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How to solve a problem like researching for your first science assignment!

1. What will I learn in this section?

We will cover:

  • how to find information using Library Search.
  • how to use a search cycle.
  • how to save time when researching.
  • how to get help from a librarian.

2. How do I find information using the Library?

Use Library Online, Library Search and specialist resources like databases

Lets make sure we know the libraries information landscape!

  • Library Online is the Library homepage available 24/7/365.
  • Library Search is the library search engine that searches across almost all of the library resources.
  • Databases are collections of information that can be searched using Library Search or you can search them individually.

You can see what Library Online and Library Search look like below:

This is a screen shot of Library Online and Library Search.

What is Library Search?

Library Search is the library search engine that you use to find and access high quality academic resources. With Library Search. you can find results from our book collection, full text journals and many other sources, and return them in one results list that can be refined to show just the kind of resource you need.

You mentioned specialist resources like databases...

Library Search enables you to search almost all of our library resources in one search. Specialist databases are collections of articles, videos or any text or image based resource that you can search as an individual collection. An example would be Journal of Visualised Experiments (JoVE) or the Royal Society of Chemistry journals. 

But, if I can search almost every resource in one search, why would I search an individual database?

That is a really good question! Here are the benefits of searching an individual database:

  • The content is more specific which means it is easier to find the relevant information.
  • The search screen may have features that you want to use e.g. a title and abstract search.
  • It is quicker to find specific article types e.g. review articles.
  • It may be quicker to find a specific type of information within a specialist source e.g. chemical structures are quick to find in PubChem.

The decision is yours! We tend to recommend a combination of both approaches depending on what information you are trying to find!


                             Activity 1: Answer the question below. You can view the results of the poll to give you an idea of where most guide users think you should search for information.

Where should you search for information when studying at university?
Popular search engines: 0 votes (0%)
Academic sources like Library Search, journals and databases: 44 votes (93.62%)
Blogs: 1 votes (2.13%)
Commercial websites: 2 votes (4.26%)
Total Votes: 47

3. The search cycle

Lets think about our search for information as as search cycle.

Researching for information has multiple steps. You may been to refine a search before you find the information you need to answer your assignment question.

Thinking about the research process as a search cycle approach can help you take a methodological approach to searching for information.

You may find it easier to picture it as a circle and the video here presents the idea visually.

                             Activity 2: Watch the search cycle video

4. How to use Library Search

All you need to do is type one or more words into Library Search.

This is a screen shot of the Library Search box with a query typed into it.

The example above shows you the Library Search box with a word related to the information we are looking for.

Lets call these words - search terms! Once you have typed your search terms into Library Search, you need to click Search to run the search. The search results page displays all the items that match your search terms.

For each item in the results, you can see the following information:

  • Resource type: the format of the item, such as whether it's a book or a journal article.  This is represented by a small image.
  • Title: the name of the piece of information.
  • Author: creator, and publication date.
  • Source: where the information comes from.
  • Availability: how to access the information.


How do I find what I need in a search with a large number of results?

A search for pathology will find over 3 million results. The results are so high because Library Search is looking for your search term in lots of resources that Library Search is able to search.

You need to narrow the search by either:

  • adding more words
  • using the filters 
  • use a date filter

You then choose which of the pieces of information is closest to what you need.


How do I make sense of the search results?

The good news is that each resource is labelled in Library Search to tell you what type of information source is is. For example below you can see how a book and a journal look in Library Search. If you are unsure type of information you are looking at then look for the label.


This is a screenshot of a Library Search results screen

5. How to find a book

There will be times when you have a book title and you need to be able to use Library Search to find it.

                             Activity 2: Watch the short video on how to do this!

There are three approaches covered in under 3 minutes.

  • How to find a book when you know the title.
  • How to find a book about a specific topic. 
  • How to improve the precision of your search and find a book where your keywords appear in the title.

In the video, you can hear my keyboard... its a mechanical keyboard. It is loud but much better to use than soft keyboards.


