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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

University Without Walls

This guide introduces UWW students to research skills.

Services for Off-Campus Users

Services for Off-Campus Users

Who can help me find information?

  • Ask Us!: Get help by email, phone, and chat or text us!
  • Find Your Librarian: We have experts in all different subjects and topics - contact us for help with any question, big or small. 

Where do I begin my research?

  • Research Guides by Subject: Not sure where to start? Try our subject guides!
  • Discovery Search: Search for books, journals, videos, along with articles from some of our databases
    • TIP: After doing your search, use the checkboxes under Refine Results on the left to help quickly focus your topic. You can limit by publication date, format, language, and more.
  • Research Databases A-Z: Find full-content access to journal and newspaper articles, datasets, images, and more from over 500 databases. 
    • TIP: Use the drop-down boxes across the top to only see databases for specific subjects or with specific types of content.
  • Check out our Video Tutorials page for a variety of videos about the research process, like developing Good Research Questions, Selecting and Using Keywords, Evaluating Sources, Citing, and more!

How do I search?

    • Keywords: Use individual words or short phrases when searching instead of full sentences. Focus on the important concepts related to your topic.
      • Example: If you are interested in how effective video games are in getting teens to exercise, good keywords to start with are: video games, teens, exercise
    • Limiters: Look to the left and/or right of your results list for checkboxes and other ways to narrow down your results.
      • Most allow you to limit by publication date, format, language. Subject-related limiters are available in some of the more specific databases.
    • Full Text: What is it and why should I care?
      • Full text refers to the whole entire article. Many databases will display the abstract, which summarizes the article, in the list of search results, After reading the abstract, if you think there is information from the article you want to use in your assignment, you are expected to get the entire article to read through the full sections of interest.
      • Some places you search will have a checkbox to limit your results to only those articles with full text available. This helps if you want to quickly find an article on your topic, but then you might not see really good articles when the full text is not immediatly available.
      • There are different ways to get to the full text. Some of the links you may see are: PDF Full Text, Connect to Resource, View this record from [specific database name], Linked Full Text, HTML Full Text. If none of those are available, you should see the   button, which looks for the full text across all our resources.
    • Interlibrary Loan: If the full text of an article is not available for free, current UMass Amherst students, faculty and staff can request it using our Interlibrary Loan service. 
      • If you used the UMLinks button to look for full text, look for the InterLibrary Loan heading and follow the link.Login with your SPIRE username and password
      • TIP: If it is your first time using Interlibrary Loan, you will be prompted to fill out a profile form. All article requests are provided as electronic files, so the campus pickup location does not matter. You will get an email with a link when your article is available.

How can I get help with technology?

IT User Services offers IT support to members of the university community. They support essential campus services such as Email, Network Connectivity, and more. More information is available through their website.

How do I access electronic resources?

Off-Campus users of Electronic Resources (Databases and E-Books) should use their SPIRE username and password when asked for a username and password when logging into library resources. Patrons having problems with electronic resources should contact Research Services through Ask-A-Librarian

How do I get help with writing?

The Writing Center works with undergrad, grad, staff, post-doc, and faculty writers at any stage of the writing process: brainstorming and outlining, getting feedback on a draft, developing revision strategies, learning to copy edit one's work, and more. They also work with writers to understand the genres, styles, and norms of writing in their disciplines. Their staff is available to meet online with writers in 45-minute sessions. During a session, they'll design the agenda collaboratively: writers and tutors work together  to create short and long-term writing goals, have a conversation about the writing, and generate strategies for the writer to enact on their own. 

Tutoring sessions are free, and are reserved for 45 minutes. For more information, or to make an appointment, visit their website. 

Are there other things I should know about as an Off-Campus User?

Library Distance Education Card

UMass Amherst Distance Education students are eligible to have a UCard (UMass ID Card) mailed to distance learners in the United States from the UCard office upon request. Distance Learners residing abroad are eligible for the Distance Learning ID Card.  The Distance Learning ID card contains the patrons barcode which is needed for some library services. Your barcode is also available from SPIRE (directions are below).

Library Barcode

The Library Barcode is also available through SPIRE.  To find your barcode, log into SPIRE and choose Profile => IT Accounts & Certifications => UCard/Library Barcode.

Library Express

The UMass Amherst Libraries offers a service called Library Express which provides direct delivery of regularly circulating books from the university library collections. There is no fee for this service at this time. All current or retired faculty or staff and current students are eligible for the Library Express service. More information.

Disability Services

Disability Services at UMass Amherst is committed to full access for all persons at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and embraces the philosophy of diversity and multiculturalism. Direct services are provided for all types of disability. Disability Services also provides information and referral on issues of accessibility, as well as training and staff development to the University Community. 

If you require accommodations, visit their website