Research: Bibliographical databases

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Locate articles, book reviews and conference proceedings, using bibliographical databases.

To find journal articles, papers and other materials in your research field you will need to use bibliographic databases.  These allow you to search across large collections of articles and papers for your subject keywords or for key authors in your field. Some bibliographic databases includes tens of thousands of articles and papers and so searching them can be a very powerful way of locating analysis and comment in your research area.

Different bibliographic databases cover different subjects and publications and so you will need to choose the best databases for your field. It is also likely that you will need to check several different bibliographic databases in order to be thorough!

Whichever bibliographic databases you use, you will need to pay careful attention to your search strategy in order to get the best results.

  • Check the coverage of the database that you are using.  Does it cover your subject and key publications in your field? Does it cover the geographical area or time period that interests you? How often is it updated?
  • Think carefully about your keywords. Do they cover the key concepts in your research? Are there any synonyms or spelling variations that you need to consider?
  • Look at the database “Help” to find out how you can combine your keywords when searching (e.g. AND, OR, NOT) and to find out how to truncate words and deal with spelling variations.
  • If you get too many results:  Consider whether you should search for a more specific or narrower topic. Think about limiting your search to the most recent items or by geographic region.  Think about how you can sort your results to display the most important first.
  • If you don’t get enough results: Try a broader topic. Remember that your research topic may be discussed as part of a wider subject.