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Dissertation and Final Project Support

Covered on this page: 

  • Using search tools to answer your research question
  • Building a search strategy
  • How to find and access a resource from a citation or reference
  • Guidance on using subject specific databases
  • Grey literature
  • I need more help...

Using search tools to answer your research question 

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.

Worked example

Find resources to answer the research question: "Discuss methods of achieving success at university"

 What not to do:


 What to do instead:



Why is this important?

  • The number of results is much smaller (though still quite large in this example - we need to keep refining and using filters!)
  • The search results in the second method are much more relevant than those using the first method

Building a search strategy

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.

1. Developing Keywords

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.

2. Phrase Searching

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.

  • "geodesic dome"
  • "sustainable architecture".

3. Boolean operators

These search operators help to narrow or broaden your search - like AND, OR, NOT.

AND finds records containing both terms - to narrow the search.

  • "modern architecture" AND Le Corbusier
  • "geodesic dome" AND Foster

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:

  • image OR identity
  • house OR building

NOT finds records containing the first term, but not the second term - it excludes.

  • sustainable NOT glass
  • renaissance NOT modern

4. Truncation

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.

  • manag* : manager, managers, manages, managing, management, etc.
  • architect* : architecture, architects, architectonic, etc.

How to find and access a resource from a citation or reference

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

Diagram showing the component parts of a citation or reference: Authors, publication date, article title, journal title, volume and issue number, page numbers.

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 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. 

Theses, Dissertations and Grey Literature

Theses and Dissertations

  • If you want to find an exemplar dissertation or thesis for your LSBU course contact your School Admin office.
  • Many universities around the world make their theses and dissertations available online.  If you Google the name of the institution and repository or theses you might get lucky!

What is grey literature?

Grey literature refers to research that is either unpublished or has been published in non-commercial form.  It can include:

  • Government documents
  • Policy statements
  • Working papers
  • Theses
  • Conference proceedings
  • Statistics
  • White papers
  • Industry and business reports

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.

Grey literature in subject specific databases

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:

I need more help...

Live workshops:

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.

Recorded sessions:

soon available

1-2-1 appointments:

You can also book a 1-2-1 appointment with a librarian for help with literature searching.