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Research Materials: Crimes and Disappearances

Handouts and Research Guides used by librarians in information literacy sessions. For more help, look in the Guides by subject.

Just The Facts

In order to complete this assignment, you will need to think like a detective. You will want to gather as many facts as possible. You will also want to explore theories on what  happened and eliminate those that do not fit the facts as you know them. You will need to know the who, when, what, and where and you will figure out the how and why.

The following library resources will help in in assembling your evidence. The titles, author/editors, dates, and locations are indicated in the citation.

  • Dictionary of culprits and criminals by Kohn, George C (HV6245 .K64 1986 REF.)
    Publication Year: c1986.
  • Encyclopedia of American crime by Sifakis, Carl. (HV6789 .S54 REF.)Publication Year: 1981
  • Encyclopedia of crime and justice by Dressler, Joshua. (HV6017 .E52 2002 REF.)
    Publication Year: 2002
    4 volume set. It is also available online through Gale Virtual Reference Library.
  • Encyclopedia of murder & violent crime by Hickey, Eric W. (HV6515 .E5323 2003 REF.)
    Publication Year: 2003
  • Famous American crimes and trials by Bailey, Frankie Y. (HV9950 .F36 2004 REF)
    Publication Year: 2004
    5 volume set
  • Great lives from history. Notorious lives by Bankston, Carl L. (HV6245 .G687 2007 REF)
    Publication Year: 2007
    3 volume set
  • Prentice Hall's dictionary of American criminal justice, criminology, and criminal law by Falcone, David N. (KF9223 .A68 F35 2005 REF.)
    Publication Year: 2005
  • The encyclopedia of crime and punishment by Levinson, David (HV6017 .E524 2002 REF.)
    Publication Year: 2002
  • The encyclopedia of kidnappings by Newton, Michael (HV6595 .N49 2002 REF.)
    Publication Year: 2002
  • The encyclopedia of lawmen, outlaws, and gunfighters by Metz, Leon Claire (F596 .M48 2003 REF.)
    Publication Year: 2003
  • The encyclopedia of unsolved crimes by Newton, Michael, (HV6251 .N48 2004B REF.)
    Publication Year: 2004
  • World of criminal justice by Phelps, Shirelle. (HV7411 .W67 2002 REF)
    Publication Year: 2002
    2 volume set

Finding People

If the crime you are researching involves a person-either victim or criminal, you will need to find out about that person. Many notorious individuals are the subject or biographies so you may want to look them up as subjects in the online catalog. Other places to look include:

  • Biography index (Index Table 2A -)This work begins in 1946 and the last date available in the library is Feb. 2009. A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines

  • Biography Resource Center
    This is an online resource. To use type in the name of the person in the box on the upper right hand of the screen.

  • Current biography (CT100 .C8 REF.)
    Covers 1940 to 2007


In order to find out what happened, you will have to research the various theories and if you are lucky, newspaper and magazine accounts of what happened at the time. For the online sources, go to the library webpage ( and go to the menu on the right hand side. Select Databases Directory. Scroll down to News and Current Events. This will provide a list of databases that may provide useful information. Some of the places to look for this type of information include:

  • Academic Search Complete is always a good starting point since it covers major newspapers and news magazines. You may also find reviews of books that may be relevant to your search.
  • LexisNexis Academic University
    This resource covers newspapers from all over the United States and the world. Keep in mind however, if your crime is more than 20 years old, you may not find contemporary accounts.
  • Newspaper Source
    This database covers major national newspapers, but is limited to about the last 20 years.
  • The New York times index (AI21 .N45 REF.)
    1851 to 1978 is located in the reference stacks by the call number listed above. !979 to the present is on Index Table #2B. The New York Times is also indexed in Newspaper Source database, but is not full text.
  • New Orleans Times Picayune Newspaper, older issues are indexed in Newbank/Readex America's Historical Newspapers from 1837-1922: These articles are full-text.

    All of the actual newspapers are located on 3rd in the Serials-Media Department on microfilm.

The Internet

Due to the notoriety of a number of these crimes, you will find many websites devoted to the various theories of what happened in why. Some of these are well-researched and provide reseasonable theories, others not so much. When you use the internet as a resource, the determination of validity falls on you.