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Navigating Library Research: Unit 12: Discipline Areas

Discpline Areas

One of the first steps in researching your question is determining which discipline area it's in. This will help you start out with appropriate resources, especially databases.

Sometimes it's easy to determine which discipline area your research question is in. Other times, when you have an interdisciplinary question, you may need to consult databases in several disciplines. (See Searching databases: Choosing a database for more information.)

Searching library catalogs for books, films, and other materials works pretty much the same no matter what subject area you're researching. Try doing a title search if you already know the name of the item you want. Try a keyword search if you just have a topic in mind.

In this unit, you will learn more skills related to choosing a database. You will also learn where to find subject specialist librarians' suggestions for research and reading. Finally, you'll have opportunities to practice using what you've learned.

Activity: Practice Researching in Your Discipline

Ready to try researching in a specific discipline? Here are three ways to practice. You may want to use your practice time to do research for a project in another class. Or you can make up a project and pretend you're researching.

  • Use subject-specific databases to find some interesting formats of material to use in your research. For example, for a history project, instead of scholarly articles, you could collect copies of old letters, transcripts of PBS history specials, and more.
  • Find a subject guide on a fun topic, such as Children's Literature. Look for materials you wouldn't have guessed Auraria Library owned, such as some pretty impressive collections of fairy tales.
  • Find a subject guide on something you research often--maybe something in your major. Visit some of the Internet sites the librarian recommends. Do you see anything you might want to use in your future research?

Finding Databases in Your Subject Area

If you're working with an interdisciplinary topic, consider all the subject areas that affect your question. Try searching in a database in each applicable subject area.

Subject Guides

Subject specialist librarians at Auraria Library have created lists of the most useful materials in many disciplines. To find a subject guide in your discipline, start at the library's home page. Click on Research Guides, then click on Subject Guides.


Now you get a screen that leads you to all the subject guides. Choose the broad area that you're researching in, such as Humanities. If you click on the Humanities menu, you'll get a list of all the subject guides in that area. Select the name of a guide to access it.

Each subject guide lists materials the library owns on that subject. You'll see names of databases, electronic books, print books, journals, and much more. You'll also find lists of Internet materials that the subject specialist librarian has identified as reputable. Even if you're familiar with your discipline already, these guides can help you find new materials to try.