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Research Toolkit: Find a Source Again

You're almost done with your paper and you realize that you didn't write down all the details about an important source. What do you do?


Finding a Source Again: Basic Steps


1. Don't panic. It happens to everyone.

2. Figure out what you do know about the source.
Academic sources are organized according to essential pieces of information: author, subject, title, etc. You can use this information to find the source again. We call these important pieces of information access points.

3. Some access points are more useful than others. Pay particular attention to:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Publication or Source (magazine or journal title)
  • Publication date
  • Subject terms

4. Choose a big database like Library OneSearch and search with the information you have to find the source again.

5. Start with the most specific piece of information you have. For books use the book title. For articles use the article title.

6. If trying the title doesn't work, or if you don't have it, try the author. If that search brings too many results, add some keywords or subject terms.

7. If you have a publication date, most search tools allow you to narrow to a specific date range.


That Didn't Work! Now What?


1. Check your information again. A few things are easy to mix up:

  • Articles: Make sure you have the article title, not the journal title
  • Articles: Make sure you have the title of the journal, newspaper, or magazine, not the database where you found it. EBSCO, ProQuest, and JSTOR are databases, not journals. 
  • Dates: Make sure you have the publication date, not the date it was uploaded or updated. 

2. Ask a librarian. We'll do our best to find your missing source.