Lynne Meehan Room 314, UCL Science Library
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org ☎: 020 7679 2634
Carrying out literature searches takes time. Developing your information skills will help you
to produce literature reviews faster and to a higher standard.
• It is possible to “speed up” the searching process by using consistent, structured
approach as well as by making use of alerting services and “saved searches”
• You can improve your standard of your review by including material from a broad
range of information sources, including those with which you are less familiar.
Sources of Information (or where to look for your assignment)
Assignment Search engine (e.g. Wikipedia Library Database
Writing a - Look for news An overview Find a book Look for
short items on climate of your topic on climate references to
assignment change change that journal articles if
- Google Scholar you can use you had time to do
Writing a long - Look for news - An - Find a book You might try using
assignment items on climate overview of on climate a database of
change your topic change that journal articles to
- Google Scholar - Suggested you can use look for what
- Finding keywords - Possibly find research there has
organisations linked you can use conference been over the last
to climate when papers few years into
- Political policies searching climate change.
relating to climate the
It's a good idea to keep a list of which resources you plan to use, where you're going to
look for information and what you're going to look for. Keep some sort of diary, journal or
log book to track the progress of your thinking and learning. In the diary you may want to
record details of:
• Places you have looked or need to look
• Useful search terms
• Contacts who can help you with one aspect or another of your work Decisions you
are making as you go along e.g. when particular bits of information have caused
you to shift your thinking
• Things that didn't work out e.g. search terms that were too broad
Types of Information
Type of Information Useful for Examples
Journals Up-to-date research -Nature
Usually published monthly or developments within the -Scientific american
quarterly, and contain a selection of field, or reports on -Science
articles providing details of recent technological innovations,
research. current affairs, business
practical experience 'in the
Books Useful to provide an -Textbooks as part of your course
Take a general approach to the introduction or overview of a material
subject, typically covering basic topic or building on research -Knovel is our largest collection of
principles, facts and theories published in journal articles. engineering books.
Technical data Quick and convenient -National Institute of Standards and
Traditionally found in printed retrieval of facts and figures Technology's NIST WebBook
handbooks or manuals, many of http://webbook.nist.gov/chemistry/
these are available online now -Knovel
Standards are accepted current Standards represent a level -British Standards Online for full text
methodologies and technologies of quality that of British Standards
relating, for example, to dimensions, manufacturers and service -IEEE Xplore for full text of over 1000
quality, testing, terminology and providers can work toward standards in electronics,
codes of practice. achieving. telecommunications, robotics,
automatic control and computer
Patents are Intellectual Property Patents provide up-to-date -esp@cenet for european patent
protecting working parts and comprehensive information -UK Patent Office is responsible for
processes. They are a great source about technological Intellectual Property in the UK.
of scientific, technological and innovations that is often not -US Patent and Trademark Office for
competitor information available elsewhere. US patents
Web Useful for official -Librarians’ Internet Index -
information, specialist www.lii.org
organisations, statistics and -Intute – www.intute.ac.uk
data, news, journal articles.
Official publications Governments are involved -Directgov website provides access
Publications issued by the with most areas of society, to a wealth of government
government and its departments. and there are few subjects information and services online.
that are not covered. Official -Department for Business, Enterprise
publications will ultimately and Regulatory Reform website is a
affect corporate strategy to good example of an government
a greater or lesser degree. website
Reference material Looking up company facts,
Such as dictionaries, directories, and data, statistics, standards,
encyclopedia product information, -CRC Handbook of Chemstry and
specialist organisations and Physics
definitions. -Dictionary of Inorganic Compounds
useful for providing specific -Dictionary of Organic Compounds
pieces of information (i.e.
Topic- Overview and Define
Overview of topic
Before you begin, get an overview of the topic you are researching. Especially if you are
not familiar with the topic. Good places to get an overview are:-
Encyclopedias e.g. Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia
Subject dictionaries e.g. A dictionary of Chemistry, edited by John Daintith
Subject websites e.g. www.ucl.ac.uk/library/guides/subjchem.shtml
This will also help choose concepts and keywords to describe your topic when searching.
