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Guide to Library Research on Aging Topics
This guide is a service of the UNC Institute on Aging Information Center. It is written primarily for higher education students in North Carolina.
When you do library research, it is very important to understand and use the appropriate terminology in your searches. For example, if you are interested in locating information on long term care, you would need to know about the many terms typically used in that field, such as assisted living, continuing care, etc., so that you can construct thorough searches. One of the best ways to learn about proper terminology is to read an encyclopedia entry or chapter in a handbook. Examples of these resources include:
Often, but not always, you can find an article that contains a literature review of the most current thinking on a subject. These are an excellent source for library research because they provide citations to other key articles.
There are several ways to find a literature review:
Bibliographic indexes are databases and/or lists of published literature. They are most often used to identify journal articles on a specific topic or written by a specific person. Indexes typically include abstracts (summary of the content) for each item, and may also include the full-text of the item. Indexes are either electronic or print format.
IMPORTANT: Searching bibliographic indexes is one situation where understanding and using proper terminology is critical. First, you must be knowledgeable about the typical terms used for the topic you are researching (see section above on Getting Started: Terminology). For example, if you are researching the topic of long term care, then you must understand terms such as assisted living, continuing care, etc. in order to search thoroughly. Second, you must be aware that each index or database has its own standards for preferred subject terms, often listed in a thesaurus. In order to find what you want, you have to know the preferred term they use to describe it. For example, the AARP AgeLine index does not use the word women; instead they use their preferred term females. See the section below on Universal Search Tips for more help.
Once you have a specific title(s) to locate, there are several tools available:
Library research often includes locating demographic data or statistics to illustrate trends.
If you are looking for quick figures on aging in North Carolina, try our Quick Facts About Aging in North Carolina.
If you are looking for major data sets on aging, try our list of Data Sets.
Finally, you will find pointers to many reports on aging demographics by searching AGELIB. Try using the subject keywords: demographic data, downloadable demographic data, Census reports, North Carolina, and/or United States.
Web sites can be a good source of "gray literature" on aging. Gray literature refers to publications that are not part of the mainstream publishing system, and typically includes things like reports, working papers, government publications, etc. There is a wealth of information and data in these publications -- if you can find them!
A great place to start locating web sites and web documents is AGELIB, the IOA's database of aging resources. We specifically designed this database to include web-based resources on aging. Here are some tips for finding web resources in AGELIB:
These are tips that should apply to most searching situations:
Institute on Aging
720 Martin Luther King Blvd., CB #1030
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-1030
phone 919-966-9444 | fax 919-966-0510
This page was last modified on: Thursday, 30-Aug-2012 15:01:53 EDT 12/13/11