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Faculty of Social Sciences

Library Support for Researchers

Literature Searching  


Berry, R. (2004) The research project: how to write it. 5th ed. London: Routledge
Mauch, J. and Park, N. (2003) Guide to successful thesis and dissertation: a handbook for students and faculty. 5th ed. New York: M. Dekker
Rudestam, K.E. (2007) Surviving your dissertation: a comprehensive guide to content and process.  3rd ed. London: Sage
Swetnam, D. (2000) Writing your dissertation: how to plan, prepare and present successful work. 3rd ed. Oxford: How to Books
Hart, C. (2001) Doing a Literature Search: a comprehensive guide for the Social Sciences London: Sage
Cryer, P. (2006) The Research Student's Guide to Success Buckingham: Open University Press
Thomson, P.& Walker, M. (2010) Routledge doctoral student's companion : getting to grips with research in education and the social sciences London : Routledge
Dunleavy, P. (2003)  Authoring a PhD : how to plan, draft, write and finish  a doctoral thesis or dissertation Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan.

There are also a number of internet sites which will help you with the process of undertaking research.

See: BUBL link to Research Methods and INTUTE Social Sciences for a wide range of sources. The University of Surrey's Researcher's Companion also provides a helpful overview of the research process.


 To ensure your search is as comprehensive and efficient as possible, it is worth considering the following:

  • Be systematic in your approach
  • An outline of the aims of your project will help you to define the extent of your search
  • Decide upon suitable search terms bearing in mind synonyms, spelling variants etc.
  • Write out the search terms you have selected. Be flexible and add new terms as you progress
  • Remember: a little lateral thinking goes a long way.
  • Establish the scope of your search, perhaps you want to limit by date, by language or country of publication.
  • Remember to record all references fully, accurately and consistently: save, email or print them off
    Failure to do this may give you problems later on when you come to compile your bibliography.
  • Use Refworks for your bibliography - it will save you a lot of time.


Below are some ways you can keep up to date in your area of interest.

Books Many online booksellers and publishers provide an alerting service which emails you details of new books in a specified field. Many major journal publishers also permit you to register for notification of journal content pages

Amazon offers a free alerting service though you will need to register. For details go to http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/subst/alerts/signup.html

Journal Articles

One of the most effective ways to keep up to date in journal literature is to save and re-run searches on the most relevant databases for your subject.

Most library databases will allow you to do this through the Saved Search/Search History options. You usually have to set up an additional personal profile or login. We recommend you use your student ID number and network password for this to avoid the need to recall multiple sets of login details for difference databases.

This is a table of contents alerting service which will email you the contents pages of your chosen journals every time a new issue is loaded into the database. It is updated daily so you may be emailed within 72 hours of publication

Theses Index to Theses
Covers all research theses completed in the UK & Ireland since 1716. Abstracts are included from 1986. Bibliographic details only for non-doctoral theses from early 1990's.

The British Library has a growing collection of dissertations from universities within the UK. A significant and growing number of these are available full-text for free download.

CSA Illumina collection of databases, include entries from the Dissertation Abstracts International which covers US dissertations. The Dissertation tab in the results listing will allow you to limit search results to this document type only.

Proquest Digital Dissertations
Permits searching of the Dissertations Abstracts database for this current year and the previous year.

Conferences British Library Integrated Catalogue: choose Catalogue Subset Search and then choose Document Supply Conferences.

There is a Conference Alerts service which includes a searchable database of forthcoming academic conferences and a free alerting service. For details go to http://wwww.conferencealerts.com

ZETOC: gives details of 16,000 conference proceedings per year.

All Conferences.COM

Web Sites ChangeDetection monitors URLs for change and alerts you by email when a change occurs.

Intute - register on My Intute to set up email alerts.

Social Care Online keeps a 'What's New' section for information added within the previous 7 days. You can also sign up for email updates for a selected number of topic areas

Childlink also maintains a current awareness service - again you need to sign up for it on the ChildLink webpage

Mailing Lists JISCmail
JISC mailing list service for UK Higher and Further Education.

Internet discussion and information lists.

