By the end of this module you will be able to:
This module takes roughly 15 minutes to complete.
Course B, module 'How do I start a literature search?'
Your success in finding the right literature depends very much on how you organise your search. If you haven't got a system you probably won't find all the relevant publications. If you have, the chance of optimal results is much higher. In a systematic literature search you use the functions in the various electronic files (e-resources) and the internet in an organised manner.
In a systematic literature search you will be constantly searching, assessing and adapting your search profile, which consists of a list of search terms derived from your research question and the kind of information sources that you see as relevant to your research.
Course B, module How do I start a literature search? explains how to draw up a search profile in a step-by-step approach. If you haven't taken this course yet then we advise you to do so before continuing with this module.
There are different methods for literature searches. Two are explained in this module:
Most of the time you will use a combination of these two methods. You can use the publications that you find with the building block method as a starting point for the snowball method.
There are other methods that you can use in addition to these two. These are explained in the section: 'Other search methods'.
When you use the building block method you combine as many search terms as possible in one search query. The aim is to find as much relevant literature as possible for your research. The search terms that you use in a bibliographic or full-text file will influence the result. The example below shows how this works.
You are performing a literature search on how the services of Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch railway system) cater to the needs of its customers.
Step 1: What is your main research question?
How do the services of Nederlandse Spoorwegen cater to the needs of its customers?
Step 2: Select the key terms from your research question.
Services, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, Needs, Customers.
Step 3: Formulate as many related terms as possible for each key term.
To get optimal results you will also have to think of synonyms and other related terms. You can find these in dictionaries, encyclopedias and thesauri. Use terms in other languages as well (e.g. English, Dutch) if this is relevant for your research.
Step 4: Select suitable sources.
This is explained in course B.
Step 5: Select Advanced Search in your chosen source.
Step 6: Combine the different key terms and the related terms.
When you combine key terms/related terms you use boolean operators and wildcards. This is explained in course A.
This method enables you to look for old and new literature on the same subject from one publication. Suppose you find an article that is very important for your research. How can you use it to snowball to earlier and more recent publications on the same topic?
Web of Science enables you to find out which authors have cited specific books or articles.
When you have found a suitable publication you can search for more recent literature with a citation index. A citation index is based on the literature lists in publications and tells you which authors have cited from specific books or articles. Not all databases have a citation index, but there is one in Web of Science and Google Scholar.
The above methods can be combined with:
You can use the author's name to search library catalogues and e-resources. Suppose your tutor mentions an important author or suppose you have found an interesting article for your thesis, you can use the author's name to look for other publications.
Enter the author's surname followed by the first name or initials. Sometimes there are authors with the same surname and perhaps even the same initials in different disciplines. If you use only one initial, it is advisable to add a wildcard (such as *) so that you can see the different authors and select the right one.
Many e-resources and catalogues group books and articles under keywords or subjects to make them easier to find. This function is useful if you are looking for publications on a specific subject.
Example of a thesaurus:
After a search many e-resources give you a link to literature on the same subject. These are shown as related records, related items, recommended articles, etc.
Publications are identified as ‘related' by the bibliographic files on the basis of their own subject classification and/or the shared references between the publications. Here are some examples:
Web of Science
In Web of Knowledge (and Web of Science) you click on the title of an article to access the bibliographic entry. Here you will find the link View related records (in the menu at the right). These related publications are based on shared references.
In ProQuest you will see the option Related items. When you click on it you will see a list of related publications. These are based on an analysis of the search terms that you used to find the first publication.
In ScienceDirect you can find related publications under Recommended articles. The Article Recommender suggests other articles that might be worth exploring, based on the researcher's online search behavior.
Suppose you have conscientiously applied one of these search methods and found nothing. The following questions may help you to find the reason:
|Building block method:||Combines as many search terms as possible in one search.|
|Snowball method:||Uses one publication to find earlier and more recent literature on the same subject.|
|Searching by author:||Uses the author's surname to find other publications by the same author.|
|Searching by subject:||Uses subject lists, keyword catalogues or thesauri to find relevant literature.|
|Related publications:||Uses automatic search options such as related articles, related records, more like this, see similar items, etc.|
Working at home with e-journals, e-books and e-resources?
Set your browser at home as described on the Library website. You will also need your VU-net-Id.
Sort the results according to relevance so that the literature that relates best to your research question is at the top of the list. An item is identified as relevant if the term appears in certain important places (e.g. the title, keywords).
If you completed all the steps and still couldn't find any literature, you can always ask your tutor for advice.
NARCIS is dé nationale portal voor wie informatie zoekt over wetenschappers en hun werk. Naast wetenschappers maken ook studenten, journalisten en medewerkers binnen onderwijs, overheid en het bedrijfsleven gebruik van NARCIS.
NARCIS biedt toegang tot wetenschappelijke informatie waaronder (open access) publicaties afkomstig uit de repositories van alle Nederlandse universiteiten, KNAW, NWO en diverse wetenschappelijke instellingen, datasets van een aantal data-archieven, alsmede beschrijvingen van onderzoeksprojecten, onderzoekers en onderzoeksinstituten.
Dit houdt in dat NARCIS (nog) niet gebruikt kan worden als ingang tot complete overzichten van publicaties van onderzoekers. Er zijn echter steeds meer instellingen die al hun wetenschappelijke publicaties via NARCIS toegankelijk maken. Op deze wijze kunnen de publicatielijsten van de wetenschappers zo compleet mogelijk worden gemaakt.
In 2004 is de ontwikkeling van NARCIS gestart als een samenwerkingsproject van KNAW Onderzoek Informatie, NWO, VSNU en METIS in het kader van de dienstenontwikkeling binnen het DARE-programma van SURFfoundation. Dit project heeft de portal NARCIS verwezenlijkt, waarin in januari 2007 de dienst DAREnet is geïncorporeerd. Sinds 2011 is NARCIS een dienst van DANS.
A MOOC is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web.
National Academic Research and Collaborations Information System
NARCIS is the main national portal for those looking for information about researchers and their work. Besides researchers, NARCIS is also used by students, journalists and people working in educational and government institutions as well as the business sector.
NARCIS provides access to scientific information, including (open access) publications from the repositories of all the Dutch universities, KNAW, NWO and a number of research institutes, datasets from some data archives as well as descriptions of research projects, researchers and research institutes.
This means that NARCIS cannot be used as an entry point to access complete overviews of publications of researchers (yet). However, there are more institutions that make all their scientific publications accessible via NARCIS. By doing so, it will become possible to create much more complete publication lists of researchers.
In 2004, the development of NARCIS started as a cooperation project of KNAW Research Information, NWO, VSNU and METIS, as part of the development of services within the DARE programme of SURFfoundation. This project resulted in the NARCIS portal, in which the DAREnet service was incorporated in January 2007. NARCIS has been part of DANS since 2011.
When people create educational resources, they may choose to share them with others openly and freely. This means that others can use these materials as part of their courses and lessons without permission. A creator of an open textbook, for example, can give explicit permission to others to use their book free of charge. We call these open education resources (OER).
Read more about it in our LibGuide Resource Centre for Education Resources and Copyright