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INTO: Engineering & Science Project: Finding and using library resources: 3. Where should I look?

Online tutorial introducing you to the skills and techniques needed for effective library research

Once you have decided what sort of research materials you want to work with, you can choose the best research tool to help you find that material. There are two Library Research tools that will help you find print and electronic primary and secondary materials:

1. Library Search

2. A-Z Databases

Don't just use Google for information!

Google will find lots of information and is a great tool for examining certain kinds of material such as blogs and other openly accessible web resources.  However, the information you find will vary greatly in terms of accuracy, currency bias etc. Always evaluate the material for research quality.

As well as containing information that is not exposed through Google, the Library research tools also allow you to be more precise with your searching as they offer specialist research database features to improve your research discovery.

If you are using Google Scholar, there are a number of settings you can change in order to improve your search experience.  Find out more on the Making the most of Google Scholar Libguide.

Explore the guidance below on Library Search and the A to Z databases and complete the activities in the tutorials and quiz to test your knowledge. 

1. Library Search

Library Search is  a good starting point for finding material on a topic.

You can search for a research topic and quickly and easily retrieve details of print and electronic books, journal articles and other full text material.

You can also use it to check whether we have particular books or journals you may discover during your literature searching.

When you use Library Search you will see search results via two tabs

1. Catalogue

2. Articles + more

A search for computational mathematics in Library Search returns the following catalogue results. Note the type of content. There is a mixture of print and electronic texts.

This search finds matches in book titles and contents listings and journal titles.  For more focused searching within the content of books and journals you should use the Articles + more feature of Library Search and the research databases.

A search for computational mathematics and geometry in Library Search Articles + more returns the following results. 

In addition to all the content in the Catalogue tab, there is also a wide range of content from various full text resources, with journal articles that match your search terms.

The Refine by options will help you to limit your search results to a more manageable number.

Articles + more search is often a good starting point for introductory material, but if you want to research the global literature on a topic, and go beyond quick full text results, then you should follow up with a database search. You can tailor your search more precisely using all the sophisticated functionality available on the research databases.  

You can also use Library Search to check on the availability of print and online journal titles.

As you begin searching the research databases you may find references to particular journal articles that look interesting.  Some databases only include short bibliographic details of articles with an abstract.  If you want to read the full text you can use Library Search to discover if you have full text access.

To search for journal titles, just enter some/all of the journal title into the library Search box and then browse the Catalogue tab to check for access.

A search for journal mathematics research returns the following catalogue results. You can browse through the list and click on the titles for access.

In this example for the Mathematics Education Research Journal you can see that there is:

  • current access via SpringerLink
  • archive access via Springer Online Archives Collection

You will often find that journal coverage is split across journal and archive services.

2. A-Z databases

If you want to research the global literature on a topic, and go beyond quick full text results using Library Search, you should follow up with a database search. 

You can tailor your search more precisely using all the sophisticated functionality available on the research databases.  

Sometimes you will need specialist types of material which are not available via Library Search - will primarily provides book and journal content information.

All the databases are available via the A-Z list.


Each entry in the A-Z database list has an information icon. Hover over that symbol for information about the content that is available in the database and an idea of why it might be useful for research purposes.

Shown below is the information for Biosis, which is a valuable biosciences research database.



You can scroll through the A-Z and choose a database if you know exactly what you are looking for.

Select databases by Subject

You can select your subject from the drop down subject menu to see a subset of resources in that category.

The subject listings will highlight the 'core resources'; these are key databases that are likely to be of interest to anyone studying and researching in that area.

Your Subject LibGuide will also highlight recommended databases for you to explore

Select databases by Type

You can select a database type from All Databases Types drop down menu and view a subset of resources in that category.

For example, you may want to focus on news, official publications or reference works databases.

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