How to do a literature search

During the study, students and graduate students are faced with the need to search for scientific articles to prepare for seminars, make presentations, do projects and write their own research works. However, there are certain difficulties with finding the information they need for their papers as very often it is impossible to find the required books in the libraries. That's where you have to ask for help from professional writing agencies or use the Internet resources by yourself.

But here arises the second problem – the lack of searching skills and search algorithms for scientific publications. Search engines do not always give the opportunity to find articles that can really be referred to when writing your research paper. Instead of full articles, they give either brief characteristics, references in abstracts, or offer to read articles that often cannot be attributed to full-fledged scientific works. The best solution in this situation is to visit specialized websites to search for scientific articles, Internet libraries, and archives.

It is quite a big challenge to select the source you need independently. You have to be very attentive and careful with the sources you find on the net as due to a great variety of the existing resources not all of them can be credible enough to extract necessary and reliable materials. The success of your research directly depends on the correct choice of sources and the quality of the works you have found.

Therefore, it is a core duty for every student to learn how to do a literature search correctly.

If you are selecting literature to expand the list of works recommended by the teacher for writing a report, a more detailed study of a topic, etc., then you'd better turn to the subject and systematic catalogs of any large specialized library. Knowing the subject area of your search, you will quickly find the literature you need in the library catalog provided that it has the source you require.

If your goal is to search for literature on the topic of scientific work, especially when you are going to deal with this issue – to conduct a comprehensive study and expand the topic, then you need to take this procedure much more seriously. Research works such as term papers or dissertations require several years of studies. During this period you will have to work with the literary sources on a regular basis. In this case, it is better to organize a step-by-step search.

How to make a primary list of references

Every research begins with making an initial list of sources. The basis of the search can be the lists of literature proposed by the teacher at the lectures and workshops, in the seminar plans as well as in textbooks, where, as a rule, the most significant sources on the topic under study are indicated. For convenience, we recommend you to make your own card file of selected sources. To do this, you should take small sheets of paper (1/4 or 1/8 of the standard sheet) and write down all the necessary information about the source:
  • Authors ' name
  • Title
  • Publisher
  • Publication date
  • Number of pages

When working with the cards you must arrange them in alphabetical order. Further on you can use a blank space on the card for notes relating to its content. If you are used to working with the PC you can file each card or a set of cards.

The card index has great advantages, as it allows you to add sources, replace one with another if necessary, remove those that were not relevant to the topic, etc.

How to work with bibliography sources

Once a primary list of sources is ready, you start processing the literary sources. To complete your list of sources, you need to go to the library and find a bibliographic department. Of course, it is difficult to find your way around a large number of different bibliographic manuals. Therefore, it is better to seek advice from employees of the department, who will explain to you how to use bibliographic indexes and assist in the selection of those sources you are interested in.

If the library has an electronic catalog, a librarian will instruct you how to use it. Do not hesitate to ask for help - it is the responsibility of the workers of the bibliographic department.

Looking through the bibliographic signs, read the names of the works carefully not to miss the information you need. You have to focus on the names of the authors, immediately highlighting those who are engaged in studying this problem (whose works are already in your list), consider the year of publication and other data. Write down the title of the book you are interested in on the card and all related information.

On coming home arrange them in the alphabetical order.

Further, when working with the sources, pay special attention to the lists of sources given in other books and monographs. They are usually placed at the very end of the book and contain a fairly complete list of works on the problem to which they are devoted to. Make sure to take into account the year of the book publication and if the book is published more than 5 or 10 years ago you should look for more recent publications.

Such thematic lists of sources as a bibliographic one, allow you with minimal effort to supply your card file with the necessary information and literary works.

When searching for journal articles, it is better to use the latest editions of scientific journals within a current year. Look through the journal you have found for taking more materials and sources from the literary lists below the article related to your own study

How to find the book you need

We recommend starting the search for the sources in the library, which is the most convenient for you. First of all, we mean the library in your university, department or the one in your neighborhood. You can go to another city if there is a bigger library. In addition, many departments have their own offices, which have a collection of specialized literature. Get acquainted with the collections of these libraries and check the list you compiled before using the alphabetical catalog of the library.

If you find a book in the library, mark the card you have prepared by yourself and make the notes – write a library code and other details about the book so that you will be able to borrow the book at the time you need without referring back to the catalog. Magazine editions can be found in the periodicals room. Explore the catalog in this hall to find out which journals are available.

You can continue searching the books that you have not found in the local library in the universities or other libraries that offer the materials on your topic. Please make sure to make appropriate notes on the cards to quickly identify the place where this or that book can be found.

You should know that almost every country has a unified national exchange system - inter-Library card (IBA), which allows you to get those books that are not in the library, from other libraries where they are. Therefore, using the IBA system which is available in all central libraries, you have the opportunity to find even more sources related to your research topic.

Literary search through the Internet

One of the key skills in research is to find literature on the assigned topic. The scientists and students of today live in in the era of the Internet technology when both scientific articles and huge library catalogs are available online. You just need to learn how to do a literature search. We have selected some useful tips for you:
  • There are a lot of tools to search for scientific sources. The main ones are databases such as SceinceAhost and SelfbrowseDirect In addition, there is a Google Scholar search engine which is specifically created for searching academic articles and books. The latter is easier to use but it is not everything. The databases that exist in the net allow you to organize much more flexible and powerful search.
  • To learn how to work with the database faster, you can view short videos at our website or visit a tutorial section for some more information about popular scientific sources.

Tips for effective search of sources

When you start doing some research you should find appropriate literature on the desired topic. Here are some tips how to do a literature search effectively:
  • Start by searching for review articles. The journals Trends in Cognitive Science are great for curious students who sought for the latest scientific developments. They cover a wide range of scientific areas and are easy-to-use. Therefore, there is a high probability that you can find the review on the subject of your interest. It is a good way to start making your list of relevant sources with the help of this resource as the reviews contain systematized links by which you will find more information on a designated topic.
  • The titles of cited articles do not need to be searched manually — databases allow to open the page of the original article by clicking the link "references" and get a full list.
  • From a review or just a good article on the topic, you can use another method – look for the articles that have not been referred to yet. Thus, you can learn about more recent studies. to search for them in this database or in Google Scholar you need to find the button "citations" or "cited by".
  • In addition, databases often offer automated collections like "related articles" or "recommended articles". Despite all the disadvantages, automated collections are also worth looking through.
  • In order to make the most effective search queries, you should pay attention to the terminology used. Sometimes, similar things in slightly different areas or schools are called differently. Experiment and try to use different formulations and their combinations when you search for scientific literature.
  • Revisited terminology - it is useful to learn to make search queries using logical operators. The words AND, OR, NOT, adverted commas and an asterisk should become your “best friends” while doing a literary search. Their use varies slightly depending on the search system, so you’d better check them out in special tutorials. The use of logical operators saves time and greatly improves the efficiency of the search.
  • You can save the result of any query in the database so you will not spend much time and effort to remember the complex search query. In addition, you should subscribe to alerts. As soon as a new article matching your once compiled query appears, the database will notify you about it.
  • Take the time to learn how to use the library of your University and its electronic resources. This is especially important for finding full-text versions of articles.

Sometimes it turns out that the source or the article you have found is not free. In this case, do not rush to pay for the access to preview it. You should continue to search for the same article with the help of other resources and Internet libraries. It is possible that on another website it is absolutely free.

Of course, we have given a far incomplete list of useful advice on how to do the literary search. However, it is never late to learn. Read more related articles in the blog section. We wish you good luck in surfing for necessary data within the boundlessness of the Internet!

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