Searching the Literature: finding scholarly materials


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A presentation from a workshop designed to help PhD students and research staff to search the literature with confidence. It covers stages in the literature search process, from planning the search to developing an effective research strategy, through to obtaining copies of the literature identified.

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  • This all takes time BUT planning can save you time in the long run.

    Good planning will:
    ensure you find the key material
    be helpful when you find too much information, or not enough
    be helpful when you don't retrieve the results you expect.
  • Keyword searching is the most common technique used to identify relevant information on a topic.
  • Let’s have a look at some search functions (available on most databases) that you can use to retrieve the search results you want.
  • Most databases have truncation operators (WoS = asterisk) – broadens your search
    Check the database as the operator may differ on some databases
  • Most databases use an implicit AND operator when you enter two or more adjacent terms in most fields.
  • Particularly useful when there are many appropriate terms that could be used to search one concept.
  • BE CAREFUL = you may miss out on relevant records. This example would not find:

    higher vocational education
    higher music education
    higher professional education
  • Available on most databases, which means that you can create relationships between your keywords– often produces a more effective search than phrase searching (double quotes) or just combining concepts using AND.

    Sensible to limit to no more than six words apart e.g. NEAR/6 (within the same sentence).

    but different databases use different operators, for example: [WRITE ON BOARD]
    WoS and ProQuest databases = NEAR/n
    Ovid databases = ADJn
    ESBCO databases = Nn

  • Available on most databases. You can build up your search, search for each concept and see what each search does (and if you need to revise/add to it) and then combine your searches. Allows you to perform a more sophisticated search.
  • SCREEN SHOT Advantages / disadvantages over other subject databases (which are paid for by the Library)
  • The Library holds all the University's PhD and MPhil theses (search YorSearch to find) OR
    White Rose Etheses Online holds electronic doctoral level theses from the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York (also information on how to submit your thesis for digitisation).

    EThOS - covers PhD theses from a large number of British universities. Allows you to access the full-text of digitised theses, or request the full text (if not available on EThOS) through the Library’s interlending service.

    WorldCat - a union catalogue which includes doctoral and masters theses submitted to member libraries (mostly North American)
  • Repository systems are designed to allow academics to archive their own work - we have WRRO.

    With pressure from research funders to move to Open Access - making research outputs freely available online with reduced restrictions on use and re-use – you may be able to access the full text of articles from a repository.
  • An alternative search technique to ‘keyword searching’ is ‘citation searching’.

    Citation searching (also known as cited reference searching) can be used if you have already identified a relevant book or journal article on the subject you are researching.
  • In summary, citation searching enables you to:
    find out if articles have been cited by other authors
    discover references to a particular author
    find more recent papers on the same subject
    tracking the history of a research idea and discovering if it has been confirmed, applied, improved, extended or corrected.

  • Several databases allow you to carry out citation searching – providing you with a list of articles that cite the article you are interested in. These include: [Scopus is main WoS competitor that does citation analysis.]

    Generally, Web of Science and Scopus offer good coverage of the sciences and social sciences. Google Scholar has good coverage of all subjects, but its tools are less robust and there is little quality control. Coverage of the humanities, especially where there is more reliance on books, is limited.
  • Scopus - Scopus is considered by many to be the main competitor to the Web of Science database for citation analysis. To perform a citation search, locate the article you are interested in and on the document details page look right to see the section Cited by.
    Please be aware that Scopus' citation counts are not complete. Only citations from documents covered by Scopus from 1996 to present are included.

    + Set citation alert (first “Login via your institution: University of York” – with University username and password)
  • For many items Google Scholar includes a Cited by link to other articles on Scholar that cite the reference.

    Keep in mind that Google Scholar includes citations from an array of sources in its cited by calculation, including PowerPoints and Word documents, and gives everything an equal rank – therefore usually shows more citations than WoS and Scopus.
  • DEMO - WEB OF SCIENCE (access via E-resources Guide, then W-Z tab) [slides 44-47 are hidden for use if WoS isn’t working]

    Search for article:
    Palmer, T.S., Pinto, M.B. and Parente, D.H. (2001) College students' credit card debt and the role of parental involvement: implications for public policy. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing , 20 (1):105-113.