Define your topic
Go through the following steps :-
Think about the question you want to answer and break it down into its braod areas
or concepts. You usually find that your question breaks down into a couple of areas
Brainstorm for words and phrases associated with the major areas or concepts.
Remember to include synonyms and alternative spellings and colloquial and
-abbreviations – UK, United Kingdom
-Variations in spelling – colour, color, specialised, specialized
-Variations in terminology used in different cultures and countries – for
instance, ‘children with emotional and behavioural problems’ (UK) are
referred to as ‘maladjusted children’ in the US. This will help to ensure that
you find things that an author might have referred to using different terms.
But don't worry if you can't always find any sensible substitutes for the words you
have chosen – there might not be any.
Are there any grographical or date limitations you need to build in to our search?
(e.g. are you looking for the worldwide or european perspective? Are you interested
in historical or very current materials?.
The process may help you decide what you don’t want to investigate as well as what you
do – saving you time when deciding what to read and what not to read.
In groups discuss the topic “Current problems with understanding polar ozone loss”
and write down the main concepts and find keywords and synonyms for the concepts.
• If you want an online database or search engine to understand you, you need to
speak its language. That's why syntax - the way you put your search terms together
• Since syntax can vary between databases and search engines, you should refer to
• For an online tutorial of any of the databases listed here, see section 3 of WISE
(Finding information) for online tutorials: go to http://www.moodle.ucl.ac.uk/, log in,
click on WISE, and select WISE for Maths and Physical Sciences.
Connectors (or 'boolean operators') Connectors determine how multiple search terms
are combined in a search. Three common connectors are and, or and not. Sometimes
symbols are used instead of words, i.e. + or –
Polar regions Polar ozone Ozone layer
Polar OR Ozone
Polar NOT Ozone
Polar AND Ozone
Extra search tips
Nesting: The order in which search engines execute your commands is not always
obvious. You can use round brackets ( ) to control the search sequence.
• Example: the search term ozone and (loss or depletion) will find documents that
contain one of the words in brackets -i.e. loss or depletion – but only if they also
contain the word ozone.
Proximity operators: locate terms that are close to one another. One such proximity
operator is w/#, which you can use to find two words that are # number of pages apart.
• Example: ozone w/3 depletion will find documents where ozone and depletion occur
within three words of one another, in either order.
Phrase searching: Some databases will treat two or more words entered into the search
box as a phrase, while others require you to place a phrase in double quotation marks “”.
• Example: "ozone layer” will only find documents where the whole phrase is present.
Truncation: Most databases allow end of word truncation, using one character, such as
an asterisk *, to replace the remaining letters.
• Example: caus* will find documents containing cause, causes and causative
'Wild cards': Wild cards are characters, such as a question mark, ?, used to replace
replace a single letter in the middle of a word. They are used to accommodate spelling
• Example: wom?n will find woman and women; organi?ation will retrieve
organization and organisation.
Searching specific fields: Field searching allows you to designate where to search for a
specific term. Sometimes there is a drop-down menu to select the field, at other times a
field 'qualifier' is added to the search term, such as Smith:au or Smith in au
The web is a useful source of information but it is quite unlike library catalogues and
databases in that it isn't so neatly organised and varies greatly in quality and usefulness.
Below are some ideas to try and improve your web searching.
• Google is not the only search engine, try
• You can also take advantage of human selectivity, using the websites below
Librarians’ Internet Index - www.lii.org
Intute – www.intute.ac.uk
• Refining your search terms will help. On most web search engines you can use the
‘refine’ or ‘advanced’ search to limit the number of ‘hits’ for any particular search
• Think “full text” and be specific
e.g. war of 1812 economic causes vs. history
• Use academic & professional terms
e.g.domestic architecture vs. houses
• Limit your search to …
Web page title
Website or domain
site:whitehouse.gov “global warming”
site:edu “global warming”
filetype:ppt site:edu “global warming”
• Remember social bookmarking, youtube, blogs
Some useful subject sites to use
Scirus – www.scirus.com
Sheffield chemdex - http://www.chemdex.org/
- What is the "Invisible Web", a.k.a. the "Deep Web"?
