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Book Research Skills

This guide will help you learn how to effectively use books for research.

Front of the Book

Not all of these elements will be in every published book. But knowing about how a book is layed out can help you with your research.

Half Title Page: Only the title appears on this page. The rest of the page is blank.

Title Page: The book title and names of the author(s) and publisher are found here. Additional information appears on the back side of this page: the copyright notice, the ISBN and printing numbers, the publisher’s address, the year the book was published, and the Library of Congress Catalogue information.

Dedication Page: This is an optional page that allows the author to dedicate the book to someone or something.

Acknowledgements: Here the author thanks people helpful in some way relative to the book.

Table of Contents: The Table of Contents lists the individual chapters and the other elements found in the book plus the page where each begins. It is a great way to scan a book and see what information is included.

Foreword: A special introduction that offers supportive information relevant to the book, the Foreword is written by someone other than the book’s author.

Preface: Written by the book’s author, the Preface contains important information relating to the book topic, but outside of the book’s contents.

NOTE: All the pages up to this point are called the Front Matter. The page numbering is done in Roman numerals or some other system that differs from the Body pagination.

Middle of the Book

The middle part of the book starts after the Front Matter. The middle elements include:

Introduction: The author gives the reader more details about the book in this optional section. In trade nonfiction books, the Introduction may be an informal “Dear Reader” letter getting the reader excited about the information presented, inviting the reader inside the book and giving an overview of the book’s contents. The pagination starts here.

Body or Chapters: This refers to the text of the book, which is usually broken down into chronologically numbered and named elements called Chapters.

In nonfiction books, each chapter may be divided into sub-titled segments which may be included in the Table of Contents.

In fiction, the chapters might contain segments called Scenes; these are separated by blank space within the text. They are usually not referenced in the Table of Contents.

In both fiction and nonfiction, chapters might be grouped together and labeled as Part 1, Part 2, etc.

Back of the Book

NOTE: All the pages appearing after the body of the book are called the Back Matter; they are usually included in the pagination of the Book Body.

Afterword: Any additional information for the reader to know after having read the book goes here.

Appendices: Nonfiction books may have one or more Appendix listing recommended books, websites, organizations, or other resources relating to the book topic. Fiction only occasionally has an Appendix.

Glossary: Usually found in nonfiction books, this section lists vocabulary words and their definitions as they relate to the book’s subject matter.

Bibliography: Lists the references used in writing the book. Can be used to locate other great resources for your research!

Index: Usually in nonfiction books, the Index is an alphabetical list of significant terms found in the text and the pages they appear on, helpful to someone seeking specific information in the book.

Author Bio or Biography: A sentence, paragraph, or even a page about the author.