Finding Academic Literature

Finding Academic Literature
• Thinking about your subject to get search terms
• Bibliographic databases
Rowena Stewart
[email protected]
Liaison Librarian
Tel: 0131 650 5207
What is your literature review on?
What question do you have to answer?
Have a Think
Do I have to think?
It helps you to:
Get a grip on what you’re investigating. And so:
decide your research focus which may prevent you amassing
information on diverse strands of the topic not immediately relevant.
2) Prepare words and phrases for finding the academic information you
need from the resources available to you
 “Search Terms”
Search Terms & Focus
 What you already know may help you decide on your focus within a
broad subject and to come up with the words and phrases which
describe the topic you’re investigating. Consider:
• synonyms and alternative spellings.
• Professional and colloquial usage
• broader terms
Which antihypertensives are safest in treating hypertension during pregnancy or childbirth?
Major subjects
pregnancy or
Alternative spellings
related terms
beta blockers
specific drug names
high blood pressure
Labour/ labor
 any limits on the type of studies you want to read?...PICOS
• Patient Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, Study design
Library Catalogue cf Bibliographic databases
Library catalogue and e-journal pages tell you what journals we have,
eg Clinical Nursing Research
Not who has published what in those journals,
ie not that in Clinical Nursing Research in 2009, D Finfgeld-Connett published
Management of aggression among demented or brain-injured patients.
Bibliographic databases
Contain details of millions of articles from 1000s of publications Are usually
subject specific
Perform sophisticated searches limited to topics, date, authors or type of
N.B. Bibliographic databases
1) provide references/citations for material and often abstracts or
summaries as well but only link out to full-text
2) are not limited to what the library has
Searching bibliographic databases
Be specific when you start to search for academic papers but, if you are not
finding anything to read use broader topic search terms.
 see what you get and use further search terms from your results
 find articles which have, in their reference list, a paper you’ve found
Information Assessment
Currency – when was it written?
Authority - Do you trust the author of the information?
Accuracy – are there mistakes elsewhere?
Objectivity - Is there bias?
Relevancy - Is the information on the aspect of a subject you are interested in?
Bibliographic databases let you avoid some steps because they provide
access to academically or professionally approved material.
 you just have to decide if what you’ve found is relevant.
Search strategy - truncation
Truncation allows you to look for all forms of a keyword:
plurals, variant endings, etc.
music* = music, musical(s),
musician(s), musicianship
Symbols can vary depending on databases!
…Boolean logic for combining search terms
All foods with raspberries (100)
All flavours of ice cream (100)
Raspberry ice cream (1)
Ice cream AND raspberr* (1)
Ice cream NOT raspberr* (99)
Raspberr* OR ice cream (199)
…and truncat*
Search strategy – wildcards
Usually a ? Mark. Like truncation but a wildcard allows
for variation in a letter in the middle of a word instead of
at the end, eg
organise/organize: organi?e.
labour/ labor: labo?r
You could use OR to achieve the same result.
Search strategy – snowballing
Just one useful book or article can lead you to more:
– Search for other writings by the same author and coauthors.
– Follow up on references used by author in their
– Use “cited by” or “more like this” feature if there is
– Follow up subject headings/keywords used in
database records
Reading the full-text
• Try any links which seem as if they will give you full-text.
• Treat like a normal reference and use the library catalogue
Because we may have what you want:
• online from a different site
• In print
Off-campus access to online collection
Through EASE (authentication) / MyEd (portal)
• VPN – access to University network + wireless access
Inter-Library Loan (ILL) for what we don’t have
via ILLiad -
5 free requests per year.
After that - £5 per request received.
– e-payment request
Visiting Other Libraries - National Library of Scotland, Other Uni Libraries, etc
Where to find (out about) databases
Searcher (default tab) for quick searches
and probable full-text
A-Z list and lists by subject
Citing References
The work of others which you use in your own work is cited to:
• Allow those reading the record of what you’ve done, to
read the sources you have read.
• Credit and show you have read the key relevant work and
are able to use it to support your arguments/move on.
• Avoid plagiarism.
Different disciplines cite sources in different ways – find out the “style” you
are expected to use.
• There are manuals for the different styles with instructions on
how to cite different types of material.
• There is reference management software which may help, eg
EndNote Online.
Rowena Stewart,
Tel: 0131 650 5207
e-mail: [email protected]
[email protected]
ISiskills –

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