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Finding Books

This guide aims to provide information about finding books at UBC Library, primarily using the Library catalogue.

Introduction to Finding Books

The aim of this guide is to provide instruction on finding books, primarily using the UBC Library catalogue. It also provides directions for how to find books on a library bookshelf using call number and other location information, which you will find in the catalogue record.

You can also use our Summon search service, accessible through the “General” tab on the UBC library homepage, to find books. See Summon Help for more information.

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The Role of Books in Research

Scholarly books are ideal information sources to consult in the early stages of research when you are looking for an introduction or overview of your topic. While journal articles can help you find more targeted information or a specific study related to your research area, books provide a more comprehensive overview, and may analyze a number of related studies. Additionally, because books include sub-topics, they may assist you in narrowing a broad area of interest into a narrow or more manageable research topic.



Are in-depth and cumulative studies of a topic.

✔ Include more contextual and historical information than other information sources.

✔ Are longer than other works (typically over 100 pages).

✔ May be republished in new editions to account for further research.

✔ May be available in print or electronically through UBC Library.


Books typically take longer to write and publish than other scholarly materials, which means they offer more complete coverage, but may be less current than sources like journal articles, newspaper articles, or websites.

Features of Scholarly Books

  • Front Matter - The first few pages of a book act as a source for publication and copyright information, including author, publisher, and date of publication.
  • Table of Contents - An outline of the topics and sections covered in the book. Browsing the Table of Contents will help you determine which section(s) of the book will be most relevant to your topic.
  • Introduction - The introduction or preface will provide background information on the topic and rationale for the book’s creation. Reading the introduction is another way to determine how relevant the book will be as a source for your research.
  • Key terms - The book’s content will assist you in determining key terminology or phrases in the area of study. Books may even include a Glossary of key terms and concepts, either at the end of the book or at the end of each section, for you to quickly reference.
  • Illustrations and/or Tables - Many books incorporate visual elements (e.g. images, tables, graphs, diagrams) to enhance, supplement, and synthesize the text.
  • Reference List or Bibliography - Scholarly books include lists of the sources they cited, either at the end of the book, or at the end of each section. These can be sources for you to consult for further research on the topic, and can also assist you in evaluating the book for authority, accuracy, relevance, and scope. If a scholarly book does not include references to their sources, you should factor this into your evaluation of the work and consider other information sources for your research.
  • Index - Located at the back of a book, the index breaks down the concepts covered in the book and provides the page numbers you can go to for information on that concept or sub-topic. Items in the index are listed alphabetically.

Selecting and Evaluating Books for Research

Consider WHO

  • Who wrote the book? What experience and expertise do they have on the topic?
  • Who published the book?
  • Who is the intended audience?


Consider WHY

  • What is the author’s purpose in writing this?
  • Is the author attempting to educate, advocate, or sell a product?

Consider WHEN

  • How current is the research being presented?
  • Are there newer works you should consult instead of, or in addition to, this book?

For more information about evaluating sources, visit our Evaluating Information Sources guide.

Need More Help Finding Books?

If you need further assistance with finding books or other aspects of research, our librarians are here to help you:

Get personalized help - phone, e-mail, chat or arrange to meet with one of our subject librarians. 

Visit a reference desk -  Every branch has staff to help you. Check out our reference hours and visit a reference desk today!

Call a librarian - Call the reference desk at any one of our many library locations.

Email a librarian - Fill out our handy online reference assistance form.