How to Locate the Info You Need in Online Libraries

Thanks to the internet, now you have the information from libraries across the world at your fingertips. However, having access to such abundant resources alone cannot guarantee that you will be able to find what you need.

The thing is, searching academic libraries can be a little trickier than looking up something on a search engine. In order to help you with the process, we have created some tips that you can use when writing your college paper.

1. Verify all the Information

There is no arguing that the internet can deliver any information you seek. However, most of the data you will find is not written by qualified professionals. There are plenty of resources that could even lead you in the wrong direction.

Therefore, when you are doing an online search, you have to be skeptical about the information you come across. This means going the extra mile to critically evaluate the sources to confirm authority and accuracy.

2. Finding the Right Research Databases

One way to avoid any misinformation is to make sure that you are looking at the right place. Most academic libraries are not accessible for free. If they are, it means that not every paper on the site is verified.

This is where your university resources can be of great help to you. Most colleges partner with online academic databases to allow their staff and students to benefit from access to authoritative websites.

These are often multi-disciplinary – allowing you to find information for your research paper or a cause and effect essay regardless of your specific topic. However, it might also require you to be on the on-campus network to access these.

But today, since most colleges offer online learning – your college might have come up with an alternate solution. Do not hesitate to reach out to your adviser to find out how you can access these databases via an external network.

3. Get Creative with Keyword Search

As with the search engine, using the right keywords will direct you to the right resources. However, you will not get specific results if you type in entire sentences. This is because, unlike articles and blogs on the internet, academic writing is not done to cater to the specific search intent.

For instance, let us say you want to write on the history of the film industry in the US. In Google, you might enter the same sentence, ‘history of Hollywood.’

On an academic library, you will have better luck with:

‘America and history and film,’ or, ‘Hollywood and history’

In other words, whatever your topic sentence is, you will need to first find out the keywords to search for. If you do not use the word ‘and, the search engine might assume that you want those words right next to each other and will not display all the relevant results.

4. Find Out the Advanced Search Options

In addition, you can also use an asterisk or a wildcard such as exclamation marks to get more results. For example:

  • Child* and experience – will give you all results, including childhood and children.
  • Category?ation and education – can be used to find articles written in both British and American English.

The key takeaway is that most databases look for exact matches. These small changes will allow you to get around the system and find all data relevant to your topic.

Many libraries also allow you to search for specific dates, language, author, and file type. Make sure you check the specific website for its respective advanced search options so you can take advantage of the tools available to you.

5. Look Past Written Content

Remember that online libraries are no longer limited to written documents and papers. Today, the vast majority of libraries also feature podcasts, audio files, and videos of speeches and discussions.

In that regard, even several YouTube videos on conferences and speeches can offer you valuable insight into the topic. However, it would be a wise idea to check with your professor how you can include them in references if you come across a noteworthy resource.

6. Don’t Limit Yourself to Full-Text Libraries

When you are doing the literary review, you do not always need access to the entire paper. In most cases, the abstract and conclusion can tell you the gist of the article.

And most databases, especially the free ones, can give you a comprehensive idea of the topic. In addition, you will also be able to find valuable resources if you look through the citation. You can then proceed with the books and journals listed as references to find more information for your topic.

7. Useful Academic Databases

To help you get started, here is a list of some of the best online libraries and academic databases that can come to your aid.

  • Academic Search Complete
  • Omnifile
  • Research Library
  • Literary Reference Center
  • Global Newstream
  • MasterFile
  • MLA Bibliography

8. Have a Plan

Finally, before you scour the online libraries, you should have a clear idea of what you are looking for. This means that you know what keywords to search for, the notable names in your research area, important journals, and even organizations working in the field.

With this elaborate research approach, you will be able to find far more results than merely search for topics.

For example, you can look for articles where key contributors in your research area have been mentioned. You can also find books and reports written by them.

If you want to take the extra step, you can also try reaching out to any organizations that can help you gain access to their respective online and offline libraries.


It is evident that researching online libraries might take some time. This is one of the reasons why you should plan beforehand and set aside enough time for your literary reviews.

Finally, if you need some help, do not hesitate to reach out to librarians. Yes, even online libraries and databases have them.

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