SEVEN ways to become a MAGNIFICENT online researcher

The Library is closed until further notice.

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Sad, I know. But while it’s not possible to access the physical contents of the Library, it is still possible to use all of our online resources. In fact, more material is now available online, as many publishers have increased access during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help you get the most out of what the Library has to offer online, here is a list of seven magnificent ways to become a better online researcher.

(1) Define your search terms

While you are probably eager to dive in and start searching straight away, it can actually save you time in the long run if you dedicate ten minutes to brainstorming the search terms you are going to use.

If you know your topic, then you will have at least two or three keywords already. Use your brainstorming time to think of synonyms (different words that mean the same) or alternative words and write them down on a piece of paper. For example, if you are researching social media, then some additional keywords might be social networks or Facebook. You can then repeat this process for the new words that you find.

Where to find keywords

Go back over your lecture notes and pull out any keywords from there – remember, keywords are usually nouns. Try using an online thesaurus for possible synonyms. Also, most journal articles include keywords under the abstract, so you might like to borrow some of these and use them in your own searches.

“Phrase searching”

You may have heard of the search technique called phrase searching. This is where you place double-inverted commas (”   “) around two or more words to keep them together in that order. For example, a search for social media without phrase searching may return results that include the word social in the first paragraph and media somewhere further down the page. Searching for “social media” ensures that you keep the two words together, exactly as you have written them.

A word of caution.

Phrase searching looks for the words exactly as you have written them. If you find yourself getting zero results, it’s probably because you have misspelled a word or you have used too many words.

Excluding terms

You might also have some keywords that you want to exclude from your search. You can do this in the advanced search of OneSearch by choosing ‘NOT’. In the example below, we have done this to exclude Twitter from our search.

social_media

Once you have compiled all your search terms, you can combine them together into multiple searches and use them to find the information you need.

(2) Refine your search results

When you click search, you should (hopefully) find yourself with lots of useful information. In fact, there may be too much. In this case, it’s possible to narrow down a search even further by using the refining options. These can be found on the left-hand side of OneSearch.

Popular choices include refining by date, resource type, or online availability. For example, you may only be interested in online journal articles published in the last two years, in which case you can adjust the filters accordingly.

filters

If you then find that there is not enough information, you can relax the filters, perhaps to include books or to include research from the last five years.

(3) Borrow from reference lists and bibliographies

Once you have found some articles and books relating to your topic, a good way of finding some more is to glance over reference lists or bibliographies and choose anything else that might be relevant.

OneSearch offers a tool to help you do this. Some articles contain red arrows in the right-hand corner of the results page. The red arrow pointing downwards allows you to find articles cited in the article, that is, articles in the reference list.

Find sources cited in this

At the risk of stating the obvious, one thing to bear in mind is that a reference list only includes items published prior to the related article. So, if an article was published in 2018, the items in the reference list will have been published before 2018; there will be nothing in the list from 2019 and 2020.

However, there is a way around this…

(4) Use reverse citation searching

Reverse citation searching allows you to find articles published after the original article that include the original article in their reference lists.

OneSearch offers a tool to help you do this. By clicking on the red arrow pointing upwards, you will be taken to articles citing the original article, that is, articles that include the original article in their reference list.

Find sources citing this

The idea is that, if the article appears in the reference list of another article, it should be on a similar topic and, therefore, is likely to be relevant to your research. And the benefit of reverse citation searching is that anything you find will be newer than the original article. So, if an article was published in 2018, the items found using reverse citation searching will all have been published in 2018, 2019, or 2020.

(5) Use individual databases

OneSearch is a wonderful tool that allows you to search (almost) all the library databases simultaneously. The knock-on effect of this is that it returns a lot of results, which some of you may find overwhelming.

Individual databases can reduce the total amount of information and, possibly, make it easier to find articles relating to your topic. Also, you may find certain databases easier to navigate than others. For example, some databases offer suggested reading that relates to an article you have found, while others offer more visual ways of viewing results that may be preferable to some researchers.

The Library has compiled Library Databases by Subject lists, which include details of individual databases relating to specific subjects.

(6) Go beyond books and journals

Included in the lists of databases are a number of resources that don’t include books or journal articles. Using these sources can make your research more interesting (and can make doing research more interesting).

Some examples of databases that go beyond books and journal articles are:

Box of Broadcasts (BoB) – This offers on-demand access to TV and radio broadcasts from over 75 free-to-air channels

Vogue Archive – This contains the backfile of Vogue magazine (US edition), spanning the first issue in 1892 to the current month, reproduced in high-resolution colour page images.

Statista – This consolidates statistical data on over 80,000 topics from more than 22,500 sources.

(7) Make full use of all the support that the Library has to offer

Last, but not least, make sure you take advantage of all the help on offer from the Library.

Information of all the library support and resources available are listed on the library webpages, along with links to all the databases mentioned above.

Although we are working from home, we are still available to help with any research queries. The easiest way to get in touch is by emailing AskaLibrarian@hope.ac.uk.

We look forward to hearing from you!

If you enjoyed this article, or at least found it useful, why not take a look at other articles on the blog?

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