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University of Southern Maine
Libraries & Learning

College and Academic Writing

new 2023

Start Here! Compete BEFORE your library session

1. Activate your Library Card!

Your USM ID card is also your library card! Use it to check out books at any of the campus libraries, as well as to create an interlibrary loan account and log into your library account. To check whether your library card is activated, try to log in below using your name as printed on your card and library barcode (the 14-digit number printed in black at the bottom or the back of your ID card.

Click to check - Is your USM ID activated for the Library?

If the login does not allow you to access your account, please visit Access Services at any of our Gorham, Portland, or LAC Campus Library locations, or call (207-780-4270).

2. Create your Interlibrary Loan Account

to borrow materials from other libraries. This is a separate system from other University systems. We suggest you use the same username as your @maine.edu e-mail (the before @maine.edu part) and a different password. 

Resources for activities

Searching Tips and Tricks

  • Most databases allow for searching with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT).
    • Use AND to focus your search and combine different aspects of your topic
    • Use OR to broaden your search and find sources that use different words for the same concept.
    • Use NOT to omit certain terms from your results.
  • Use an asterisk (*) to truncate words if you want to search for all words with that root. For example, “environment*” would search for environment, environmental, environmentalism, etc.
  • Put quotes around a phrase that you want the database to search as a phrase, rather than as individual words.
  • Group synonyms inside parentheses using OR between each one

Example:

URSUS is the combined library catalog for the entire University of Maine system. You can search the entire system, or select University of Southern Maine Libraries in the drop-down.

Other helpful tips:

  • If you find a book that is relevant to your needs, look at the "Subject" area of the book's record. Click on a few of the subjects to find other similar books.
  • In many of the book records, you can look at the table of contents - click the link under the "Inside This Book" heading. This can help you determine if a book is right for your research.
  • If USM doesn't have a book you want, click the "Request" button at the top of the page and we can get it for you through interlibrary loan.

Most databases, as well as URSUS and MaineCat, assign subjects to books and articles. A subject is a designated word or phrase that describes an idea or concept and groups all articles or books about that concept together.

  • Subjects are also variously called descriptors, controlled vocabulary, headings, or index terms.
  • To search by subject you have to know the exact subject term. Most databases that use subjects have a Thesaurus that you can use to look up subject terms. You can also do a keyword search, find a book or article that is relevant to your research, and look at the subject terms assigned to it.
  • URSUS and MaineCat use Library of Congress Subject Headings and each database has their own list of subject headings, so you have to look up subjects in each database independently.

There are many ways you can get research materials from other libraries. In the vast majority of cases, there is no charge to you for this service!

  • From URSUS, use the  button at the top of an item's page.
  • From MaineCat, use the  button in the middle of an item's page.
  • From a database:
    • Select the item you want and find and click the  or "Article Linker" button (the placement on the page will vary by database).
    • If the library does not have access to the item, find and click the "Submit an Interlibrary Loan Request" link under Step 3 in the right panel.

Plagiarism Video