Frequently Asked Questions about Finding Information
Isn't Googling for information a good place to start?
Yes, it can be. Web tools such as Google & Wikipedia can be useful for finding quick information (definitions, names of key players in an issue, basic outline of how a historical event unfolded, etc.) but you should never just use these tools for all of your research. There is too great of a chance you will come across erroneous information.
What you can do with these tools, though, is get an idea of when an event happened and who the key players are, then take that information and go to more reliable sources* to find relevant primary sources, statistics, and so on.
*often called the "deep web" -- pieces of information that cannot be found by Google's search engines -- information located inside newspaper archive databases, government websites, business information databases, statistical data sets (such as the U.S. Census), and so on...
OK, so how can I find information in the "deep web"?
Start with this course guide, or any of these other subject guides on various topics written by library staff. You will find links to both library-subscription resources (the library pays for you to access) as well as free information on the internet. Our job is to help you find information, so if you can't find the info you need, ask us!
Will I have to pay a fee to access information?
Sometimes. An agency holding a public record you need may charge a small processing fee. But most of the time you should be able to access information for free. Some is posted freely on the WWW. Other information is contained in databases for which the database owner charges an access fee. Large media outlets will also typically buy access licenses so their employees can access information databases. University and public libraries pay licensing fees in order to provide information to the public, so you should be able to walk into any library and access the information you need. As long as you are an OU student, you can access databases licensed by OU Libraries from on or off campus.
Does the library have public records?
The library does not have access to all public records. What we do have access to are University Archive records, which are records from OU's past, such as records & documents about former employees, students, OU presidents, etc. You may or may not be allowed to see some records without first filing an open records request (ask the Univeristy Archives staff on Alden Library's 5th fl about this). The same thing would be true if you asked for records at other OU offices such as Human Resources or Payroll.
As far as public records from other agencies, many of them can only be accessed at the place the record originated from, such as City Hall, Court House, Government Agency, etc., IF that agency doesn't provide them on the web (some do). Library staff can help you find the right place (online or otherwise) to go ask for a specific public record, but we don't have access to them ourselves. see the Public Records section of this guide
If you need help finding information, contact library staff:
- click the "ASK us" icon from the top of any library web page to chat online with library staff.
- you can also email us
- talk in person to someone at the Learning Commons desk, Alden Library, 2nd fl
- contact Diana, Journalism Librarian, via the contact info in the box below