Finding relevant and reliable information is a key skill that you will need at University and after. Follow the three steps below when searching for information and you could save yourself effort and get better results.
The 3 steps
Discovering information can be split into three parts:
- Starting out
- Quick search
- Advanced search
Step 1. Starting out
Before conducting a search there are two things to establish.
First, consider what you already know about the topic:
- Look at any scholarly literature you already have, as this may lead to further information. Most journal articles and books will provide you with references to earlier work. You can also find more recent work by seeing which journal articles have cited the scholarly literature you already have - Google Scholar is a useful tool for doing this.
- If you are researching a topic new to you, or need some specific information, you could consult a textbook covering the topic, or try quick reference tools. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and data books can provide definitions, summaries or specific information.
Types of search
Next, decide whether you need to make a quick search or a more advanced search:
- A quick search is appropriate if you only need a limited amount of information about the topic.
- An advanced search is necessary if you need to make a comprehensive, quality-assured search of the literature of the topic.
Step 2. Quick Search
If you only need a limited amount of information about the topic, use Library Search to find books, journal articles and other scholarly material.
Consider what search terms you could use to find relevant literature on your topic. Then try using the filters in the left hand menu to focus your results - for example, try limiting your search results to journal articles only.
Step 3. Advanced search
If you need to make a comprehensive and quality-assured search of the literature on a topic, use a bibliographic database.
A database allows you to search across hundreds of academic publications at once. The most common type of information you will find in a database is a journal article, but some databases also include book chapters, reports and other less common types of information.
Each subject has its own range of databases: have a look at your Subject Support page to see which databases are recommended for your subject. To learn how to use them effectively, have a look at this tutorial.
Learn how to research beyond a reading list. This tutorial shows you how to use Library Search, and introduces you to subject databases.
Learn which are the best tools to carry out research on your topic, and how to use them effectively.
For further help with searching for literature please contact your subject librarian, who you can find listed by subject here.