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Bowdoin College Library

Anthropology 24, Culture at the Top of the World: Getting Started

Getting Started: Reference Sources

Usually you will first want to gather background information on your topic.  Or, perhaps you have a few topics in mind and just want to read a little bit about each one before making a choice.  Reference sources, such as subject encyclopedias, often are the best place to start.  They're terrific at laying out basic information about a topic: a chronicle of its history; current status; key events; key people; and most importantly, a bibliography of additional sources.

 Reference sources will vary depending on your specific topic.  A selection of print sources recommended for this class are listed in this guide; they also are listed on your class Blackboard page.

Getting Started: Finding Books

Finding Library Books

Start on the Library Gateway.  If you have a specific book in mind, search by Title or Author; if not, try Subject (assigned subject headings) or Keyword (a word that appears in the title or elsewhere).   You may want to browse virtually in the Bowdoin catalog: look for additional headings under “Subject,” or added "Tags" or "Similar Books" when you have a record on the screen. 

The call numbers for books about Exploration, Mt. Everest, Tourism, etc. will vary a great deal, so  use the Library Catalog first and get some sample call numbers.  When you find the right book, take a look on nearby shelves and you should find some additional relevant items, but don’t limit yourself to just one area.  Some subject headings to try include Everest, Mount; Ecotourism; Mountaineering; Discoveries in Geography; names of countries, e.g. Nepal or Tibet. 

Bowdoin College Library Catalog
- books, videos, government documents, etc. in Bowdoin's library

- combined catalog of Bowdoin, Bates, Colby, Wellesley, Williams, Middlebury, Vassar, and Northeastern.  Requests take 2-3 days.


- combined catalog for all the libraries in the State, including the University of Maine, the Maine State Library, and hundreds of public libraries.  Requests take 2-5 days.

Primary and Secondary Sources

What is the Difference Between a Primary Source and a Secondary Source?

According to A Manual for Writers by Kate Turabian (University of Chicago Press, 7th ed., 2007), “Secondary sources are books and articles that analyze primary sources, usually written by and for other researchers. You use secondary sources for three purposes: 1. to inform and refine [your] thinking; 2. to find other points of view; 3. to find models for your own research and analysis. Primary sources are original works—diaries, letters, manuscripts, images, films, film scripts, recordings, musical scores, and ... data collected through observation and experiment.” 

Subject Guide

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Beth Hoppe
H-L Library

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