Books, similar to reference resources, can provide much needed background information and history on a topic. Books are comprehensive and offer a broad viewpoint that is different from articles. Examining the history of a potential topic is important because you may find that your potential study had already been done fifty years ago. Not only are books great sources for reading about a potential topic, but they are great sources for discovering entirely new topics. For instance, you may be very interested in psychology and mental disorders, but not know much about the type of research in that field regarding how it is conducted, what it entails, and what research remains to be uncovered.
Books give that broad subject overview and mention specific theories or research areas that you may want to pursue further. You will also identify some of the key researchers in the field (books on similar topics should be discussing the same researchers). These are researchers whose scholarly articles you will want to look for later.
It is important to keep in mind that books are often not peer reviewed. Therefore, read unedited books with caution; an edited book will list editors who are knowledgeable in the same field as the primary authors. Additionally, look for books published by university presses, as these books are reviewed by an editorial board and outside reviewers. Again, checking author submission guidelines can be helpful.
You’ll find thousands of e-books in the Library. Go to the Find an E-Book page to see a list of the Library's e-book databases. With thousands of e-books on many different subjects, Ebook Central is a great database to start your search.
For additional information, see the following Library FAQs: