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Research Toolkit: Find a Source Again

Tools, techniques, and resources to help you find the information you need.

You're almost done with your paper, and you realize that you didn't write down all the details about one of the most important sources. What do you do?

Finding a Source Again: Basic Steps

1. Don't panic. This happens to everyone at some point.

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

3. Some access points are more useful than others when you're searching. Pay particular attention to:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Publication (name of the magazine or journal)
  • Publication date
  • Subject words

4. Choose a big database like OneSearch and use the information you have to find the source again:

5. Start with the most specific piece of information you have. For books, that will be the book title. For articles, the article title.

6. If 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 publiaction date, most search tools will let you narrow to a specific date range.

That Didn't Work! Now What?

1. Re-check your information. There are a few things that are easy to mix up. 

  • Articles: Make sure you have the article title, not the journal title
  • Articles: Make sure you have the name of the journal, newspaper, or magazine, not the database where you found it. EBSCO, ProQuest, Gale and Lexis-Nexis 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.

How can I keep this from happening again?