Research blog at the Library Information on new conferences, training events or recommended sources of information for research students. Why not pass on information about a new piece of research or another interesting source of information - let others know.


There are several concerns about the quality of information found on the Internet.

  • anyone can "publish" information on the Internet - you may access a campaigning or issues site which may be biased in its coverage; a site trying to sell you something; a page which has not been revised in a considerable time and therefore the information may no longer be valid.

  • difficult to trace credentials of authors

  • misinformation or incomplete information can be easily spread

It is good practice to "evaluate" information you find on the web. Below are a few suggestions on how you might evaluate an Internet source.

  • How did you discover the resource?
    Using a "subject gateway" rather than a search engine such as Google should lead to quality reviewed sites.

  • What information does the resource reveal?
    Is there an authors name?
    Are there contact details i.e. e-mail address?
    Is there a date?
    Are there links to & from other sites, especially a homepage?

  • Check the URL - it can give clues to the origin of a page?
    Commercial - .co.uk         
    Academic    - .ac.uk           .
    Government - .gov.uk    
    Non-profit organisation - .org.uk   
    Personal homepage -  ~jsmith
    Work back through a URL to discover its source.

Useful Links:

The Library Training page contains good links for evaulation.

Any of the INTUTE Virtual Training Suite guides contain sections of evaluation of internet resources.

Evaluating Web Pages: techniques to apply and questions to ask (UC Berkeley Library)

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: or Why it's a Good Idea to Evaluate Web Resources, by Susan E. Beck


If you are planning to submit your research for publication, it is vital to know which publications are 'best' for your subject area. The Web of Knowledge database contains the Journal Citation Reports. Using it, one can find out:

  • Which are the largest journals by circulation
  • Which journals are the most frequently used?
  • Which journals have the highest impact?
  • Which are the ‘hottest’ journals?
  • Which other publications does a journal cite – and which cite it?

 Citing and Referencing

All coursework including dissertations, projects, essays and seminar papers must be your own work. Sources of information must be acknowledged and a piece of work consisting substantially of passages copied from publications, books or from other sources including work of other students, with only minor variations or without quotation marks and acknowledgements, will not be accepted. Your supervisor/tutor will show you how to reference properly e.g. (Harvard method) and produce a bibliography correctly. Ensure that whatever referencing style you select that this procedure is adhered to consistently.

Most research methods or style books will cover the principles of correct citation. A selection are listed below.

Pears, R. & Shield, G. (2008) Cite them right: referencing made easy Newcastle: Northumbria University Press
Bosworth, D. (1994) Citing your references: a guide for authors of journal articles and students. Thirsk: Underhill Press
Turabian, K. (1996) A manual for writers of term papers, theses, and dissertations Chicago : University of Chicago Press

The Library Training page also provides links to guidance on several standard referencing systems.


Plagiarism is the unattributed copying of the work of another person, either from published work or the work of another student. It is a form of literary theft and is not permitted under any circumstances.

Plagiarism is regarded by University Course Committees as a very serious offence and it will be subject to formal disciplinary proceedings under University Ordinance 1985/87 (Student Discipline). There are a number of online resources available to help you avoid accusations of plagiarism, through appropriate referencing skills and acknowledgement of sources. See the Cardiff University Literacy Resource Bank website. For more detailed information on plagiarism and the steps being taken to control it, see the JISC Plagiarism Advisory Service pages.


  • This reference management tool enables you to keep track of useful sources by allowing you to export your search results from most database searches directly to your personal space in RefWorks. You can also manually add other references found elsewhere. You can organise and sort references into topic folders as necessary or share these references between other users if appropriate, e.g. your supervisor. There is also a plug in called Write -N-Cite, which can be installed on your PC to allow linking between your word processed document and your reference list.
  • Finally, you can use these references to automatically create a bibliography in the citation style of your choice.  It is an extremely quick way to produce an extensive bibliography.

The Library also runs regular training sessions for Refworks which are advertised on the Library homepage and on the Learning Resources tab in Portal. Keep an eye open for these and sign up using the online form. Alternatively, contact one of the Social Science staff who will be happy to assist you.

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Last updated: 07/07/10
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