The "visible web" is what you can find using general web search engines. It's also what
you see in almost all subject directories. The "invisible web" is what you cannot find using
these types of tools.
- Why isn't everything visible?
There are still some hurdles search engine crawlers cannot leap. Here are some examples
of material that remains hidden from general search engines:
• The Contents of Searchable Databases.
• Excluded Pages.
• Dynamically generated pages of little value beyond single use.
• Pages deliberately excluded by their owners.
- How to Find the Invisible Web
Use Google and other search engines to locate searchable databases by searching a
subject term and the word "database". If the database uses the word database in its own
pages, you are likely to find it in Google. The word "database" is also useful in searching a
topic in the Google Directory or the Yahoo! directory, because they sometimes use the
term to describe searchable databases in their listings.
The Wikipedia "Deep Web" article provides a fairly up-to-date summary, with links to other
A database is a way of storing, indexing, organising and retrieving information
The specialised databases we can use to search for references to journal articles are
called 'bibliographic' databases (because they contain information in summary form about
books and journal articles). They are electronic indexes to the contents of thousands of
journals. They are a very quick means of accessing thousands of references to academic
Some databases have a very narrow focus, while others contain information on many
Select a database that is appropriate for your topic - see the subject guides
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Library/guides/subjguide.shtml or browse the list of databases
A brief list of databases for your subject, including search tips unique to that database, is
Web of Science – Science Citation Index
Web of Science is a ‘Citation database’. This means that it contains bibliographic
information from journals and also the article's cited reference list (often called its
bibliography). It is a multi-disciplinary database, which is in three separate indexes: The
Science Citation Index indexes more than 6650 major journals across 164 scientific
disciplines from 1945 onwards. Social Sciences Citation Index and the Arts & Humanities
Citation Index are also available.
Comprehensive scientific, medical, technical, social science, and arts and humanities
database containing references to journal articles, conference proceedings, trade
publications, book series and web resources. Indexed from 1823 onwards.
Knovel is an interactive e-book and database package which gives searchable access to
the full text of a range of text and reference books. It covers all aspects of engineering and
Chemical information system, covering chemical compounds, bibliographic data and
chemical reactions. Includes the content of the three CrossFire databases: Beilstein,
Gmelin and Patent Chemistry Database, producing a single results set.
Web of Science Step by step guide of demo
1. Go to the Web of Science page
Go to UCL library homepage www.ucl.ac.uk/library
Click on Electronic Resources
Click on Databases
Click on W
Click on Web of Science
You should now be at the main search screen. You can search by keyword, author, title,
publication name and so on.
2. Entering a search
For example, our search for papers about “Current problems with understanding polar
Enter search into Web of Science as follows
1st search box polar or arctic or antarctic
2nd search box ozone (loss or depletion)
Change search type to topic for both boxes
Click on help if you want more info on the search rules that Web of Science uses.
Click on search. How many results do you get?
3. Results screen
The default setting is to display 10 results per page in year order with the most
For each result, you can see brief information of title, author and journal details.
There are links to click on to see abstract and full text.
You can mark (check the boxes) the results you find useful to make your own list of
resources. Once you have done this you can print, email the selected reference or
save them to reference manager
4. Limiting search
If you have too many results you may want to reduce them. You can do this by “refining”
our search. On the left is taskbox called “refine research”, here you can refine by
Lets limit to last five years as we want current research
Click on Publication years
Click on more options/values
Check the boxes of 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
Click on refine
The number of results should decrease
• Click on SFX to see if you can obtain full text. (If no full-text available, remember to
check the library catalogue in case we have it in print and M25 Union list of serials
to see if any neighbouring libraries have it)
• If we have full-text click on Go and a new window/tab should open with the full-text
of the article available to read.
• Click back onto the Web of Science tab or window to see your results list again
6. Search history
• Click on Search History (at the top of the screen), here you can see the results you
have created so far.
• For the most recent set of results you can save search/create alert by clicking on
the save search/ create alert button.
• You will be prompted to name the search and you can also set up email alerts.
Saved search means you can always access the search you did. By setting up email
alerts, you will be notified when any new results for your search are added to the
7. Cited reference search
This allows you to follow a strand of research through from one article to the next, by
seeing who has cited a particular article that you know about.
