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Using Resources

Types of books

There are a number of different types of books that you may need to use during your research. The page contains some information on using a selection of them.

Rare and older books

Libraries often place restrictions on the use of older and rare books in order to protect them. For example they may be held in the special collections department or you may only be able to consult them in a reading room under supervision. You will usually not be able to make photocopies yourself but library staff may be able to do this for you.

Reference books

Many libraries include sections containing 'quick reference' books, such as dictionaries, bibliographies and directories, that you may need to consult while using the library. You should search for these works using the library catalogue, like any other book. The catalogue record for the book should tell you that, for example, this book is in the 'Reference Collection'. This lets you know that this book is usually in a specific physical location and that you cannot borrow it. Some of these materials can be difficult to use, ask a member of library staff if you need help.

Electronic books

It is now possible to access the full text of some books electronically. Some of these books are made available on the web and are viewed using a PC and others are accessed using a dedicated hand-held reader. They are all usually known as e-books and are in either html or pdf format.

Commercial e-books services

There are a number of commercial services similar to e-journals databases that you or your institution can subscribe to (such as netLibrary) in order to obtain access to academic e-books. The subject coverage and subscription arrangements vary between products. If your home library has subscribed to any collections of e-books on your behalf you can usually access them through the library website or the library catalogue, although you may need a password, ask at your library.

Freely available e-books

A number of organisations, often academic institutions, make e-books freely available on the web. This is usually legal because the works are older and 'out-of-copyright', or the owner of the copyright has given permission. For example:

When using e-books in your research you need to evaluate each e-book just as you would a printed book (see the following page). In addition you need to ensure:

  • that the source is authoritative
  • that the electronic version is accurate
  • that you obtain the full bibliographic details of the works consulted and reference the work correctly.
  • that the book has been made available legally

There are books that have been made available on the web illegally. If you are using these works it might be difficult to ensure the accuracy of the version and obtain correct bibliographic details so the quality of your research may be affected.

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