Preparing for your search

When carrying out a search, preparation is everything! Make sure you allow yourself sufficient time. The best way to find information is to ask yourself two questions first:

What am I looking for?

  • Start by writing down your topic or matter of interest. What are the main terms or concepts that you can pick out from it? Make a note of them.
  • Look for synonyms of your main terms and other related concepts.
  • Translate those terms into other languages, such as French or German.

Where am I looking?

Choosing the right information resource depends on how much you know about your topic.

  • To get started, we recommend using specialist reference works, dictionaries or handbooks. These will give you an initial overview of your topic. You can access some works of reference here.
  • Library catalogues are a source of introductory literature or further reading, either in hard copy or digital form.
  • Specialist databases and academic search engines will take you to literature containing specific knowledge that will help you with a more in-depth search. These electronic information resources can be found here.

Going about your search

Once you have identified your search terms, start your search using the information resources you want. If things go well, you will find relevant literature right away that you can borrow or download.

Encountering problems

Sometimes, your search for the right literature is not immediately successful. Do not let that put you off! Here is some advice from us. The problems listed below can be resolved by following our recommendations.

Can’t find the literature you are looking for?

  • Analyse your results list. Where titles look potentially useful, make a note of keywords or terms linked to them that you did not include when making your preparations.
  • Try searching again with these “new” search terms.
  • Repeat this step until you find the literature you are looking for.

Too few results – or none at all?

  • Check your terms for spelling mistakes and look out for special characters.
  • Perhaps your keywords were too specific. Try using more general terms or fewer keywords.
  • Perhaps you have been using the “wrong” terms. Try searching with synonyms or translations of your terms.

Too many results?

  • Was your search too general? Try to narrow down your topic by using more terms or ones that are more precise.

Still need help?

If you have any questions or need assistance with your search, we will be happy to help. Ask a member of staff at the information desk, sign up for a free individual advice session, or attend one of our courses.

Plan of the freely accessible holdings

You can find a plan of the freely accessible holdings here.


Do you need support? We are here for you.