from the composition literature, old-school quotation

“Every university or public library centers in its reference room. This is the room for the first task of research, the bringing of books together. Among the thousands of books on the shelves, perhaps a score are needed for the particular topic. Which are these? Perhaps half of them require but a few minutes and the others demand extensive reading. Which is which? The object of the reference room is to answer these questions so far as possible in advance. (emphasis added)….

Its function then is two-fold: first to facilitate that preliminary survey which gives general notions and boundaries and shows how a particular investigation might be limited; secondly to facilitate comparison on particular points.”

-Charles Sears Baldwin, College Composition, (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1922).

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