Finding information v.27

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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 and some of the strategies you can use.  If you need further help, please feel free to get in touch.  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, such as setting up the VPN service for off-campus access.  

A quick reminder about searching

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. 


Subject specific databases

Searching for information

In addition to the major databases listed below, each subject area has its own specialised databases.  For example, if you're studying art then the image databases may be useful.  Your Faculty Librarian has created advice pages about the subject specific databases relevant to you.  Please see the screen shot above.


Use the search widget in the top-right of this page! Discovery lets you find books, journal articles, conference papers and much more. It searches many of the databases the Library subscribes to at the same time. It has an advantage over Google Scholar because you know how it's generating the results, and so you can be more confident in the validity / 'quality' of what you find

Scopus and Web of Science

Scopus and Web of Science are similar to each other; they are both international databases that allow you to search journal articles (and a limited number of books) from across a wide range of subject areas, including science and technology, social sciences, and arts and humanities.  Unlike Discovery, they also show citations, which allows you to identify key articles and people, and makes it easy to explore through related collections of research.  Similar to Discovery, Scopus and Web of Science also have an advantage over Google Scholar because you can be confident in the validity / 'quality' of what you find. For further help, please see the Web of Science library guide and the bibliometrics page.

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. (To do this, you need to click Settings in the top-right of the Google Scholar home page and add the University of Portsmouth).

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

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 library resources

See the Resources menu (above) for a complete listing of the further databases and resources the Library provides, including online academic books, journals, image databases, historic maps, streamed TV and films and even printed paper books. Or you may like to look at your subject area guide

Finding information not held by the Library

Please see the Finding 'good' open access research: a guide for UoP Students and Staff. The University also participates in various schemes providing access to other UK Higher Education and National Libraries.  The Library also operates an Interlibrary Loan service.  

Some further useful links:-


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