Click the Cited Reference Search
Here, I will look for all of Professor Ewing’s articles that have appeared in the Journal of
Chemical Thermodynamics in 2002 (you need to enter the abbreviated title, using the
• Enter EWING M* into the author search box
• Enter J CHEM THERMODYN into the cited reference box
• Click on Search
The next screen shows the articles that match your search query. You will see not just
articles that have cited your article accurately, but also citations that the later articles have
got wrong. No Link means that the citation might be wrong, look at the citation above and
below to see whether the information is similar.
It looks like 4 articles were published in 2002, however they have very similar details, so it
is very likely to be the same article.
• Tick all 4 boxes on the left
• Click finish search.
This will show us all the articles with both the correct and incorrect citations.
That is the end of the demo, but don’t close the window we will use these results again
It is important not to accept information and ideas at face value but to take time to reflect,
compare ideas, evaluate the work done and build your own reasoned arguments. Treat the
information you find with caution. Remember to scrutinise and ask questions and don’t
form conclusions until you see what others have written.
The ability to critically evaluate information is an essential skill for a researcher. Try using
PROMPT, a structured approach to critical evaluation of information (Provenance,
Objectivity, Method, Presentation, Timeliness)
(is the information clearly communicated?)
Look at language, layout, structure, etc.
(does the information match the needs of the
Look at the introduction or overview – what is it
(Is the author´s position of interest made clear?)
Look for an introduction or overview – do the writers
state their position on the issue?
Is the language emotive?
Are there hidden, vested interests?
Method (research reports only)
(Is it clear how the data was collected?)
Were the methods appropriate? Do you trust it?
(Is it clear where the information has come from?)
Can you identify the authors or organisations? How
was it published?
Websites- Look at the URL - personal page or site ?
Domain name appropriate for the content ?
Restricted: edu, gov, mil, a few country codes (ca)
Unrestricted: com, org, net, most country codes (us,
Published by an entity that makes sense ?
News from its source? E.g. www.nytimes.com
Advice from valid agency? E.g www.nih.gov/
(Is it clear when the information was produced?)
Does the date of the information meet your
requirements? Is it obsolete?
Thanks to the Open University Information Literacy toolkit for this section
For web resources there are some key tools to help you check websites and evaluate
Alexa - www.alexa.com
• Click on “Site info for …”
• Who links to the site?
• Who owns the domain?
Wayback machine - http://www.waybackmachine.org/
• What did the site look like in the past?
Task 2: Try evaluating some sites
Search a controversial topic in Google
“stem cells” abortion
Scan the first two pages of results
Visit one or two of these sites
Use PROMPT checklist to evaluate their quality and reliability
Finding References in other Libraries http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Library/otherlib.shtml
If you cannot get an article online you can try searching the UCL library catalogue
(http://library.ucl.ac.uk) to see if there is a paper copy available. If there is not, why not
try searching another Library?
The Library web page (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Library/otherlib.shtml) gives a thorough list
of alternative libraries and websites where you can check for holdings of other libraries in
and around London.
If you cannot find a location for a book or journal that you require, it is possible to order an
inter-library loan. This will cost £3. More information can be found on our website
It is important to include references in your work in order to indicate that you have used
relevant information resources, to avoid plagiarism and to allow readers of your work to be
able to find the information sources for themselves. You should remember to list all the
details of the books/journals that you consult so that you can reference them correctly.
Failure to cite your sources constitutes plagiarism and you may be penalised!
Citing acknowledging within your piece of work the source from which you
Reference full details of the source from which you obtained your information.
Bibliography a list of the references you have used, usually placed at the end of
For help with citing sources,
• See section 5 of WISE (Working with information): go to
http://www.moodle.ucl.ac.uk/, log in, click on WISE, and select your core stream
• Read Neville, C. (2008). Complete guide to referencing and avoiding plagiarism.
