Skip to Main Content
+27 21 959

ukwazi 2   

Information Literacy Tutorial

A module-based information literacy tutorial that addresses each stage of the research process, including selecting a topic, identifying information needs, selecting sources, locating information, evaluating information, and citing sources.

The Dewey filing system - finding your way in the Library


One of the functions of the Library is to organise its collections in a systematic way that is helpful to users.  The Library catalogue (also known as SmartSearch) will allow you to search for books and also supplies a shelf number or address that indicates where the book you want may be found in the Library.

On the spine of every book you'll find a small sticker with typed numbers.  We call this the "shelf number" of the book.  Each book is assigned a shelf number that helps keep books on the same subject near each other.  The shelf number is like the physical address where the book may be found.

The shelf number is determined by a system that was developed by a philosopher called Melvil Dewey.  He decided to organise all the fields of knowledge into a numerical system, giving each broad subject its own number.  This system is known as the Dewey Decimal system, and is widely used by libraries all over the world.


Overview of Dewey Decimal System

ACTIVITY:  Knowing a bit about how the Dewey Decimal system works can help you find your way in a library.  When you walk up the Library ramp, check out the signs which give a breakdown of the Dewey numbers on each level.


000 Generalities 

100 Philosophy & psychology 

200 Religion 

300 Social sciences 

400 Language 

500 Natural sciences & mathematics 

600 Technology (Applied sciences) 

700 The arts 

800 Literature & rhetoric 

900 Geography & history



You'll see that each one of the numbers listed above is seperated from the others by 100.  Each one of these main subject categories can be broken down further into subdivisions.  For example, look at some subdivisions of the 300 class below to get a sense of how different aspects of a topic have their own individual Dewey number.

Examples of subject classes from the 300s

300 Social sciences 
   301 Sociology & anthropology
   302 Social interaction 
   303 Social processes 
   304 Factors affecting social behavior 
   305 Social groups 
   306 Culture & institutions 
   307 Communities 
   308 Not assigned or no longer used 
   309 Not assigned or no longer used 
320 Political science 
   321 Systems of governments & states 
   322 Relation of state to organized groups 
   323 Civil & political rights 
   324 The political process
   325 International migration & colonization 
   326 Slavery & emancipation 
   327 International relations 
   328 The legislative process 
   329 Not assigned or no longer used 

330 Economics 
   331 Labour economics 
   332 Financial economics 
   333 Land economics 
   334 Cooperatives 
   335 Socialism & related systems 
   336 Public finance 
   337 International economics 
   338 Production 
   339 Macroeconomics & related topics 


340 Law 
   341 International law 
   342 Constitutional & administrative law 
   343 Military, tax, trade, industrial law 
   344 Social, labor, welfare, & related law 
   345 Criminal law 
   346 Private law 
   347 Civil procedure & courts 
   348 Law (Statutes), regulations, cases 
   349 Law of specific jurisdictions & areas

370 Education 

   371 School management; special education 
   372 Elementary education 
   373 Secondary education 
   374 Adult education 
   375 Curriculums 
   376 Education of women 
   377 Schools & religion 
   378 Higher education 
   379 Government regulation, control, support 

380 Commerce, communications, transport 
   381 Internal commerce (Domestic trade) 
   382 International commerce (Foreign trade) 
   383 Postal communication 
   384 Communications Telecommunication 
   385 Railroad transportation 
   386 Inland waterway & ferry transportation 
   387 Water, air, space transportation 
   388 Transportation Ground transportation 
   389 Metrology & standardization 


Check your understanding

Please work through the following quiz:


Interactive Quiz

What's Next?


   End of Module. Go to Module 2. 


University of the Western Cape,

Robert Sobukwe Road,



Tel: 021 959 2946