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Finding Information

Finding Information

How to plan your searches and keep up to date with information in your subject area.

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Finding and using good quality information from a wide variety of sources in your work is an important skill that demonstrates your subject knowledge and your ability as a critical thinker.

To help you, the Library provides access to a wide range of high-quality resources that are accessible via Library Search and your subject guide.

Below you’ll find advice on how to search and access our eBook and online journal collections, as well as tips on how to plan your search and keep up to date with information in your subject area.

Plan your search

Planning your search is an important first step when looking for information, especially when you are engaged in independent study and focusing on online information sources. It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of information available, or find yourself wandering away from your topic area. Having a sense of the questions you are trying to answer and the type of information you are hoping to find, will help make information searching more manageable.

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The Search Planner

If you are working on a dissertation or project, our Search Planner can guide you in gathering your ideas about the types of information you want to find and where you should look.  It will also help you to break down your search topic into concepts, then translate those into keywords that you can use in your search.

You have the option to send your Search Planner to your liaison team, who can offer feedback on your search terms and suggest relevant resources for your topic.

Search tools

There are several useful search tools available to help you find academic information, so think carefully about which tool is best for helping you find the information you need. 

Your reading list will be your first port of call, as it provides quick links to relevant books, articles, eBooks or chapters selected by your module leader.

Library Search, the Library’s catalogue, is an excellent place to start your independent research, as it covers all subject areas and a range of information types.  Google Scholar is similarly interdisciplinary and useful for a broad scoping search on your topic.

Your subject guide is a useful tool for finding databases, resources and eBook collections oriented towards your subject area that will help you focus your search, and the Library’s resource guides can help you find information of a specific type. Depending on your area of study, Newcastle University’s Special Collections and Archives catalogue could be an invaluable search tool too.

If you find you need to search beyond our Library, you can explore UK national, university and specialist libraries via Library Hub Discover or explore library collections from around the world using WorldCat.

Library Search

Library Search is our library catalogue. It holds records for all the physical and electronic items that you have access to here at Newcastle University. You can search it in various ways.

An Everything Except Articles search will help you find books, eBooks and Journal titles.  Use an Everything search to broaden your search to find journal articles, conference papers and more. Advanced search can help you build more complex queries to find the most relevant results.

If you need access to e-resources only, use the filter options to limit your search to Full Text Online items.

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Keeping up to date

If you're embarking on a significant research project, it's essential that you have strategies in place to keep up to date with the latest publications and current research in your subject area so that you don't miss out on what's new in your field.  

Most academic databases are updated daily, but you won't have time to regularly re-run all your searches. The good news is that there are simple techniques you can use to make online resources do the work for you.

Search alerts

Most databases offer search alert options. These enable you to store searches and set them to run again at regular intervals. Any new records which match your search will be delivered to you at a frequency specified by you, usually by email or newsfeed. Options and instructions vary from database to database, and in some cases, you might have to set up a separate account, but it is well worth the effort.

360 degree searching

When you find a useful resource, it is good practice to look through the bibliography to see if that will lead you onto other relevant readings. This allows you to look backwards in time at the research and ideas the author used to develop their work.  360 degree searching or 'cited reference' searching takes this idea further by allowing you to look forward in time from this point and see how research has developed from this work. Databases such as Scopus and Google Scholar provide ‘cited by’ options that allow you to explore a list of more recent publications that have cited the original publication.  This method gives you a fully rounded view of the research in this field prior to and following the article you have found.

What is a Systematic Review?

A systematic review uses systematic methods to exhaustively collect, evaluate and synthesise all available information on a research question.  Systematic reviews come in many shapes and sizes and vary between subjects.  Complex questions can involve large teams of researchers and can take months to complete, while smaller reviews can involve one or two people independently screening results.   

Systematic reviews are highly intensive, and it may be that an alternative review method that applies systematic rigour, such as systemised, critical, or scoping review, will be more suited to your purposes. Resources and time will influence what type of literature review you can complete.