Milton Keynes: Open UP. Held at MEDICAL SCIENCES A 9 NEV (2nd floor) and
GEOGRAPHY A 9 NEV (1st floor)
• Try Internet detective - http://www.vts.intute.ac.uk/detective/
• Library guide to references, citations and avoiding plagiarism available online at
and at enquiry desks
Bibliographic software enables you to store your references electronically. It also allows
you to automatically generate bibliographies and reference lists in a variety of styles in
seconds. Currently UCL provides access to Reference Manager. A full guide is available
at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/Reference_Manager_Guide.pdf. Freely available
bibliographic software incude: Zotero http://www.zotero.org/ and Mendeley
Social bookmarking enables you to store Web addresses on the internet and access
them from any computer with a connection to the Internet. You will be asked to ‘tag’ your
bookmarks with a word, or words, so that these words can be used as search terms to
help you re–find and re–organise resources on the same topic. Some popular ones are:
Delicious http://www.delicious.com/ and Diigo http://www.diigo.com. For a list of
websites used in this handout see http://delicious.com/LynneMeehan/biochem3
Reference Manager step by step guide
1. Create a new database in Reference Manager
• Click on Start
• Software P-R
• Reference Manager 10
• Click on File
• Click on New Database
• Choose a location and remember it , give it a name, click on New
2. Download references from database
• Click on your Web of Science window or tab
• Select 5 references from your results
• Click on Save to Endnote, RefMan, Procite (either at top or bottom of page)
If using Internet Explorer
Click on Okay to open uml_view.cgi
If using Firefox
Click on OK to open with Web Export Helper (default)
• Choose Reference Manager and click on Okay
It should automatically pick out the Reference Manager database you have created, if
not, you should be able to browse to that location
• Click on Open
This opens the import window in Reference Manager and you can see the
references you selected are imported. They are also sent to the database you
3. Cite while you write
Reference Manager allows you to work with Word to create bibliographies or insert
references from you Reference Manager database in a Word document. You can then
format the document in to a citation style of yor choice e.g. Harvard, Vancouver. This
facility is called Cite While you Write.
• Open a word document.
A special tool bar is installed in Word when you install Reference Manager on your
computer. If it hasn’t : From the View menu, select Toolbars and then Reference
• Place your cursor in the place where you wish to insert a citation in your word
• Click on the Insert Citation button( the first icon on the Cite While you write toolbar)
N.B. This will search all open reference manager databases. It is therefore
advisable to ensure that the relevant database is the only open database and that
you close any other databases or Search tabs.
• Click on Perform Search
• Highlight the reference in the list and click on Insert. Your reference is entered as a
citation in your document,together with an automatically formatted
Access to e-resources
UCL users are advised to access resources through the lists of ejournals
(http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Library/ejournal) and databases
(http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Library/database) available on MetaLib. This will guarantee that
you get free access to all the resources to which you are entitled as a UCL member. If you
are on-site you will not need to log in to resources. If you are off-site, you will be prompted
for your UCL userid and password automatically.
For more information on access to e-resources, visit http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Library/e-
res.shtml. To report a problem with access, please fill in a problem report form at
Current awareness is a term that describes the methods used to keep up to date with the
most recent information in your subject area. Access to the most recent research, theories,
news and debates in your subject area can give you a clear idea of the way in which your
subject area is developing.
Tools to help
There are a variety of electronic tools that will provide automated alerts with details of
recent material in your area of interest.
ZETOC - http://zetoc.mimas.ac.uk/
TicTOcs - http://www.tictocs.ac.uk/
Database search alerts – see individual database pages for details
You will need to register with theses services to receive alerts. Once you have set up an
alert by registering your specific interests, you will automatically be sent details of recent
journal articles on your topic.
• WISE: go to http://www.moodle.ucl.ac.uk, log in, click on WISE, and select
Engineering and the Built Environment.
• Subject Guides: go to http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Library/guides/subjengin.shtml
• Science Enquiry Desk: located on the ground floor of the Science Library. It is
staffed from 09:30-18:00, Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 09:30-17:30
Tuesday and Thursday. Telephone on ext. 37789 or 020 7679 7789.
• Lynne Meehan (science subject librarian) contact me on email@example.com or
020 7679 2634 or come and see me in Room 314, Science Library.
• Links to slides and resources used in this course:
Please fill in the evaluation form about your session at