The information world has undergone drastic changes since the publication of the 3rd edition of The Oxford Guide to Library Research in 2005, and Thomas Mann, a veteran reference librarian at the Library of Congress, has extensively revised his text to reflect those changes. This book willanswer two basic questions: First, what is the extent of the significant research resources you will you miss if you confine your research entirely, or even primarily, to sources available on the open Internet? Second, if you are trying to get a reasonably good overview of the literature on aparticular topic, rather than just "something quickly" on it, what are the several alternative methods of subject searching - which are not available on the Web - that are usually much more efficient for that purpose than typing keywords into a blank search box, with the results displayed byrelevance-ranking computer algorithms?This book shows researchers how to do comprehensive research on any topic. It explains the variety of search mechanisms available, so that the researcher can have the reasonable confidence that s/he has not overlooked something important. This includes not just lists of resources, but discussions ofthe ways to search within them: how to find the best search terms, how to combine the terms, and how to make the databases (and other sources) show relevant material even when you don't know how to specify the best search terms in advance. The book's overall structuring by nine methods of searchingthat are applicable in any subject area, rather than by subjects or by types of literature, is unique among guides to research. Also unique is the range and variety of concrete examples of what to do - and of what not to do.The book is not "about" the Internet: it is about the best alternatives to the Internet - the sources that are not on the open Web to begin with, that can be found only through research libraries and that are more than ever necessary for any kind of substantive scholarly research. More than anyother research guide available, this book directly addresses and provides solutions to the serious problems outlined in recent studies documenting the profound lack of research skills possessed by today's "digital natives."
Mann emphasizes the importance of in-depth searching. He often argues that basic internet searches are inefficient. The common misconception that “everything” is on the internet is debunked by many of the real life examples he sites in the book, including the example on lighthouse libraries, which the author was only able to find successfully after he physically leafed through a few books. Although these examples are very helpful for the reader, one cannot help but sense the author’s frustration (and judgment) when dealing with uninformed researchers. Despite the intimidating tone, this work goes a long way in turning the uninformed into the informed. In each chapter Mann lists dozens of potential resources from the Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors to Wilson’s Library Literature to the Columbia Journalism Review Inflation Calendar .
Unfortunately, due to the nature of a printed book, some of the sources are possibly outdated, as well as the database format examples. But the spirit of the author’s intention, to teach people how to use these databases and where to find certain resources, should enable readers to follow along and still be able to find the suggested resources. Finally, the appendix on “Wisdom” seems out of place. Although it is interesting to read the author’s thoughts on the final level of the hierarchy of learning, the appendix seems tangential to an otherwise great resource for researchers of all levels.
He is excellent at communicating the logic of his ideas. He presents a wonderful overview of research methods. To some extent he may be considered a traditionalist. But he makes a well-reasoned case for understanding and using a variety of search methods.
This guide does get a little list-y, as most reference how-to books do. However, even when these resources become outdated, the methods and principles will remain applicable.