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Route 2: Searching for Information

Page history last edited by Elaine Shallcross 10 years, 11 months ago




learning outcome: an ability to construct strategies for locating information

learning outcome: an ability to locate and access information



Route 2 guides you through the processes of deciding where to look for information and searching those sources effectively for material you need to read for your work. Included on this page are collections of resources designed to help you work through this stage. Feel free to download and print them off!


FIRST BIG TIP :-) you will save lots of time if you have at hand your search plan and table of search rules.


Start at the top and work down the InfoPaths that make up Route 2...


Route 2A: Why it's important to know what is available to you


In Route 1 we thought about the kind of information needed to meet the requirements of a topic. To recap:

  1. Do you need to find current information or historical, or both?
  2. Are you looking for debates or opinions, statistical data or fact and figures?
  3. Do you want to find references on a reading list? 


All three considerations influence where and how you search for information. You have a search plan but now you need to investigate the best sources and formats for you information need. They fall into five main categories (though there will be others):


  1. Academic books (print and electronic): written by academics, they are a good source of background information and discussion of topics.
  2. Journals (print and electronic): journal articles written by academic researchers are generally more specific and up-to-date than books.
  3. Dictionaries and Encylopedias (print and electronic): Both general encyclopedias and subject-specific ones are very useful for basic facts.
    WARNING! do not use Wikipedia for academic assignments - it is useful for personal needs but not reliable enough for academic writing.
  4. Newspapers (print and electronic): provide opinions on current issues, but remember newspaper articles may have a fair degree of bias built into them!
  5. Web resources (electronic): the web hosts electronic information in databases that we pay for as well as freely available information. It changes all the time with millions of pages added and removed on a regular basis. We will consider the importance of using databases we pay for a little later; but for the rest, several search tools for finding free material on the Internet are outlined in Route 2C.

Summary notes on types of information available in PDF.


Route 2B: Where to look for information


This bit can be very daunting particularly if you are new to this University. We have so much to look at - books, journals and other materials on library shelves, not to mention manuscripts, books, journals and so much more available via the Internet. So where do you start? How do you save time by choosing the best places to look? We'll start by looking at different types and formats of information and how they are found.


Type of Information


Found in

Tools for finding these resources



University of Aberdeen Libraries

University of Aberdeen's Primo available here

Other libraries  
COPAC (consortium catalogue of UK academic libraries) available here
British Library - available here
Electronic Web-based subscription databases

University of Aberdeen's Primo available here

Electronic databases containing e-books from academic publishers here

University of Aberdeen Libraries

University of Aberdeen's Primo available here

  COPAC (joint catalogue of UK academic libraries) available here
Electronic Web-based subscription databases

University of Aberdeen's Primo available here

Electronic databases containing e-journals from academic publishers here
Maps Print  Maps, Floor 1, University Library 

University of Aberdeen's Primo available here


Digimap database

Full text electronic database available here
Ebrary database Full text electronic database available here
Museum Collections Artefacts University of Aberdeen Museums University of Aberdeen Museums CALM catalogue available through Primo here


University Library Displayed on Floor 1
  Electronic Lexis┬«Library database Login using your computer username and password from a link here
Special Collections Print University of Aberdeen Special Collections University of Aberdeen Special Collections online search through Primo here
Theses  Print University of Aberdeen Library University of Aberdeen's Primo available here
Electronic EThOS online theses database UK electronic theses online at http://ethos.bl.uk/
Web Resources
Subscription databases (more in section 2D)
Contain electronic books and journals from academic publishers
Use Primo's Find Databases screen to identify relevant databases for your subject - available here
Search Engines


Google Scholar

Scirus (for Sciences)

Subject Gateways - evaluated and compiled by experts

Intute (all subjects)

Pinakes (all subjects)


Route 2C: Using a portal to find e-databases for your subject


We'll begin by looking at why it is important for you to look for information on databases, and increasingly so in years 3 and 4 of your undergraduate degree and for postgraduate studies and research.


