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MATH 161: Development of Mathematics - Warrington (Spring 2022)

Recommended search strategy

(1) For an overview of a topic or a person's biography, use an encyclopedia. Encyclopedia articles provide introductory information, historical context, and often citations or recommendations for further reading.

(2) For a detailed explanation of a topic, based on information from multiple sources‚ use books.

(3) For narrowly-focused analysis of a topic, based on original research, use journal articles. For example, if you are researching an individual mathematician, you might want to look up their original writings.

(4) Whichever sources you choose to consult, consider using a citation management program to save and organize them, and then easily create citations and a bibliography in your final paper. See Organize your sources for more information.

(5) Contact Graham for assistance with your information searching.

Overviews (encyclopedias)

Detailed explanations (books)

Find books (and more) by searching CATQuest, the UVM library search engine.

(1) You may have some luck searching by keyword, then using the left-side option to show only books (removing articles, audio/video, etc).

(2) A more precise way of searching is using subjects. Run a simple keyword search, then when you find something relevant to your topic, look for "Subjects" that you can click on.

Screenshot of subjects for a book


Original research (journal articles)

Screenshot of MathSciNet

Getting started with MathSciNet

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Runtime: 4:49 minutes

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The primary literature resource provided by the University of Vermont Libraries for Mathematics is MathSciNet.

MathSciNet, a product of the American Mathematical Society, is one of the leading indexes for publications covering all fields of mathematics, including more than 3 million research articles, review articles, conference papers, theses, and books.

To access MathSciNet, follow a link provided by your instructor in Blackboard, or a link on the library website at You can find a link through the Research Databases button and scrolling down to MathSciNet under “M”.

Or you can use the Research Guides button to navigate to the Mathematics research guide, which has a link to MathSciNet on its “Articles & Journals” page and many other useful resources. All of these links will ensure you are authenticated as a UVM affiliate and provided with full access.

MathSciNet has a fielded search interface. Some researchers only need the main “Publications” search, but there are also interfaces for looking up authors, journal titles, or citation data.

In the “Publications” interface, the dropdown menus provide options for searching 14 different fields. When you are getting started with your research, you will probably want to do a broad search on your topic.

Start by entering keywords, using quotation marks for a phrase if necessary, in the “Anywhere” field.

I am searching for literature on the design of electoral districts and my preliminary search for the keyword “gerrymandering” retrieves just 35 results. Probably my keywords are missing a lot of publications.

To run a more precise search, review the alphanumeric codes at the end of the citations that seem most relevant to your topic. These are MSC codes, or Mathematics Subject Classification codes. These can be 2-, 3-, or 5-digit codes, depending on their level in the MSC taxonomy.

Click on the MSC codes associated with relevant items – in my case, 91B32. This loads a breakdown and definition of the code and any broader or narrower codes. This helps you to confirm which codes are relevant to your topic and provides links to ALL publications associated with those codes – in the form of little script icons.

Identifying MSC codes in this way is a more effective method for searching MathSciNet than simple keywords, which will miss a lot of items.

Now that you have a good set of results, you have several options for reviewing them. You can change the sort order from “Newest”. For example, you might want to sort them by the number of citations, which will give an indication of which papers have had a significant impact.

You might want to refine your results by adding keywords or selecting a data range.

To see more information about an item, click on its unique “MR” number.

Items marked “Reviewed” will display a review by a MathSciNet contributor, typically another scholar in the same field.

To see the full text of the item, click on the “Find It@UVM” button. This will either route to the full text or present you with options for requesting it via the library.

For more information about MathSciNet, ask a librarian at the UVM Libraries.


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Graham Sherriff
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College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, US Patent & Trademark Office