When you first start looking for information on a research question or topic, it is important that you don't type the whole question into a search engine such as the LSBU Discovery service or a subject database. This approach will often yield very few useful results - after all, if an article already exists with the exact answer to your question, the research wouldn't be worth doing!
Instead you need to break the question down into its key, component parts - also known as the key concepts or key words.
Find resources to answer the research question: "Discuss methods of achieving success at university"
Use these tips and our handy searching worksheet to plan your search strategy before you start using the databases - a little bit of preparation can make the world of difference to searching efficiently and effectively.
Keywords are essential to researching. Break down your topic into keywords. Create a list of words or phrases that will help your search.
Think of concepts or ideas that are related to your main topic - find words with similar meanings, synonyms.
Use quotation marks " " for a phrase, i.e. when your keyword is made up of two or more words. Your result will be more accurate, as the engine searches for this very specific phrase.
These search operators help to narrow or broaden your search - like AND, OR, NOT.
AND finds records containing both terms - to narrow the search.
OR finds records containing either one or both terms. This broadens the search. It can also be used to account for variant spellings. For example:
NOT finds records containing the first term, but not the second term - it excludes.
Using the asterisk symbol * enables you to chop off unnecessary word endings - so only the stem of a word is looked at by the search engine.
This is very useful for finding a broader range of results - as the search engine will come up with plural or singular endings, nouns, verbs, adjectives.
If you would like to find a particular journal article that you have come across on your reading list or in the reference list of another essay/article, you can easily search for it on the LSBU Discovery search tool.
Try entering the article title into the Discovery search tool box. If this does not find the article, search for the Journal title instead, and then go to the appropriate volume, issue and page number.
Our reference example above is in LSBU Harvard. However, no matter what referencing style you have in front of you - it should have all the information you need to find the source. Check out the referencing page of this guide for more help with referencing styles.
If you can't find what you are looking for, contact us at email@example.com as we may know an alternate way of finding the article, and we can also give you details about making an inter-library loan request if appropriate.
Grey literature refers to research that is either unpublished or has been published in non-commercial form. It can include:
Grey literature can be a good source of raw data (statistics). It is likely to be more sector or industry focused rather than academic, and can be used effectively in conjunction with academic sources. It is often international, open access, and freely available.
Add "conference proceedings" or "conference papers" to your search in these databases to bring back conference materials.
Some databases are particularly useful for accessing the abstract and indexing information for grey literature, such as conference proceedings. Find our top recommendations listed below:
We run regular online workshops on using the LSBU Discovery service, building search strategies and literature searching principles - click here to see our calendar and book onto a session.
You can also book a 1-2-1 appointment with a librarian for help with literature searching.