The importance of databases

  1. The library catalogue tells you what we hold in our libraries - titles of books and titles of journals in any format, but databases are essential for access to material actually published in journals (sometimes referred to as periodicals or serials) and books.
  2. Databases contain academic and scholarly material in the form of journal articles and text books.
  3. Their contents are the results of refereed research from institutions worldwide.
  4. Their content is authoritative.
  5. Databases refer to published research literature.
  6. IMPORTANT! Reference to material found in databases demonstrates that you are on top of your subject area!


Different types of databases

  1. Bibliographic
    1. Large databases containing academic and scholarly material from a large number of publishers worldwide.
    2. Give comprehensive coverage of what is published in your subject area.
    3. Links to full text material (where we have paid for it) via the SFX linking service.
    4. Essential tools for success, particularly for RPGs and researchers.
    5. Examples: Scopus, Web of Knowledge, Medline, LexisLibrary
  2. Full text
    1. Smaller databases where material is available in full text.
    2. They tend to belong to a single publisher. SO BE WARNED! They will not reflect the full picture of research output worldwide in your subject area, only in the journals published by that particular supplier.
    3. Example: Sciverse ScienceDirect 


Using Primo to find databases

 The University pays for hundreds of databases. Some contain materials for nearly all subjects, others are subject-specific. SO where do you start?

We recommend you use the Find Databases option in Primo because it can list all the databases relevant to your subject and give you links out to their websites so you can search them. Primo's Find Databases is a portal to all of the electronic databases for which we ahve subscriptions, and some free databases that we recommend.


Follow the instructions in the Primo worksheet (available here) to find out what databases are available for your subject area. Links to a Primo quick guide is available at the bottom of this page.


SECOND BIG TIP :-) use the Show Info (information) link found beside the database entry in Find Databases to make a note of the appropriate search rules for that database. 


THIRD BIG TIP :-) never use Primo's Find Databases option as your main search interface because you will not retrieve all the records available that meet your search criteria. You may miss very important journal articles if you do. This is particularly important for RPGs and academic researchers. ALWAYS link out to your chosen database(s) one by one and repeat your search using the appropriate search rules for those databases.


Summary of how to search successfully

  1. Break your topic up into different ideas (called concepts).
  2. Think about keywords and phrases that describe each of the concepts in your topic. Don't rely solely on words from the title of your assignment - what other words would a researcher use when writing an academic paper on your subject? Think about spelling differences (US v. UK English) and acronyms.
  3. Decide the type of material you need to find.
  4. Decide the sources of this material and the appropriate tools to search them.
  5. Use MetaLib to find relevant e-databases for your subject and link out to them to search for journal literature.
  6. Apply search rules for the database your are searching - remember to use appropriate truncation or "phrase searches".
  7. Link all your keywords and concepts with Boolean operators - and/or (occasionally not).
  8. You never get the perfect search first time - go back and refine your search by introducing new keywords and phrases, new ideas or concepts, or limit results to date of publication or type of journal article.
  9. If you want to get good marks never rely on Google as your only tool for finding information and NEVER USE WIKIPEDIA AS A RELIABLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION. Certainly never reference it in a bibliography - always authenticate the information you read on it elsewhere. Better still use the e-databases we pay for - the content has been peer reviewed before publication.


FOURTH BIG TIP :-)  Depending on your subject a good starting point to read around your assignment topic could be a review article. These are most easily found in electronic databases such as Scopus and Web of Knowledge. They are written by academic researchers who have reviewed relevant literature on a subject. Refer to the worksheets on using Scopus and Web of Knowledge/Science for instructions on how to find review articles.



Information guides:

QG PRI001 Primo user guide (quick guide)

QG DBS001 How do I find a book? (quick guide)

QG DBS004 Ebrary 

QG LAW020 Lexis®Library: searching for newspaper articles (quick guide)

How to... worksheets:




CUP e-books 

Web of Knowledge

Vodcasts (video-style demonstrations):

On using Ebrary, the Library Catalogue and Scopus available here. 

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