Digging Deeper, Growing Stronger: Learn More About a Subject

What would you like to learn about?

When hot weather approaches, it's time to start thinking about what you'll read this summer! Our theme for Adult Summer Reading 2021 is "Digging Deeper, Growing Stronger," and you can learn more about the challenges and prizes on our website. Keep in mind that Adult Summer Reading is only for people age 18 and up. If you're looking for summer reading for children or teens, that's a different page. Already signed up for Adult Summer Reading and looking for suggestions for the Learn More About a Subject square? This post is here to help!

Whatever subject interests you, the BPL has materials and resources to help you deepen your knowledge and sate your curiosity. This post offers some suggestions to guide your learning process and help you get the most out of all that the BPL has to offer.


Get some background information

You may be delving deeper into a subject or starting out fresh. Either way, it helps to review some basic information on the subject to solidify your grasp on the foundational facts, ideas, and issues involved.  

Articles in general and subject-specific encyclopedias are a great source for this type of information. Though most of the BPL’s physical encyclopedias aren’t accessible right now, you still have access to some useful online collections with your BPL card or eCard. 

These resources offer concise, reliable background information, and often include suggestions for further reading and next steps: 

  • Britannica Library is a general encyclopedia covering all fields of knowledge - a great starting point for basic information on any subject.
  • Credo Reference and Gale Virtual Reference Library offer subject-specific encyclopedias and related resources, allowing you to take a more focused approach to gathering background information on a topic. 

Check out the Resources by Format: Encyclopedias page for a full list of these resources.


Try a Very Short Introduction

As a stepping-stone between encyclopedia articles and full-length books, check out the Very Short Introductions (VSI) collection from Oxford University Press. This resource collects 667 short eBooks (and counting) from the eponymous series. Each offers an expert-authored introduction to a subject and suggestions for further reading.

The range of topics covered is immense: there are VSIs on abolitionism, Byzantium, cosmology, decadence, engineering, feminism, isotopes, marketing, Stoicism, topology, and hundreds of other general and niche fields and subjects.

Titles are fully searchable and are also grouped into broad subject areas for easy browsing. With so much on offer, you're sure to find a Very Short Introduction that interests you.

Note also that some (but not all) titles in this series are also available as physical books.


Find some books

Books can offer a more extensive and in-depth treatment of your subject. They're a good next step when you want to learn more. When you're ready to move on to books on your subject, the BPL has plenty to offer. The best way to find them is to use our catalog, and we've got a guide to using the library catalog to help you along the way. 

We have books for all audiences and levels of interest. You can use some details from the catalog to decide whether a book is right for you. Is the title general or very specific? Was the book published by a university press? Is the author a professor, a journalist, or just an interested amateur? Find what works for you. 

All books not labeled as 'In-library Use Only' in their location details are available for request and checkout at any BPL location through BPL To Go

If you'd like help using the catalog, finding books on your subject, or choosing among options, always feel free to ask a librarian (on which more below).


Find some articles

Articles mostly come from two places: magazines and scholarly journals.

Magazine articles are usually less in-depth and complex than book-length treatments of a subject. Scholarly journal articles, on the other hand, can be very narrow, specialized, and technical, even if they are generally shorter than books. For the latest research and detailed treatment of many topics, though, journal articles are hard to beat. 

Fortunately, magazine and journal articles are readily available through a variety of BPL online resources. Here are some great places to find magazine articles:

To find journal articles, you can look at all of the BPL's magazine and journal online resources. You can browse the online resources by subject to see which resources offer journal articles in your subject area. You can also browse online journals by subject through the E-journals by title page. Some great general resources to start looking for journal articles include:

Using these databases can sometimes seem confusing and overwhelming, so please read the next section to learn how the BPL's librarians can help.


Ask your librarians

The BPL's librarians are here to help you find the materials and resources you need. Whether you'd like help searching the catalog, using journal databases, or evaluating sources, we can help make your research more fruitful and efficient. Here are some ways to get help:

We look forward to supporting your learning and assisting with your research!

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Boston Public Library