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Doing Research at the Library of Congress

VII. Searches Through Published Bibliographies and Printed Indexes

A published bibliography will often be much better than a computer printout as a starting point for research. Bibliographies are compiled by scholars knowledgeable in their fields, and often list items found through persistent digging that lie beyond the range of any databases. For example, a search on the topic "religion in Ethiopia" can be done by simply typing the word "Ethiopia" into the ATLA Religion Database, which is the largest electronic file covering religion. As of this writing the search produces 707 citations. Paulos Milkias's Ethiopia: A Comprehensive Bibliography (G. K. Hall, 1989), however, contains a 47-page section on "Religion" in the country, listing over 1,300 citations.

It is especially advisable to look for published bibliographies if you are researching particular literary or historical figures; the Library has an exceptionally good collection (over 850 linear feet) of subject bibliographies about individuals.

Bibliographies can usually be identified through the online catalog by searching the following forms of headings:

[LCSH subject heading]--Bibliography
[LCSH subject heading]--[Geographic or Topical subdivision]--Bibliography

There are also other ways to find bibliographies; talk to the reference librarians.

Remember, too, that in addition to published bibliographies the Library owns many printed indexes to journals--i.e., not all indexes to journals are computerized, and even those that are may be limited to only recent decades of coverage. Print versions of the same indexes may go back a century or more, covering much material that is easily discoverable outside the limitations of the electronic formats.

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  December 1, 2016
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