23 Library Research Tools and When to Use Them

Throughout this module, we have referred to various library research tools, but we have not discussed when to use them. Learning which tools to use at the various stages of your research is also another strategy for finding the sources best suited to your assignment, and will decrease the amount of time you spend looking.

(Click the tools below for an image of their search interfaces.)


Tool What’s in it? When should I use it?
Summon Everything the library has in its collection:

  • books/ebooks
  • journal/magazine/newspaper articles
  • government documents
  • reference books
  • videos
Start here when you are new to your topic or assignment. Summon is great for seeing the breadth of what is available on your subject.
Catalogue Almost everything the library has in its collection, except articles

  • books/ebooks,
  • government documents
  • videos
Use this when you know you are looking for a book or ebook, or when you are looking for a specific title. You will NOT find journal articles here. The catalogue does not have the full-text of items, but many books will have a table of contents.
Article Database Specialized or multi-disciplinary

  • peer reviewed journal articles
  • some trade/professional publications
  • some newspapers
Use a database when you know you need peer reviewed journal content. Learn which databases are focussed on particular subjects.
Google Scholar
  • scholarly journals articles
  • conference proceedings
  • research/government publications
While not technically a library tool, Google Scholar with its Library Links feature will bring you results from beyond the library’s collection as well as subscribed content. Ask us how to enable this feature.  NEVER pay for articles!


ACTIVITY: Which Research Tool is Best?

Pick which tool would best serve the research need. Click the arrow to answer the next question.



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Doing Research Copyright © 2020 by Celia Brinkerhoff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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