Academic Library Basics

Polk Library Welcomes You To Your First Academic Library






You got a library card at your local public library at age seven and you know the way all around your high school media center.  Now that you're in a university level course, you'll be stepping up to yet another kind of library.


The basics are the same- books, computers, study spaces, librarians, but there are some differences.  Academic libraries support research at your college/university.  Here are some tools and services you can use:

  • Discipline specific databases
  • Academic materials (though you may find the books are arranged differently)
  • Group study rooms
  • Streaming educational videos
  • Much, much more. How much more? Much, much more.

Going Beyond Google


In university courses, professors expect university-level research.  Google can be a great way to look up quick facts, but when you're doing academic research, your academic library has better tools.  We have over 54,000 different academic journal titles, all available electronically via a variety of subscription-based, full-text databases.  Not sure what these words mean?  It's ok, grasshopper, check out the glossary below.

 Grown Up Sources




Abstract: A summary of an academic article that you can quickly skim to see if it's useful for you.  Usually at the beginning.


Database: An organized collection of articles, usually grouped by topic.  You can see our databases grouped by subject from our home page.


Full-text: The complete article.  If you see a link for PDF or HTML Full-Text, click it to view or download the article.


Journal: Specialized publications written by and for academics.  Articles in these journals are generally studies or academic essays and they are longer and look very different from articles that you may typically read.


Peer-Reviewed: Articles that are peer-reviewed have been thoroughly evaluated for quality by a panel of experts in the field.  They are published in a journal.


Scholarly: Sources that are used and reviewed by academics for their research, including journal articles and academic books.



Even though you aren't on campus, you can still get help from librarians at Polk!  We have a 24/7 chat to help you with your research or you can text or email us.  Just click "Help" in the menu bar at the top of the page.