Searching for academic sources, also known as a literature search, requires a little more planning than a Google search.
Here you will find information to plan and carry out searches for your assignments and research projects.
If you do not find the results you expect from your literature search, contact your Academic Liaison Librarian for help.
The first step when planning your research is to identify your keywords. Search engines such as Google use natural language enabling full sentence searching. The search functions on Locate, the Library catalogue, and the subject databases do not recognise natural language. Instead keywords are used, the alternative words or short phrases, that represent the main ideas in your research question. The advantage to this approach is that you have greater control over your searching rather than relying on the unknown algorithms of Google.
|Searching using all the words in your assignment will not successful results. Similarly, searching on a single word will also find too many results. Review your assignment question and identify the keywords. These are the main themes of your assignment excluding the descriptive or action words e.g., advantage, impact, compare, contrast, analyse, etc.|
For each keyword, try to think of as many similar or related words as possible. This can include synonyms, antonyms specific concepts within a topic. If you are writing an assignment on the impact of diet on child obesity, for example, your keywords would be diet, child, obesity, and child obesity. The synonyms could include nutrition, eating habits, infant, toddler, obese, overweight, unhealthy eating.
Using a wide range of keywords will ensure your search results are comprehensive and relevant as different authors will use different words to describe the same topic. You are now ready to begin composing a search on Locate or the subject specific databases using your keywords.
Boolean operators connect your keywords together to narrow or broaden a search.
The three basic Boolean operators are: AND, OR, and NOT.
You can combine multiple Boolean operators to create more effective searches.
Further information on Boolean searching can be found on the Advanced searching guide.
It is advisable to test your search terms. By reviewing your results, you may find alternative words or phrases to enhance your search strategy. Focus on the subject terms that have been used to index the content. If you are not finding suitable results, reconsider your search terms or the research sources you are using for your search. Your Subject Guide will help you identify appropriate sources for your specific subject area. You may need to refer to more than one subject guide if your assignment covers multiple disciplines.
Filters will help refine your search when you have too many results. Where appropriate, the peer reviewed filter is useful to limit your searches to academic / scholarly publications. The date, language, and format options, such as full text, are also useful filters.