                             Activity 3: Find a book using Library Search

  • Use Library Search and filter your search results to find a relevant book published in the last 5 years. 
  • Select the book that you would be happy to show your tutor
  • Reflect why you chose this specific book out of all the books you could have chosen.

Why am I doing this?

Modules can be made up of lectures, workshops or seminars. An element of a seminar may be to take along a range of sources that have influenced or shaped your understanding of a new research area. This activity will help you practice finding information for yourself.

6. How to find journal articles

Finding and using journal articles is a essential part of academic research

You use journal articles to extend your knowledge about a subject and find out what is current within the subject. You need to make sure that out of all the articles you could have chose... you chose the most relevant and appropriate!

In the video, you can hear my keyboard... its a mechanical keyboard. It is loud but much better to use than soft keyboards.

                             Activity 4: Watch the video to learn how to find journal articles

7. Use alternatives terms

Use alternative terms to make sure you do not miss out on relevant research

You need to use alternative terms because researchers and writers may use different words or terms to describe the subject you are interested in.

It is a good idea to think of alternative ways of expressing your search terms as well as using:

  • abbreviations like HLPC OR High Performance Liquid Chromatography 
  • multiple drug names for treating conditions like fluoxetine OR sertraline 
  • drug names or drug class name like sertraline OR selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors 
  • medical terms like itch OR pruritus.
  • brand OR generic medicine names to expand searches
  • CAS registry numbers
  • chemical names OR synonyms 

Complete the following activity to see how a commonly eaten piece of food could have a wealth of different words linked to it. 

                             Activity 5: Find those keywords! 

Imagine what would have happened if we had just searched for bread!

If we had just searched using the search term - bread, then we would have found a smaller set of results than if we had used  alterative search terms to find more information like "bread" OR "bread rolls".

We may have missed out on a rich collection of information that other researchers had written with the phrase panni.

Experiment with your search strategies to make sure you do not miss out on relevant information!

8. How to save research time

Here are a few techniques to help you quickly find what you need!

These techniques can have a huge impact on your search results and cut down on the time it takes to find relevant information.

  • Using AND, OR, NOT between search terms can help you control your search.
  • Using a phrase search like this "wound management" can make your search very specific.
  • Using truncation like this wound* can help you find plurals and alternative word endings.


                             Activity 6: Watch the short video to see how they can be used in Library Search

Why am I watching this?

  • In under 3 minutes, I will show you how these techniques can be used and make your searching time more effective!


Use the Advanced Search in Library Search

Advanced does not always mean harder when applied to search boxes. It often means more control, structure or options.

The basic Library Search box on the front page of Library Search is a broad search that text matches your search terms against information that Library Search can search.

  • The benefit of this approach is that you will find lots of information and you can then filter.
  • The disadvantage of this approach is that you have to filter and narrow your search.


Library Search has an Advanced Search 

You can use the Advanced Search to alter where Library Search finds your search terms. You can control the search and find the search term - pathology - in the title. This means your results list will be less but more relevant! You can use this approach in databases like PubMed or any other science database of your choice!

  • The benefit of this approach is that you control and improve the accuracy of the search
  • The disadvantage of this approach is that you may miss out on some information.

9. Put this into practice

Time to test your understanding of what we have covered in this section.

To help you understand how searches works and when they could be improved... you are now going to answer three questions. You will get feedback based on your answer when you press submit.


                             Activity 7: Answer the following questions on how to improve your searches

  • The research question is about the use and effectiveness of silver in wound management.


Why am I doing this?

To help you identify how you could improve a search and apply these approaches to the searches you need to do for your assignments.

10. How to get help from a librarian

If you have any questions then you can get support from the library

  • Ask the team a question using Library Chat.
  • Book a one to one appointment with a librarian.
  • Library Drop-in on Wednesday Library Drop in between 4pm and 5:30pm. These sessions are online.

You can find out more about additional ways that you can get support from the library in How to get support form the library  section of this guide.

11. Take a break

Congratulations you have completed three sections! 

Time to take a break - maybe take a look at the American Chemical Society inforgraphics? For example:

  • Get unplugged and save on your electricity bill
  • Should Santa wear a fire resistant suit?