    Show: “Sort by: Time Cited” and creating a citation alert.
  • Search for the article: Palmer, T.S., Pinto, M.B. and Parente, D.H. (2001) College students' credit card debt and the role of parental involvement: implications for public policy. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing , 20 (1):105-113.
  • Mention: if perform a keyword search on WoS can Sort by:

    Remember: When WoS counts citations, it is only counting citations from articles indexed by ThomsonISI, the company that owns Web of Science.
  • Go into full record for the articles to see more information about the citations (e.g. most recent)

    + Create citation alert
  • Once you’ve sign-in, you can click on My Tools e.g. to see the saved searched or alerts that you have created.
  • If you need to be more systematic in your approach, you can perform a Cited Reference Search on WoS – to try and find all citations even when others have incorrectly cited the original source.
  • Most “paid-for databases” have options for saving searches and then creating auto-alerts – the alert will run your search automatically and then email you any new search results that match your search.
  • Searching the Literature: finding scholarly materials

    1. 1. Information searching for researchers: finding scholarly materials Research Excellence Training 2016-17 Library
    2. 2. Overview of this workshop • Planning your search • Search techniques: » keyword searching and combining » citation searching • Selecting resources to search (e.g. finding theses) • Locating the full text of items you find • Using other libraries • Keeping up-to-date • Managing your information (introduction only) Format: Presentation, demonstration, practical exercises. Questions welcome!
    3. 3. • Data sources • Primary sources • Detailed search instructions for each resource • Critical evaluation of information resources. See your Subject Guide for more information: Contact your Academic Liaison Librarian for further assistance. What will not be covered
    4. 4. Planning your search
    5. 5. Research question Conduct your searches Identify search termsConcept map/table Break your question down into key concepts; include synonyms, truncation or wildcards where appropriate Identify where and how you will combine your search terms, using OR and AND Select the most appropriate resources to search Remember to check for relevant subject headings and include them in your search Select the relevant results Evaluate the information Not found what you are looking for? Re-evaluate your search terms and combinations Obtain the full-text Remember to record references and strategies
    6. 6. Research question Conduct your searches Identify search termsConcept map/table Break your question down into key concepts; include synonyms, truncation or wildcards where appropriate Identify where and how you will combine your search terms, using OR and AND Select the most appropriate resources to search Remember to check for relevant subject headings and include them in your search Select the relevant results Evaluate the information Not found what you are looking for? Re-evaluate your search terms and combinations Obtain the full-text Remember to record references and strategies
    7. 7. Keyword searching: using appropriate search terms
    8. 8. Keywords are the search terms that you enter to describe the topic of items that you want to retrieve. The keywords you use are important because databases can only word match, i.e. look for the exact words you type in. • Identify synonyms e.g. teenager/adolescent • Take account of plurals e.g. woman/women • Take account of variant spellings e.g. behaviour/ior You can tell the database how to look for those words: • Do you want it to find the word anywhere in the record, or only in specific fields (e.g. the title or abstract)? • How should it combine your keywords – should it look for all of the keywords? • Can it look for any of the synonyms that you provide? Keyword searching
    9. 9. student* will find student, students, studentship etc. Top tip #1: Truncation Use an asterisk (*) to truncate a word and find all the words made by adding letters to the end of it.
    10. 10. AND finds documents in which all the terms occur AND will make your search narrower, retrieves fewer results Top tip #2: AND Use AND to combine search terms so that each result contains all the terms (different concepts of your search).
    11. 11. OR searches for any of the words in a record OR will make your search broader, retrieves more results Top tip #3: OR Use OR to combine terms of similar meaning (synonyms) so that each search result contains at least one of the terms.
    12. 12. Top tip #4: Phrase search Use double quotes (“phrase search”) to search for an exact phrase. WARNING: Use with care as you may miss relevant material. This example would not match records with the terms: higher vocational education higher music education higher professional education etc.
    13. 13. Top tip #5: Proximity Use a proximity operator (e.g. NEAR/n) when there is a connection between your search terms and you need to find the terms near each other. student* NEAR/2 debt* This example specifies that the words must appear within two words of each other (any order) It will find: student debt student loan debt students' attitudes toward debt debt of college students etc.
    14. 14. Top tip #6: Search History When you perform a search, the results of your search may be captured in the Search History. Use the Search History to view and combine the searches you have performed.
    15. 15. • Think of the keywords and alternative terms (and combinations of words and terms) for your search • Discuss your topic and keywords with the person next to you • 10 minutes Hands-on practical no.1
    16. 16. Resources to search selecting the most appropriate
