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COmPaSS VCU is an EO/AA university.

VCU Libraries T e x t: (804) 435-5420


Phone: (804) 828-1111 Em ail:


ou want good grades. You want to … graduate ... feel the pride of doing well … create a presentation that impresses … write a paper your professor likes … dive into a project that matters to you. You want to research and learn. We can’t do the work for you. But we sure can show you the way. We librarians will point you in the right direction and help you navigate the churning sea of information out there.

James Branch Cabell Library Monroe Park Campus 901 Park Ave. Richmond, VA 23284-2033


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Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences MCV Campus 509 N. 12th St. Richmond, VA 23298-0582

Put VCU Libraries to work for you, and you’ll work …



 better. Yo u r C o m pa s s


10 Things You

Need To Know

us anything. Ask us at all hours. We answer by text, chat, phone 1. Ask and email — also, of course, face to face. 2. Subject specialists will meet with you and guide you. Rely on us. Go mobile. Search online for materials, find events, text questions, 3. book study rooms.


Your VCUCard is all you need to check out books, print, copy and even pay at Starbucks! Your VCU electronic ID allows you to search for and access online materials from any computer, anywhere.


We’re open late, and at Cabell Library we run around the clock five nights a week, from Sunday morning to Friday night.

6. Beyond books, we loan laptops, digital cameras, iPads and e-readers. Our vast electronic resources include articles, journals, books, images 7. and sounds. If we don’t own it, we’ll find it and help you get it for free. 8. 9.

Use our online research guides, packed with the best databases, websites and reliable sources. Remember, you have access to library materials anywhere in the world you have Internet access.

and be seen or hide and hang out solo in our varied 10. See study spaces: silent, quiet, collaborative, group.


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Table of CONTENTS Chapter


Discover and Search 6 Ready, set, go 8 Map out your project 10 Search all the right places 12 Choose reliable sources 14 Navigate library spaces

and find books

16 Uncover treasures online and in

Special Collections and Archives

17 Our best-known collections Chapter


Write and Cite 18 Write a paper or prep for a


20 Cite your sources



Create and Make 22 Fashion presentations and projects

with multimedia magic

24 Seek art, images, music and sounds

and honor copyright



Study and Collaborate 26 Find your study spot 27 The inside scoop 28 Work with others 29 Connect with professors and

materials in Course Reserves

31 Take full advantage of tours

and workshops

32 Study strong, green and safe 34 At your service

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Chapter One



Ready, set, go. Consider each research project an expedition. Savor the journey. Plan and pace yourself. Dive in. • Understand the assignment. If you have questions, ask your professor early and free yourself to create. • Choose a topic: Not too broad, not too narrow, but just right. The more focused your ideas, the easier time you’ll have drawing conclusions.

We can help you: 

Map your research process. We can direct you to the best background information on topics you’re interested in to make sure you’ve got the facts and help you create a research plan.

Focus your topic and narrow your research questions for your assignment. We can often offer perspectives you might not see.

Stake out a quiet spot in the library where you can sketch out some ideas for your topic and research plan.

• Research something that interests you. What do you want to learn about? • Plan your work. Set deadlines and stick to them. You’re busy and need to stay flexible, but having a plan makes a big difference.


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Discover & Search

Map out your project. Develop a search strateg y to find the best information. Plan how you will locate what you need. • Read up on background information. Knowing the basics on your topic gives you a good foundation to build upon. • Think. You need multiple reliable sources: books, articles from journals, speeches, media and more. How will you find them? • Note different words that fit your topic. Searching about media portrayals of women? Try keywords such as “gender” and “advertising.” Expanding your search terms will pull different results.

We can help you:


Search like an expert. Librarians look for information all day and they’re good at it. Really good at it. Sit down and learn search shortcuts, tips and tricks from the folks who know them best. Or reach out by text, chat, email or phone. We’re around to help you plan your work weeks in advance or help on deadline.

Save time. Spend a little time learning how to best search for information on your topic and save a lot of time later.

Find books, encyclopedias and other types of information to get a sweeping overview of your topic.

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Discover & Search

Search all the right places. Discovery is all. Librarians deal with the entire universe of information, and that includes websites, Google, library databases, books, multimedia and more. They know the best tools and methods.

We can help you: 


Master our single search box. It leads you to the good stuff you need for academic research, a lot of which you won’t find through Google.

Explore our research guides: portals to topics from anthropology to forensic science, from business to women’s studies. Chances are, there’s one for your major. You may even find a guide for a specific class you’re taking. Look for a link on the home page.

Use online tools developed to help you find information, wherever you are:

Get it fast and free. When you see a Get it @ VCU button or “View Online,” that usually means you have immediate free access to these resources. If not, we’ll help you get it for free.

