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How to do a literature search

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Before you can contribute to the academic dialogue, you need to have a sound grasp of your topic and its context. This session will give you strategies for finding and evaluating published literature …

Before you can contribute to the academic dialogue, you need to have a sound grasp of your topic and its context. This session will give you strategies for finding and evaluating published literature so you can get a 'big picture' view of your topic.

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  • 1. How to do a literature search Emma Coonan Research Skills Librarian, Cambridge University Library
  • 2. What is it?
    • Searching for (chiefly) published work about a topic of your choice
    • Aiming to get a sound grasp of your topic and its context
    • Joining the academic dialogue
  • 3. What is it?
    • “ A detailed and organised, step by step search for all the material available on a topic.”
    www.rgu.ac.uk/library/howto/page.cfm?pge=25989
  • 4. Unknown unknowns
    • “ There are known knowns . These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns . That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns . These are things we do not know we don’t know.”
  • 5.
    • 1. Where to look
  • 6. Your research sources: 1
    • Books
    • LibrarySearch
    • Journals
    • LibrarySearch
    • ejournals@cambridge
  • 7. Librarians catalogue the name of the ‘container’: the title of an edited book - not the book chapter the journal title - not the article Search for what’s on the spine
  • 8. Journals and journal articles Journal titles are notoriously tricky! Is it called - Journal of … Journal of the … Journal for … International journal of …
  • 9.
    • Networking from a known item (‘pearl growing’)
    • Categories and facets
    • Keywords
    • search.lib.cam.ac.uk
    Known unknowns: strategies
  • 10. Your research sources: 2
    • Journal articles
    • Book chapters
    • Conference papers
    • Festschriften contributions
    • Reports
    • Reviews
    • Patents
    • ?
    Where can I find … Not in the library catalogue!
  • 11. What’s a citation database?
    • Citation database = article search engine
    • Began as online indexes of journal articles
    • Expanded to contain other document types
    • May offer full-text links
    • Not comprehensive
  • 12. Library catalogue
  • 13. Citation database
  • 14. Text archive vs. citation database
    • JSTOR
    • contains about 1,750 journals (March 2010)
    • full-text articles: c. 2m
    • Scopus
    • indexes over 16,500 journals
    • article citations: c. 38m
    • Still not comprehensive!
  • 15. Text archive vs. citation database
  • 16. 2. How to look
  • 17. Translating your topic into keywords
    • Napoleon or Nelson (either name)
    • Napoleon and Nelson (both names)
    • Napoleon not brandy (excluded word)
    • “ Napoleon Bonaparte ” (as a phrase)
  • 18. Boolean searching
  • 19. What’s in a name?
    • Trafalgar =
    • (naval or sea or maritime or marine …)
    • and
    • (battle or conflict or combat or action …)
  • 20. ? and * (wildcard and truncation)
    • ? replaces a single character
    • ‘ Wom?n ’ finds ‘woman’ or ‘women’
    • ‘ Globali?ation ’ finds British or American spelling
    • * replaces any number of characters (including zero)
    • ‘ Pig* ’ finds ‘pig’, ‘pigs’, ‘pigmy’, ‘pigment’ ...
    • ‘ Transfer* ’ finds ‘transfer’, ‘transfers’, ‘transferable’, ‘transferability’ …
  • 21.
    • You want to search for material published from 2005 onwards on sustainable transport , with particular reference to cycling .
    Over to you … What search keywords and strategies would you use?
  • 22.
    • Try linking your keywords together in different ways and using truncation:
    • “ sustainable transport ” and cycl *
    • sustainable and transport and cycl *
    • sustainable and transport and * cycl *
  • 23.
    • Your research topic is going to be cyberbullying among adolescents .
    Over to you … What potential search pitfalls can you see?
  • 24.
    • Think about synonyms and variations of your keywords:
    • “ cyberbullying” could also be spelt cyber-bullying , or might be referred to as online bullying
    • Synonyms for “adolescents” could include teenagers , young people , youth …
    Truncation tip: searching for you?? w ill find hits for both young and youth
  • 25.
    • 3. When to look
  • 26. When to look
    • As part of your initial approach to the topic or research question
    • Periodically throughout your research
      • RSS and search alerts are very useful here
    • As part of your final writing-up process
  • 27.
    • Where do I start?
  • 28. www.lib.cam.ac.uk/electronicresources
  • 29. UL homepage – digital library
  • 30. Research Skills Programme
    • At www.lib.cam.ac.uk/courses/ you can …
    • Find our timetable of subject-based sessions
    • Book for hands-on information skills classes
    • Request one-to-one training
    • Download these slides and other handouts
    • … or e-mail [email_address]
  • 31. Thanks for coming!
    • Please let us know what you think …
    Hand in your completed evaluation forms at the Tea Room to receive a free cup of tea or coffee

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