    17. 17. Advantages • More results – a range of resource types, e.g. books, journal articles, theses • Simple to search • Links to full text items available at York (use Settings off-campus) • Cited references Disadvantages • Too many results(?) • Less quality control. Coverage: what is and is not covered? Duplication. Inclusion of some non- academic materials • Inconsistent bibliographic information • Few sophisticated search options, e.g. difficult to apply limits Google Scholar
    18. 18.
    19. 19. • Paid-for (subscription) databases » require a login • Interdisciplinary databases, for example: » Web of Science, Scopus • Subject databases, for example: » Computer Abstracts, PsycINFO, MathSciNet, MEDLINE, EconLit, Business Source Premier, Westlaw UK, ERIC, Empire Online, ARTbibliographies Modern, ABELL • Access via: » E-Resources Guide » Subject Guides Subject database searching
    20. 20. • Emphasis on peer-reviewed (high quality) titles within specific subject areas • Sophisticated search capabilities » e.g. can combine searches using your search history to produce more complex strategies • Systematic indexing » many have own subject headings i.e. controlled terminology • Good options for saving search results (and setting alerts) Why use the “paid-for” databases?
    21. 21. • York theses » finding York theses in the Library and online » White Rose eTheses online • Theses written by students at other universities » E-resources Guide - databases listed under the Theses category e.g. EThOS for theses in the UK e.g. WorldCat for international theses (mostly North American) Theses
    22. 22. Locating the full text: for the items you find
    23. 23. Full text: Google Scholar Look for Full Text @York (and login if/when prompted)
    24. 24. Full text: Google Scholar White Rose Research Online Houses research outputs from the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York.
    25. 25. Full text: “paid for” databases Depending on the database: some provide full text for some items The example shown here is taken from Business Source Premier.
    26. 26. Full text: “paid for” databases Other databases (e.g. Web of Science) don’t provide the full text. Look for either: • the Find It @ York icon • a link (the name of the link will vary depending on the database) to take you to Yorsearch.
    27. 27. • British Library » minibus to British Library at Boston Spa (near Wetherby) » further information at: • SCONUL Access » enables you to visit and borrow from other institutions, apply online Other libraries: for items not at York Request it through the Library’s Interlending service
    28. 28. • Compare searching a subject database with searching Google Scholar • Link to the full text if it is available • 20 minutes Hands-on practical no.2 Write down the details/reference of at least one article you’ve found that is relevant to your research topic. You’ll be using this for practical no.3.
    29. 29. Citation searching: aka cited reference searching
    30. 30. References – provides you with additional information relating to the arguments / evidence presented in the research. Citations – Citation searching allows you to search forward in the published literature, to locate new articles which cite the original source. Citation searching works best if your known reference is of high quality, is authored by leaders in the field, and is limited to the subject you are researching. Tracing academic arguments
    31. 31. Cited references Usefulness • More citations = higher ranking for you and your institution (e.g. in REF) • Can be used to indicate relative level of importance of a paper • May be a positive or negative connection to other literature e.g. MMR vaccine • Give you a quality controlled list of material to consult if you establish the context in which it has been cited
    32. 32. • Web of Science • Scopus • Google Scholar While all resources are continually expanding their scope, no one tool provides complete coverage. More and more databases are now including citation information and will have Cited By, Times Cited or similar links in their article records. Examples include Business Source Premier, MathSciNet, PubMed and PsycINFO. Citation search tools
    33. 33. Citation search tools: Scopus
    34. 34. Citation search tools: Google Scholar
    35. 35. Video guide Web of Science Core Collection: How to do a Cited Reference Search
    36. 36. • Using one of the citation search tools: Google Scholar, Scopus or Web of Science search for an article you’ve previously identified as relevant to your research topic and see if others have cited it. • Create a citation alert, if available • 10 minutes Hands-on practical no.3 You can use the article(s) identified during practical no.2, which you noted down.
    37. 37. Keeping up-to-date: with the literature in your subject
    38. 38. Auto-alerts for new search results
    39. 39. Keeping up-to-date RDT courses: » social networking » twitter » blogging researcher-development
    40. 40. • Create an email alert for a journal relevant to your research using: » Zetoc • 5-10 minutes Hands-on practical no.4
    41. 41. Managing information: an introduction
    42. 42. Bibliographic management software • create your own library of references • import references from the Library Catalogue, most subject databases, Google Scholar • delete duplicates • add your own notes • insert your references in your text e.g. from Endnote into Word (Cite While You Write) • format your bibliography in the correct referencing style. Managing information
    43. 43. University of York supported packages: • EndNote (Desktop) and EndNote Web/Online » integrates with Word, IT Services courses and tutorial • Paperpile » web-based via Chrome, integrates with Google Docs and Google Scholar. Other packages: • Mendeley, Zotero etc. free but not supported at York » plugins not installed on IT Services computers See Organise your references for more information: Managing information
    44. 44. More information • Information for Researchers • Subject Guides • University Library: Search the Literature researchers/search