This page provides help with advanced search techniques for finding books, articles and other information sources. It is aimed at final year undergraduate students, but other students may find it useful too.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Consider related terms. For example, for photography ‘art’ is related, and also ‘pictorial’ (see subject terms below).
Consider synonyms. If you search for “film” use the term “cinema” as well. Library search supports 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:
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.
The FOREST LOG scheme is described in Student success; get through, do well
Not all relevant sources for an assignment will come up in a keyword search. You should consider at least some of the following:
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:
In the advanced search on Library Search you can limit your search to this field to provide a more targeted search.
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.
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:
If you find a good source look to see what else they have written