need, contact the instructor.  Open the course page and choose the Course Documents link in the sidebar.  You should see a list of all the reserve readings for the class.

Electronic reserve documents are in PDF format.  You will need Acrobat Reader to view them, which you can download for free at the Adobe web site.  If you have problems accessing the electronic reserves call 540-887-7085.

My printer is out of ink. Can I write and print my paper in the library?

Yes!There are 8 computers on the main floor, 8 computers in the periodicals room, and 12 computers in Grafton 302. MBC users may log on to use the Microsoft Office Suite software (including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel) and access the internet. We have printers on all three floors.   

I want to scan a picture and send it to my family. Can I do that at the library?

Three scanners are available for MBC users: one in the periodicals room, one on the mail floor of the library, and one in Grafton 302.  There is no charge for scanning. You'll need to use your student ID to log into the scanner. The scanned copies will go to your U drive.

I hear people talk about copyright policy but I'm confused. Does the library have any information on it?

Yes. Visit the library's copyright policy page.

Library Terms

Reference Books

Reference books are compiled sources of information. You can use them to find facts and information about a particular place, time period, person, word, etc. Reference books are useful in building a working knowledge of a subject, which makes them a good starting point for research.

Examples include encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, almanacs, thesauri, and atlases. Reference books can be general (Webster's Dictionary) or subject specific (The Dictionary of Art).

Reference books are kept in the Reference Section of the library (located on the main floor near the computer stations). They do not circulate, which means they can only be used inside the library.

Grafton Library also has online reference books, including Credo Reference and Oxford Reference Online.


Often when we librarians talk about searching, we bring up the idea of relevancy. We use this term to describe how closely a search result matches up with the intent of the search. A search that brings up a large number of relevant results is probably a well-formed search--one that doesn't will probably need to be revised.

Some possible strategies for correcting a search include adding more keywords, using different terms, or using the Boolean Operator NOT in order to exclude certain terms. As you get more practice with research and formulating search queries, you should see more relevant results whenever you do a search. As always, please contact a librarian if you need help figuring out any of these strategies.

Often searches are sorted by relevancy by default (for example, in search engines or in the JSTOR database)--but it is always helpful to check how your results are organized. Then check to see if you can re-sort by publication date, title, or author, if any of those options will help you in your research.


Databases are collections of digitized information, and are designed for fast search and retrieval. Library databases are great sources for finding journal, magazine, and newspaper articles. You can also use databases to find books, book chapters, e-books, and dissertations--it just depends on which database you are using.

You'll notice on the All Databases page that Grafton Library subscribes to a lot of databases. That's because each one searches a different pool of information. We subscribe to both general databases (which cover lots of different topics) and subject-specific databases (which have more information on a narrower topic). Refer to "How do I choose a database?" for more information

Subject Terms

Subject terms (also sometimes known as descriptors) are words that are used to describe the content or subject of books, articles, and other library materials. They are designed to be efficient and comprehensive ways of describing pieces of information. When you are doing serious research, subject terms or subject headings should be your best friend--get more info on our FAQ page.

Free Web

When you come to the library for an orientation session, you might hear us talk about how library resources compare to the free web. The free web is what you search when you use search engines such as Google or Bing. It's information that is freely available to anyone with internet access.

Library resources, which you access through the library website, are different. They are part of what is called the deep or invisible web. Library content is not freely available to anyone--it is available on a subscription (paid) basis. This is because the content comes from authoritative sources, such as peer-reviewed and scholarly journals.

This type of information is worth quite a bit a money, which is why you won't find it on a free web search. However, you can access it on the library website--click on Reference and Book Resources to access print and online reference sources such as Credo Reference and Oxford Reference Online. Click on All Databases to get access to scholarly journals. And if you need help, you can always contact a Reference Librarian.


A periodical is something that is published on a regular basis: daily, weekly, monthly, etc. The library receives a number of periodicals, such as newspapers, magazines, and journals.

One way to search for periodicals in the library is to check the Journal Finder . You can search there to see if we have access, electronically or in print, to the periodical that you are looking for. If the periodical you want is online, you can access it from home. If we only have it in print, you can come to the lower floor of the library and find it on the shelf. The periodicals are located in alphabetical order.

You can also search through the content of periodicals by using one of the library databases. The databases search periodicals for words that you choose. For example, if you are interested in searching through national newspapers, try the Lexis-Nexis Academic database.

Call Numbers

Books in Grafton Library are organized according to their call numbers. We use the Library of Congress Classification System to assign numbers to books in our collection. Basically, these numbers are a short representation of the subject of the book. Using this system, books that are about the same thing will be placed together on the shelf. This makes browsing a helpful way of finding helpful books.

This means that in order to find a book, you first have to look it up in the Library Catalog and find out what the call number is--you won't be able to just look in alphabetical order, which you can do sometimes at public libraries.

The call number will look something like this: BF721.C213 1970

Once you have a call number in hand, you'll go to the library stacks to find your book. Books with call numbers that start with A-HE are on the main floor. HE-Z numbers are on the Mezzanine (second) floor.