Before you can make a successful search, analyze your topic. Decide:
What are the main concepts?
What are the primary keywords related to each concept?
What alternative keywords or synonyms represent each of these concepts?
Normally, this will involve doing some reading about the topic in a source such as a review article or a textbook. If a review article or textbook is not helpful, a quick online search, may help you develop an initial understanding of the topic. The steps outlined below take you through these initial points and the subsequent steps of a literature search:
Literature Searching Tips:
- Select and identify your topic. What is the topic of your research?
Example: Grassland management and butterflies. What aspect of this topic are you particularly interested in? Example: Grassland management and butterfly diversity.
State your topic as a question: Does the way in which grassland are managed have an impact on butterfly diversity?
- Find Background Information: Once you have identified the key terms or subjects for your topic, look for them in a textbook, general or subject encyclopedia, or subject glossary.
- Deciding which databases to use. The most effective way to search journal articles on a topic is to use a database such as PubMed/Medline, Web of Science, Google Scholar or Scopus.
- Develop a search strategy. Develop an initial list of keywords that can be used to research your topic. Search the Scout Catalog and other databases using those keywords. Revise your keywords as needed to broaden or narrow the search. Use Boolean operators (AND, OR and NOT). Boolean operators allow you to combine your search terms in many different combinations. Databases often contain buttons or drop-down menus that allow you to select for Boolean operators.
- Refine your search: If your initial search brought up few results try these tips: Try alternative less specific keywords; check spelling, Use OR to include synonyms, and include more database coverage. If you have too many results try: more specific keywords. Use AND to include additional keywords, and use NOT to exclude certain words.
- Saving your Search: The databases may have the option to create a personal account that allows you to save a copy of your search. This is strongly recommended. Always save or print the useful articles that you find. In many databases you can export your articles to reference management software such as EndNote.
- Managing your information: EndNote helps you to store and manage your references. EndNote is also built into the Microsoft Word. One can automatically insert citations and create a bibliography using this feature. The University of Alabama maintains a site license agreement for EndNote, which provides unlimited licensing for faculty, staff, and students. http://oit.ua.edu/oit/services/software-licensing/endnote/
In summary here are the 5 key tips for effective literature searches:
- Make a start with Scout from UA libraries. http://www.lib.ua.edu/#/home At Scout you can search the library’s collection in print and online, from manuscripts to books to individual and journal articles.
- Follow the Literature searching tips as described above.
- See resources for your subject areas. These resources are tailored library guides for each discipline to help you find the key databases and information sources that are relevant to your research area. http://guides.lib.ua.edu/
- Get the full text of an article through many of our databases. http://www.lib.ua.edu/#/databases?page=1
- Use the Inter-library Loan services if the University of Alabama Libraries do not have any item you need. https://ua.illiad.oclc.org/illiad/
Created by Arian Abdulla