Searching for information

Sign posts

 

It's impossible for the Library to produce a complete and definitive guide to all the sources researchers may turn to when looking for information. Instead, this page gives a tour through the main places you may search.  Depending on your research project, you are likely to need to search in more than one place.   The main message from this page is that if you just use Google then you're likely to miss out on important information. 

If you need further help, please feel free to get in touch or talk to your Faculty Librarian.  You may also be interested in the Research Methods website from Sage.

 

Getting started

Before you start exploring the many databases and resources that the Library provides, it's a good idea to follow the advice on the accessing electronic resources page.  This shows you a few techniques that will save you time in the long run.

When you're searching, it's worth remembering that research articles and books etc. cite (reference) each other and so they're linked together in a kind of enormous web.  This can be very handy for finding related research. You can find clusters of related articles or books by either looking at what other articles a particular article has cited (i.e. looking at the reference list at the end of the article), or by looking at what new articles have been published that cite (reference) a particular article.  Doing the latter can be a little more tricky, but databases such as Scopus (see below) will let you do this easily. 

 

The Library's main search page

In the top-right of this page you'll see the blue 'Click to search library resources' button. This takes you to our main search page. From here you can search -

 

Scopus

Scopus is an international database that allow you to search journal articles and a limited number of books. It covers a wide range of subject areas, but it's particularly good for science and technology research. 

Unlike Discovery, Scopus also shows citations and how different articles are linked together. This helps you identify key articles and experts in your area and makes it easy to explore related collections of research.  So while Discovery will find some of the same articles as Scopus, if you are researching in a science or technology subject area then it's advantageous to search Scopus directly. 

Similar to Discovery, Scopus has the advantage over Google Scholar because you can be confident in the validity / 'quality' of what you find

 

Google scholar

It's tempting to head straight for Google scholar to find books, journal articles etc. If used carefully, there's often nothing wrong with using Google Scholar. The Google Scholar library guide is useful.  Google Scholar searches many of the resources that the Library subscribes to, and often provides links to the full-text article or books. Google Scholar is also a useful tool for finding 'grey literature' (see below).

However, it's important to be aware of its limitations. For example, unlike Discovery, Web of Science and Scopus, you do not know how Google Scholar is generating its search results and so you need to judge the validity of the sources for yourself. Google Scholar will include articles published in 'predatory journals', which you should avoid.  Also, while Google Scholar searches some of the resources the Library subscribes to, it doesn't cover them all.  So relying on Google Scholar alone could mean you miss out on things and you can't guarantee the validity / 'quality' of the information you do find

 

Finding 'grey' literature

Grey literature is produced by governments, companies, charities and other organisations, rather than by commercial publishers. It's an extremely useful way of gaining a deeper insight into a subject. We've put together this guide on finding grey literature.

 

Subject specific databases

In addition to the major databases, each subject area has its own specialised databases.  For example, if you're studying art then the image databases may be useful.  Information about subject specific databases can be found here.

 

Finding information not held by the Library

Please see How to find open access research.

The University also participates in various schemes providing access to other UK Higher Education and National Libraries, and we operate an Interlibrary Loan service.  

 

What should I avoid?

Unfortunately, in recent years some very dubious journal 'publishers' have appeared, which publish very low quality articles that have not been properly peer-reviewed. Read more about 'predatory' publishers and how to avoid them.

 

Additional resources

Some further useful links:-

 

Image credit: Signpost image above reproduced under the CC0 creative commons licence from Pixabay.