Discovering information

Finding information which is relevant and reliable is a key skill that you will need here at University and after. Follow the "three steps" when you need to search for information and you could save yourself effort and get better results.

Discovering information - in three steps

  1. Starting out
  2. Quick search
  3. Advanced search

1. Starting out

First, consider what you already know about the topic:

  • Look at any information you already have, as this may lead to further information. Most journal articles, books, theses and dissertations will provide you with references to earlier work. You can find more recent references by seeing which papers have cited the information you already have. Google Scholar is a useful tool for 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.

Next, decide whether you need to make a quick search or a more advanced search:

  • Quick search is appropriate if you only need a limited amount of information about the topic
  • Advanced search is necessary if you need to make a comprehensive, quality assured search of the literature of the topic

2. Quick search

If you only need a limited amount of information about the topic, use Library Search on the Library homepage. With Library Search you will find books, journal articles and other scholarly material. Consider what search terms you could use to find relevant material on your topic. Use the filters in the left hand menu to focus your results, e.g. information published after a certain date; journal articles only; etc.

3. Advanced search

If you need to make a comprehensive, quality assured search of the literature of the topic, you will need to make use of bibliographic databases.

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 the journal article. Some databases also include book chapters, reports, and other less common types of information.

Each subject has its own databases. You will need to identify the databases most relevant for your topic to get the best results.  Have a look at your subject page to see which databases are recommended for your subject.

To learn how to search for information in databases effectively, have a look at this tutorial.

Further help

For more help on researching your topic and discovering information, contact your Subject Librarian.

Tutorial: Discovering information with databases

Learn which are the best tools to carry out research on your topic, and how to use them most effectively.

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