Skip to main content Carnegie Mellon University Libraries

Physics: Finding Books

General Guide to Finding Physics Books at Carnegie Mellon

Search Carnegie Mellon's online catalog and other library catalogs to identify useful books on your topic.  Carnegie Mellon's online catalog will let you easily locate books held in our libraries.  Tips for searching the catalog can be found here (link coming soon).  Books not held by our library can be obtained from other libraries via Interlibrary Loan.  A really thorough database of books is called "WorldCat."

Remember that searching a library catalog is different than searching in databases that contain journal articles or conference papers. To get better results, it may be necessary to search under a broader keyword than your specific topic. When you enter a keyword in the catalog to look for books, your search is executed on basic pieces of information like the author, title, editor, publisher and subject headings. The book's title and its assigned subject headings assigned in catalog records are often much broader than your topic.  Perhaps your topic is only covered in a chapter or grouping of chapters. So keep this in mind and adjust as necessary.  You can always ask a librarian for help.

The Engineering & Science Library has now shifted almost entirely to the Library of Congress Classification System. We do have some materials still in the Dewey Decimal Classification system, but we hope to convert the remaining materials as soon as possible. Here are the Library of Congress classification numbers for selected physics topics:

QB1-139 General
QB140-237 Practical and spherical astronomy
QB275-343 Geodesy
QB349-421 Theoretical astronomy and celestial mechanics
QB455-456 Astrogeology
QB460-466 Astrophysics
QB468-480 Non-optical methods of astronomy
QB495-903 Descriptive astronomy
QB500.5-785 Solar system
QB799-903 Stars
QB980-991 Cosmogony. Cosmology
QC1-75 General
QC81-114 Weights and measures
QC120-168.85 Descriptive and experimental mechanics
QC170-197 Atomic physics. Constitution and properties of matter
Including molecular physics, relativity, quantum theory, and
solid state physics
QC221-246 Acoustics. Sound
QC251-338.5 Heat
QC310.15-319 Thermodynamics
QC350-467 Optics. Light
QC450-467 Spectroscopy
QC474-496.9 Radiation physics (General)
QC501-766 Electricity and magnetism
QC501-(721) Electricity
QC669-675.8 Electromagnetic theory
QC676-678.6 Radio waves (Theory)
QC701-715.4 Electric discharge
QC717.6-718.8 Plasma physics. Ionized gases
QC750-766 Magnetism
QC770-798 Nuclear and particle physics. Atomic energy. Radioactivity
QC793-793.5 Elementary particle physics
QC794.95-798 Radioactivity and radioactive substances
QC801-809 Geophysics. Cosmic physics
QC811-849 Geomagnetism
QC851-999 Meteorology. Climatology
Including the earth's atmosphere
QC974.5-976 Meteorological optics
QC980-999 Climatology and weather
QC994.95-999 Weather forecasting

Encyclopedias, Dictionaries and Handbooks

When beginning research on a topic, be sure to first review basic reference sources. These are titles such as subject-specific encyclopedias, subject-specific dictionaries, and a variety of handbooks that each pertain to a particular research topic.

Subject-specific encyclopedias will provide an overview of your selected topic. Many encyclopedia articles will have footnotes that will lead you to additional sources. Dictionaries are also helpful while performing research on a particular topic. Dictionaries will aid in deciphering the language of the field or providing an author with a standard definition of a term. Physics handbooks are also useful tools in research. Handbooks provide a way to locate formulae and data.

Below is a representative list of physics specific encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks that are held by the Engineering & Science Library.

Encyclopedias

Dictionaries
Handbooks