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Library Guides

School of Arts Library Guide: Search our collections

Introduction to Library Search

You can search Library Search anywhere in the world from  This lists all the books, journals, and databases that the library provides, and allows you to reserve items, and review your library account.

Four useful tips for searching our collections:

  • Sign in to Library Search for full functionality including accessing online sources, reserving books, and accessing your personal library account
  • Use keywords to find items and click the title for more information about it
  • The default search looks for everything, but you can limit your search to different types of source (e.g. books)
  • There is also an option to filter your results to online items only, or to print items only, or to peer-reviewed journal articles only (under 'availability.')

library search image

Login help for e-resources

Library Search lists e-books, and online journal articles alongside print resources.  There are also links to all the databases that we subscribe to. 

Advice for signing in

All online resources are hosted externally, and most require you to be onsite or to sign in to access them. 

Almost all online resources use a service called SHIBBOLETH; this is linked to your student account and therefore uses the same username and password as university systems.  Most resources that do not use SHIBBOLETH use EzProxy, which behaves in much the same way.

  1. Access resources from Library Search (make sure you sign in) or from the Fashion Library Guide, or the School of Arts Library Guide
  2. Once you have located a resource, open the resource and look for the sign-in link (normally, it is in the top right of the screen).
  3. Look for, and select, one of the following options:

        Login in via an institution

        UK Federation login

        Shibboleth login

        Where are you from?

  4. Search for "University of Westminster" or select from the drop-down menu
  5. Enter your username and password into the University of Westminster branded log on box (as shown below):


Personal registrations

A few resources require you to register the first time you use them (e.g. Box of Broadcasts), and some offer additional options if your register.  Registration emails often end up in junk or spam folders, so if you don't receive them look there.

Journal articles

We only have partial online access to some journal titles, so older back-copies or recent issues may not be available.  If you have any problems accessing journal content, check the record for the journal on Library Search to see what you should have access to. 

Browser issues

Sometimes problems with accessing e-resources (and e-books particularly) can be resolved by changing your browser.

Hidden content

The content of most databases we have access to are listed on Library Search.  However, there are a few exceptions to this such as Box of Broadcasts, where the content can only be located from within the database itself.  To find more content, and to access different options for searching, learn what the key databases for your subject are.

'Expand my results'

The default search on Library Search only lists articles that we have online access to.  To search beyond this, select 'Expand my results' from the search results page.  This will show additional articles which may be available in print in the library, or can be obtained via the inter-library loan service. 


Virtual Browse

The virtual browse feature in Library Search is located at the bottom of the full book display page



You can also search using the location numbers to retrieve books on the same topic - its a good idea to add an asterisk as in this example:  791.430973*

Search techniques

This section provides help with search techniques for finding books, articles and other information sources. 

First things first

Online reading lists

Most modules have online reading lists which link to essential reading for the module, and provide suggestions for further reading.  These are a useful starting point for researching assignments.  Your lecturers may also refer to additional sources in the lectures, so it is worth making a note of these and/or revisiting the lecture slides for suggestions.

When students come into the library for help, a surprising number have not considered the reading list, and sometimes all I do is point out all the sources on it which are relevant to their topic.  Even if you are doing a dissertation, it may still be worth revisiting your old reading lists to see if there are books that may be relevant


Textbooks can be useful sources for research, particularly in the early stages to help you get an overview of a topic you are researching.  They can also point you towards other books and journal articles you could use.  By textbook, I mean books which survey a particular field for people new to it, such as Liz Wells' Photography; a critical introduction or David Bate's Photography Key Concepts. You will need to browse the table of contents and the index to find the relevant sections.

Note that textbooks won't necessarily come up in a search for a topic even if there is a good chapter on that topic in the book.  For example, in David Bate's book, there is a good chapter on 'global photography' but that does not come up if you search for 'global photography' on Library Search.

Readers / anthologies / series

Readers and anthologies are also useful sources to look out for, as they collect together key writing in a particular field with students in mind.  The publisher Routledge have many examples including the following:

  • Nicholas Mirzoeff, The Visual Culture Reader, 2012 (3rd edn)
  • Liz Wells, The Photography Reader (2nd edition), 2019
  • Malcolm Barnard, Fashion Theory: A reader (2nd ed.), 2020, Routledge

There are several titles for media studies including:

  • Sue Thornham et al, Media Studies; a reader, 
  • Robert Hassan, The new media theory reader


Expand my results / Inter-library loans

In the results screen on Library Search select “Expand My Results” to reveal results from journals we don’t have online.  They may be available in print in the library or you can get them via the Inter-library loan (ILL) service.  ILL is free at Westminster - follow the ‘ILL request’ link at the top of Library Search.

FOREST LOG scheme for generating keywords

FOrms of words / Stemming

Consider different forms of a word (e.g. photographs, photo, photos, photographic, photography).  Library search supports ‘stemming’ so you can account for different forms using an asterisk (e.g. photo* retrieves all forms listed above).

RElated terms

Consider related terms.  For example, for photography ‘art’ is related, and also ‘pictorial’ (see subject terms below).

Synonymous Terms / Boolean operators

Consider synonyms. If you search for “film” use the term “cinema” as well.  Library search and Google Scholar support Boolean searches, so if you search for film OR cinema (just as it is written here) sources that use either term will be retrieved.  

Include your search terms in brackets, and you can add terms: 

  • (film OR cinema) women
  • (film OR cinema) (women OR feminism)

LOG (Ladder of Generalisation)

Consider using broader or narrower terms in your search: as well as searching for Britain and Film, you might search for Scotland and Film, for example; or perhaps Europe and Film

  • Note, it is normally more useful to use nouns rather than verbs (i.e. Britain rather than British).

The FOREST LOG scheme is described in Student success; get through, do well

Subject headings

Subject headings are included for most resources on Library Search and other databases, and expert searchers take note of them.  Look out for them in the description of resources, particularly books, and utilise them in your searches.  

Some unusual ones include:

  • “motion pictures” for film, 
  • “pictorial” for books of photographs 
  • “other (philosophy)” for the philosophical concept of ‘the other’

In the advanced search on Library Search you can limit your search to this field to provide a more targeted search.

Phrase searching

Another useful tip is to include a phrase in quotation marks.  This limits your results to resources that contain that phrase and not a phrase that contains the same words but is quite different: 

  • “Late photography” does not return “late nineteenth century photography”
  • "Jeremy Deller" does not return articles by James Deller about Jeremy Corbyn

Problems with keyword searching

Not all relevant sources for an assignment will come up in a keyword search.  You should consider at least some of the following:

  • Look at your reading lists for relevant sources (this is probably the first thing you should do)
  • Consider sources that you have read previously that might be relevant
  • Browse in relevant sections in the library, or use the browse feature on Library Search.  Take books off the shelves, look at the table of contents and index
  • Ask your lecturers to recommend sources
  • Look at broad textbooks for your subject, or subject-specific reference sources to get an overview of a topic and make a note of any key sources that are referred to.

Author searching

If you find a good source look to see what else they have written

Snowball technique

When you are reading for an assignment, take note of the sources used by the authors you are reading - this is often the best way of finding relevant sources. 

Citation searching

The “Cited by” feature on Google Scholar is similar to snowball technique except it highlights the books/articles that have cited the work you are researching (rather than cited in it).