Nonfiction Books

Nonfiction books are based on facts and cover virtually any topic. For research purposes, you will probably be looking for books that synthesize all the information on one topic to support a particular argument or thesis. Nonfiction books are often designed to be read cover to cover and even "enjoyed," although you may only need to use one portion for your research. While reference books and encyclopedias are also nonfiction, they are designed for the user to read sections as needed, and they often present information in a straight scholarly manner.

When do I use a nonfiction book?
Use nonfiction books when you need the following:

    • to find lots of information on a topic
    • to put your topic in context with other important issues
    • to find historical information
    • to find summaries of research to support an argument

      Where do I find a nonfiction book?
      They can be found in print, online, or in a periodicals database. Many are available at your local school or public library. Libraries organize and store their book collections on shelves called "stacks." Use an online catalog to find the call number. Most public and school libraries use the Dewey Decimal system to organize their books while most college libraries use the Library of Congress system.  

      How is a nonfiction book organized?
      Nonfiction books have a title page, verso (back of the title page that has publication information), table of contents, chapters that divide the book's content into sections (topics, time periods, etc.), notes, bibliography (sources the author used), and an index.

      How do I use a print nonfiction book?
      They typically have a table of contents near the front of the book. This can give you a good overview of how the book is arranged and what is covered. Think about what information you need. Typically the last several pages of a nonfiction book contain the index. This is an alphabetical listing of the topics in the books, and on what pages they can be found. There may be more than one index, e.g. subject index, geographical index, personal name index. Use the index to locate the section or pages you need.

      How do I use an online nonfiction book (eBook)?
      Online nonfiction books may be exact replicas of the equivalent print book, while some are published exclusively online. Online nonfiction books often have a searchable index, or a typical index that links automatically to the page indicated. They are also either usually searchable by keyword and sometimes subject.

      How do I use a database to find a nonfiction book (eBook)?
      Searching a database by topic will result in sources from magazines, journals, newspapers, eBooks, and more. Most databases' advanced search feature allows your search to be limited by the type of source you are looking for. You can also limit your source by date or title of publication. 

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