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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 so you can get a 'big picture' view of your topic.

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How to do a literature search

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

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