Step up from Google to Google Scholar or Google’s Advanced Search. Limit your search by domain (for example, .edu, .org, .gov or .com) or by region, format or date. Get smarter about using commercial sites for university-level work.

Make progress with the hunt. We can work with you one-on-one (drop-ins and appointments welcome) or by text, chat, email or phone. We act fast.

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Understanding how to evaluate information quickly will set you apart and help you succeed.

We can help you: 

• Uncover the strong, scholarly materials and sources you’ll be expected to use for academic work. We can help you avoid weak choices. • Evaluate the information you find. Is it current? Objective? Credible? Your arguments are only as strong as your evidence. • Cite the most qualified experts in the field. Ask a librarian or a professor for pointers. Every academic field has its stars and pioneers — thinkers who gain respect from other scholars who quote them and cite them in papers and articles.


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Understand what is authoritative and trusted in your field. Different majors focus on different types of information. We can help you check and evaluate it. Get to know our librarian subject specialists. Set up an appointment for research coaching or email specific questions.

Discover & Search

Choose reliable sources.

Evaluate information to make sure you’re using the best of what’s out there: Dig into resources at VCU Libraries. Impress your professors by using fun and useful resources. We’ve got tons of books and articles, but also films, DVDs, streaming video, comic books, oral histories, digital collections ... loads of cool stuff.

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Discover & Search

Navigate library spaces and find books. Cabell has five floors. Tompkins-McCaw has three. Locator posters and digital maps offer detail and help you find your way around. Books are organized using a system of coding developed by the Library of Congress. Most academic libraries use this system, and it’s a snap to get the hang of it: Need books? We’ve got millions of them on shelves and online. 


Start your search for books using our single search box. Need to refine your search? The left side of the page offers suggestions. Check out books at the service desk with your VCUCard and renew online. Browsing books, shelved by subject, can inspire you and lead to more sources. Borrow from afar. If we don’t have a book you need, we’ll get it from another library for free. It’s called “interlibrary loan.” Check out e-readers at the main service desk. They’re loaded with books — mostly titles you might like to read for a break from schoolwork.

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We have a duty to collect materials to serve today’s students and scholars but also to serve the greater good and tomorrow’s researchers. Special Collections and Archives do just that. They keep safe valuable materials — rare, old, unique, singular, saved, preserved. Manuscripts, minutes, letters, books, ephemera, illustrations, photographs, rare books and tangible artifacts are available for use. Visit the departments or browse the Special Collections and Archives section of the libraries’ website for ideas or help finding materials.

Our best-known collections

— some of which are available for use online: 

Medical artifacts

African-American topics

Comic arts

Women’s and LGBT history

Book art

Health care history



VCU, MCV and Richmond Professional Institute history Richmond history

Discover & Search

Unearth treasures online and in Special Collections and Archives.

• These materials are for all to use but cannot be checked out. • Make an appointment or walk in (fourth floor in Cabell Library and first floor in Tompkins-McCaw). • Hours are traditional business hours. • Bring a pencil; no ink allowed. • Both campuses’ archives offer quiet and beautiful reading rooms where you may explore these rare and interesting items.


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Write a paper or prep for a presentation. Even the most accomplished writers sometimes struggle with getting started. Try this: • Find a space free of distractions where you can organize your thoughts, sketch out an outline and make notes.

We can help you: Tap the Writing Center for help at all stages of the writing process, even if you just want to talk about ideas before you start writing.

Use our laptops or tablets to draft your paper.

Work in the library and free yourself from distractions of roommates or Xbox and surround yourself with others who are working. Sometimes it’s good to know you’re not the only one pulling an all-nighter or working on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

 Get it done. Ask for help. Even if you are right on deadline: You never bother us. 

Use VCU Libraries printers and scanners and pay with Rambucks.

Write & Cite



• Review your research and decide what you want to say. You don’t need a full-blown outline, but it will help to identify the overall direction. Start with the end in mind. • Pretend you’re writing to a friend, not writing a paper for a grade. Revise after your initial brain dump. • Give yourself short or incremental deadlines. Set time limits to rough out sections or a draft. • Be clear. Long sentences and big words won’t make you sound smart if they interfere with the meaning. Just write the way you’d say it. (Try this. It really works.) • Read your paper aloud. You may have to polish it a bit to make sure it doesn’t sound too conversational.


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Cite your sources. Acknowledge when you use other people’s words and ideas. Always give credit where credit is due. We call this process “citation.”

