Thing 19: Advanced Literature Searching
A key skill for being an effective researcher is knowing how to wrangle the literature and finding the most relevant resources for your purpose. In this post Sarah Charing introduces tools and tips that will turn you into a pro-searcher in no time.
An excellent starting point for finding the most relevant databases in your discipline are the Library’s Subject Guides, where you will find a list of recommended databases relevant to the area of study or research. Another way to access databases – and e-journal titles – is via the A-Z e-journals and databases search, where you can browse databases by name and subject. For future quick access, bookmark the permalinks of those databases you are going to search most regularly. Logging in with your UoM username and password is the simplest way to access content. Alternatively, you may like to use the Lean Library browser extension to access library e-resources as you find them, whether from Google Scholar searches, mentions on social media or any other channels you use in your research.
Databases can be multidisciplinary (i.e. covering a range of disciplines), or they can be subject-specific. Multidisciplinary databases include Scopus and Web of Science. Both of these are citation databases, meaning they include citation counts for the articles they index. Subject-specific databases will generally retrieve smaller, but more focused, result sets than multidisciplinary databases, which have a wider coverage.
That Thing you do: integration into practice
Understanding and using Boolean operators (AND/OR/NOT) is one of the keys to effective literature searching. You can use these operators to combine your keywords, and make searching more accurate. See this short video for information on searching:
Accounts and alerts
Setting up search alerts saves you time. When you have found the best databases for your research and established effective search strategies, the databases can automatically do the searching for you. For each database that you use, register a free account, save your searches, then set up alerts at regular intervals (weekly, monthly etc.). Registering for an account typically involves creating a username, a password and providing an email address. Remember these details for accessing, adding, deleting and modifying saved searches and alerts.
Depending on the database you are using, you can also set up citation alerts, meaning that if a key article you are interested in is cited, you will get an alert. This helps you stay up to date with the latest research in your area without having to manually re-run searches.
If your subject area isn’t covered by the major citation databases, you can try using Google Scholar. You can set up search alerts, and citation alerts for particular articles. If you are using Google Scholar, set up your preferences to give you easy access to any full text content that the Library is subscribed to.
When sharing articles be mindful of any potential copyright obligations a database may impose. When sharing the link to a specific article, databases will have an option to copy a permalink, or otherwise share details via email. You can use Lean Library to access articles others share with you.
Depending on the nature of your research, you may be gathering large numbers of articles. Have a think about how you will manage – or currently are managing – your resources and their bibliographic information. If you are interested in reference management tools, have a look at the Options for Managing References guide to help you decide which one to use, or register for a webinar to learn how to use them.
- The Library’s guide to Staying Current will give you more information on setting up alerts. Use the Browzine app to follow journals, get notifications on new issues and published articles, and share articles on social media.
- Book a research consultation with your faculty liaison librarian to get help with finding information, formulating and/or refining search strategies. For some basic tips on finding journal articles, see the Finding Journal Articles library guide.
- Using databases to find articles for a review? Have a look at the library guides for Literature Reviews and Systematic Reviews.
About the author
Sarah Charing is the Liaison Librarian in Architecture, Building and Planning. She is currently researching for an MPhil and loves reference management.
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