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Key Politics Resources

Literature Searching tutorials

Doing a Literature Search

The sections of this guide show techniques you can use to develop an effective search strategy. An effective search strategy will give you better search results and save you time. Click on the tabs above for step by step guidance on searching for literature.


A Literature review is ..

   A literature review is more than just collecting sources of information and summarizing them. A good review starts with identifying relevant published literature. You will then need to synthesize and analyze what you have found - identifying patterns and mapping current thought on the topic. The review should demonstrate how your research contributes to, or builds upon, current thinking on the topic.

  The first step is to undertake an effective search strategy which will be discussed next - click the above tab - Planning & getting started

Develop a research strategy

   Make sure you understand the requirements of your assignment, this is essential before you begin the planning stage.

   Think about how broad or narrow your research needs to be and what sort of assignment it is (e.g. Is it an essay, 1000 word report or final year dissertation?)

   Ask yourself what type of information do I need? Use your course subject guide and the online library for credible resources such as online journals and ebooks. You may also want to include Google Scholar and the websites of governmental and professional bodies.

   More study advice can be found on the Academic Study Kit webpages


Search Techniques and Tips

  Search for phrases: searching for words in quotation marks eg. "social movements" directs the search engine to search for the two words next to each other, not just two words unconnected anywhere within the pages of journal articles.

   AND / OR / NOT search operators known as Boolean Searching allows you to use keywords when searching online journals in a way to save time and ensure your results are effective and relevant:

         OR expands search results = more results e.g. protest or demonstration 

         AND limits search results = less results e.g.  protest and demonstration                

        NOT (or AND NOT) limits search results    e.g. protest NOT demonstration

Search term truncation:

Truncation or Wildcards - (symbols e.g. * ?). These represent ways of finding different variations and  alternative spellings of words with a similar meaning -

politic* will find alternative words or terms: politic, politics, political, politician

organi?ation will search for both forms of spelling organisation and organization. (Look out for differing UK and US spellings of the same words)

You can filter your search results. These options include:

  Do choose - choose and click English language and peer-reviewed.  Many scholarly journals undergo a process known as peer review. This means that they have been read and evaluated by experts before they are accepted for publication.

  Don't choose - full text box - as this will remove all abstracts and reduce your findings. If we don't have the full text article then you can request an interlibrary loan.

  Optional -  once you have done one full search you could then limit by date range, format or type of publication, academic discipline, etc. Always search broadly and then reduce search to avoid missing any items. Think - Funnel - wide at the top then narrow at the bottom

  Order - most databases let you choose the order in which you view your results, e.g. by date of publication and relevance to search terms. The default for most databases is to put the most relevant at the top of the results.

  Citations - use the citations that are listed at the end of a relevant article to lead you to other useful resources.  When you find a useful article look to see what key terms were used to index it, plus what other authors have been cited in these articles, whose own work on a similar area of research may also be useful.

  Create an account - you can register with each database. The sign in box/ register option is usually in the top bar of the page. Once registered you can set your preferred interests and subject areas, save and export searches into referencing software and word documents, and set up alerts.

  Finally good luck - if you should have any problems please contact the library we can help with a query at the Help Desk or book a one to one for further support.


Guides to using Key Resources


Web of Science

User guide

Web Video



User guide

Print Video

Other ways to find articles

Use the Online Journal Finder A-Z

  • To search for a specific journal title
  • Check the date range we hold a journal title

Use OneSearch

  • To check if the library has a specific online article.
  • Search for books, ebooks and journal articles in one go.
  • Gather keywords for your search topic.
  • Get a good understanding of the range of literature on your topic.

What if I can't access an article?

  • If the library does not have an article you need you can request it via Interlibrary loan.