Write & Cite

• Know what you need to cite. Basically, anything that didn’t come out of your own head. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a book, an article, a website, an image, a government document or a clip from YouTube. Cite it. Even if you put the information into your own words. Cite it. And if you are using the original language, use quotation marks. Any exceptions? Facts that are considered common knowledge. When in doubt, cite it. • Be smart. Many library resources offer ready-made citations. Just look for the citation button. • Understand the stakes. Failure to cite the work of others — called plagiarism — is a violation of the VCU Honor System.

we can help You: 


Learn how to cite sources. Different professors or majors may require different formats for citations. This is called “style.” We’ve got a guide to help: Locate style handbooks for common citation styles. We can also point you toward some great online resources to help with citations. Put technology to work for you. We provide free access to RefWorks. It manages your research materials and helps organize these sources, also called references, works cited or bibliography.

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CREATe & Make Fashion presentations and projects with multimedia magic. Today’s creative academic work goes far beyond the double-spaced research paper.

We can help you: 

 

Engage with the latest tools and technologies. We have a growing staff focused on innovative media and bent on building a state-of-the-art learning and creative space for your use. Multimedia production will be a big part of the new Monroe Park library building – now being designed and built. Get free use of gadgets, tools and even some advice. Learn software and hardware through classes, online tutorials and one-on-one coaching. Make connections. Taking a lead role to advance digital creativity and scholarship at VCU, we can help you meet others working on this frontier.

Create & Make

• Seek out one of our digital media experts: They think visually and know about developing projects, audiences’ short attention spans, showing action, creating a shot list, using equipment properly, storing huge visual and audio files and editing and saving them. And much more. • Practice, practice, practice. Demo your video, slides and multimedia presentation on an oversized LCD monitor. Practice in a study room. Check out a camera and record yourself giving the presentation so you can see what needs improvement. • Find digitized sounds, video clips, images and text to enhance learning, teaching and presenting.


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Images and sounds are powerful. The right ones can elevate your papers and presentations. • Learn about Creative Commons. These licenses allow creators to share their work for reuse and remixing. In most cases, attribution is required. Learn more at: • Create your own photos, diagrams or drawings. Talk about original research! If you want to shoot video or install art in a library building, use the online permission form on the Ask Us web page. • Be aware of copyright. Just because an image is online doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want with it. In many cases, using an image for a classroom presentation is acceptable under fair use, but you should check. We can help. Credit the source just like any other idea or information you use in your research.


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we can help you: 

Develop top-notch presentations by tapping our experts in art, art history, film, theater, music, media and digital humanities. These pros are here for you. Use the tools VCU Libraries gives you to search for art and images: Learn how to secure images in the public domain (free of copyright). You can find a lot online. Let us help you understand how to ethically use these finds. Listen up and locate sound files that can amplify your points and add drama and emotion to presentations. Find inspiration in beautiful books on art and architecture, medicine and scientific illustration, and typography and design. Sit a spell, turn some pages and imagine.

Locate historic and rare materials and digital collections of photographs, postcards, rare books and more available to you through Special Collections and Archives.

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Create & Make

Seek art, images, music and sounds and honor copyright.



Find your study spot. Sometimes having a familiar place to go helps put you in the zone. Everyone has preferences. Our library spaces are designed for all to find their niche.

• Work or study odd hours? Our buildings are open long hours to fit your schedules.

The inside scoop 

• Find a place to call your own. Reclaim it when you can, but be flexible because someone else may have discovered it as well. • Be respectful. VCU Libraries allows food and drink. Most students clean up after themselves, and you should too. • Use our white boards and free dry erase markers (get them at the service desk) to work out big problems, outline or doodle.

The Mapp Room in Cabell is for grad students and faculty only. Show your ID at the service desk to get OK’d. Tompkins-McCaw’s first floor fills up at lunch, so stake out a place early. The library has computer stations and a quiet working area inside Hunton Student Center. The fourth floor at Cabell has a small gallery area with couches, some computers and easy chairs. The second floors of libraries on both campuses are expanses of flexible furniture, but one (TompkinsMcCaw) is for silent study, and one (Cabell) is for collaborative work.

study & collaborate


• Hole up and focus on your work in the quiet sections of the libraries. Look for signs to indicate which spaces are designated quiet or silent. • Access all VCU online library resources anywhere. On the couch in your Fan apartment, on break at work, at your internship site, in the lounge at the gym, on a park bench or on vacation with friends, you are never far from VCU Libraries. All you need is Internet access and your VCU electronic ID.


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Connect with professors and materials in Course Reserves. Hate to purchase an entire book just to read one chapter for class? Your professors put books and other materials on hold. • Note that these “course reserves” are extra materials your teachers choose for you. BTW, the library does not usually carry textbooks.

You’ll be doing lots of projects and presentations and working with many groups. • Reserve private group study rooms online and plan ahead. Group study rooms fill fast. • Find many flexible work spaces for groups: café style booths, comfortable chairs to form conversation groups and tables of all sizes. • Move around. You’ll find a lot of our furniture on wheels, so you can set it up just the way you like for your study or work group. • Read the signs. Collaboration and conversation are not always allowed. Some floors are silent, others whisper-only.


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• Download, print or read online full-text versions of articles, chapters from books or hard copies of books selected for the class. • Pick up reserves items at the service desk. Note they have short loan periods, as little as two hours. Your classmates need them too, so be sure to return things on time.

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Work with others.

• Bookmark a link to Blackboard, the online course-management system, to view syllabi, see what’s on reserve and interact with professors and classmates.

• Screen a film with up to 10 classmates in the Group Viewing Room, which can be reserved in advance. It is set up to play web streams, VHS, DVD and Blu-ray — including 3D — on a 47-inch HD monitor. Yo u r C o m pa s s


Take full advantage of library tours and workshops. Free how-to sessions will get you started on the research process. Some professors schedule special sessions tied to courses. Don’t miss them. • Take a free tour of the library. We offer group tours at the beginning of each semester. • Come to our workshops. Librarians lead free and open sessions on everything from using Google for academic research to finding images.

study & collaborate

• See the calendar online for these free opportunities. A little time invested in a how-to-use-the-library session saves you hours of time later in the semester.


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Study strong, green and safe. You’re in this for the long haul. And remember, while you might be lost in your work, you are in an urban environment and need to study smart and be alert. • Set your own pace. Library buildings are open morning, noon and into the night. • Need a ride? RamSafe vans provide door-to-door service 5 p.m.– 8 a.m. Wait inside the library for a text or phone call when it’s time to go: or (804) 828-7233 • Learn about emergencies and weather closings: Sign up for email and text messages from VCU Alert. If the sirens wail while you are inside a building, stay put and shelter in place. If the fire alarms blare, head for the closest exit sign.

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• Keep an eye on things: A thief can steal your laptop or backpack in an instant. • Do not smoke within 50 feet of the entrance to Cabell Library; the MCV Campus is smoke-free. • Ask security guards for help if you need it. They can summon VCU Police or emergency medical assistance. • Leave no trace where you study. Throw away or recycle your trash, wipe down keyboards and workspaces with green-clean wipes (free at the service desk).


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At your service: We’re Your Guides to Success at School

Get answers in real time. ☛ Email us. We’ll respond ASAP. ☛ Talk with us or leave a voicemail. ☛ For quick questions ☛ or in-depth consultation, drop in or appointment. We’re here to help. Just ask.

CHAT and TEXT (804) 435-5420 E-MAIL PHONE (804) 828-1111 James Branch Cabell Library 901 Park Ave., Monroe Park Campus Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences 501 N. 12th St., MCV Campus

“Your Compass/Getting Your Bearings” is part of The Compass Series of guides

and publications on research and library services produced by VCU Libraries Communications and Public Relations office. Design by Jeff Bland, with inspiration for steampunk-style artwork from VCU Libraries’ Comic Arts Collection. Creative committee: Sue Robinson, Laura Gariepy and Bettina Peacemaker. Special thanks to Eric Bartheld and the University of Maryland Libraries for sharing their concept for a similar pocket guide and their copy, some of which we used, with their permission and our gracious thanks.

About the Images In making this little book, the artist/designer used images from public domain and stock house sources. A full list of credits is available from VCU Libraries Communications and Public Relations office. Sources used were: Cover: Pixels Transfer, 123RF, iStockphoto, Depositphotos, The Graphics Fairy, RGB Stock. Page 3: The Graphics Fairy. Page 4: ClipArt ETC., iStockphoto, The Graphics Fairy. Pages 6-7: 123RF, RGB Stock, iStockphoto. Page 9: Library of Congress, 123RF,Depositphotos. Page 11: iStockphoto, Flickr, 123RF. Pages 12-13: 123RF, Depositphotos, iStockphoto. Pages 14-15: 123RF, Vintage Printable, RGB Stock. Page 16:, Flickr. Page 17: Shutterstock, 123RF, VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives. Pages 18-19: The Graphics Fairy. Pages 20-21: 123RF, iStockphoto, Wikipedia. Pages 22-23: The Graphics Fairy, Vintage Printable, 123RF, Flickr. Pages 24-25: Flickr, iStockphoto, RGB Stock. Page 27: Wikipedia, iStockphoto, GeneralVyse, deviantART, RGB Stock, 123RF. Page 28: iStockphoto, The Graphics Fairy, Flickr, 123RF. Page 29: 123RF, RGB Stock, The Graphics Fairy. Pages 30-31: RGB Stock, 123RF, The Graphics Fairy, iStockphoto, Wikipedia. Page 33: RGB Stock, 123RF. Page 34: ClipArt ETC., 123RF. Page 35: RGB Stock, Curious

Want copies or more information about VCU Libraries? Contact Sue Robinson, Director of Communications and Public Relations, (804) 828-0129 or


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Your Compass  

VCU Libraries handy guide to research and student success and important library materials.

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