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How to do a literature search

Hello, and welcome to this recorded version of the online training session, ‘How to do a literature search’. I’m Katherine Moore and I’m a learning and teaching librarian here at the OU. By the end of this session you will be able to: Understand the principles of literature searching, Identify relevant sources for your topic, Develop and carry out a search strategy, Evaluate and select relevant information and know how to access resources not available through the OU. So, whatever your topic that you’re searching for information on, similar principles will apply. The topic I’m going to use for this session’s example is ‘The nutrition of children in America’. It’s best to start by planning your search. And in the planning stages you’ll think about the keywords you’re going to use, where you’re going to search, the type of material you’re interested in, and the date range. So, keywords. You can start by highlighting the subjects within your question. So for my case, that would be ‘Nutrition’, ‘Children’ and ‘America’. And I could just do my search using these. However, my results would probably be quite limited. So to avoid that, for each subject I try and think of keywords. Sorry, I try and think of synonyms. So words that mean the same thing or very, very similar. And I’ve got some of these on the next slide. So, for ‘America’ we have ‘America’ OR ‘USA’ OR ‘United States’ For ‘nutrition’ we have ‘nutrition’ OR ‘diet’ OR ‘nourishment’. And for ‘child’ we have ‘child’ and then an asterisk. And what the asterisk does is it tells the database, “Return the results that start off with the letters ‘child’ but then can have any ending”. So, that would search for ‘child’, ‘children’, ‘childhood’ etc. And then my last synonym for that would be ‘adolescent’. Now, there might be more synonyms for my search. However, this is a really good starting point. Searching tends to be a very iterative process and often you’ll find, as you’re searching, as you find relevant journal articles, you add more terms to your search. So, once we have our keywords, we need to combine them. For this we use, what we call Boolean Operators. The ‘AND’ operator here combines subjects. And the more ‘AND’ operators you have in your search, the narrower the number of search results you will have and the narrower your search will be. The ‘OR’ operator links together synonyms on the same subject and that will broaden your search. You can also use the ‘NOT’ operator to exclude items from your search. And we’re going to put some of that into practice now by going to the Library homepage. So we’ve had a think of what our keywords are, let’s have a think about where we might want to search. So I’m going to go to the ‘Library Resources’ section of the library website. And we can see on the menu on the right we have the different types of resources you might want to access. The third one down is ‘Databases’ and this lists all the databases to which we subscribe to in alphabetical order. There’s an awful lot of them, five hundred odd. So this is a fine place to go if you know the name of the database you want to search. If you’re not sure, then I suggest going to the ‘Selected resources for your study’ area which is the top link on that right menu. And I’m sorry, I’m just scrolling down the page slightly. What this does is it gives you a list of subjects that you can choose from. So I’m going to choose ‘Health and Medicine’ as being relevant to my search. If I scroll down again slightly. I then have a list of sub-topics underneath that. So I would choose ‘Nutrition’ as being relevant to nutrition of children in America. And if I scroll down again, what we have here now is a list of databases and ejournals and ebooks that are all relevant to nutrition. Now this isn’t an exhaustive list but it’s a very good starting point. If I was to just click that ‘Database’ button there, and if I scroll down again, what I’m now seeing is a list of databases that are relevant to nutrition. So all these databases would be suitable for me to start my search off in. And obviously depending on your search will depend which databases you want to use. So for this particular example I’m going to use the database ‘Web of Science’ which is a large multi-disciplinary database. Don’t be fooled by it’s name, it’s relevant for arts and humanities as well as the sciences. And I could access it through the ‘Selected resources for your study’ page, I could use the databases list, but actually I’m going to access it through Library Search as that’s going to be the quickest. So I’ve gone back to Library Home, and I’m just typing ‘Web of Science’ into the search box. Okay, and if we scroll down slightly you can see it’s my first result here and it’s definitely found it as a database. Now, before we go into Web of Science, just a little bit of information about Library Search. Library Search searches across lots of the material to which the library subscribes to and makes available for you. However, it doesn’t quite find everything. So although you can use it for topic searches and to start off your searching, you wouldn’t want to use it exclusively because your search won’t be very thorough and you’ll be missing out on important results, which for a literature search, is a bit of an issue. So by all means use Library Search to find particular databases, or journals or journal articles, but in terms of topic searches it’s a fine place to start but you’ll want to use it with other library databases or maybe Google Scholar. I am going to go in to Web of Science now. So I just click on it’s title and then ‘Open in a new window’. So we’re at Web of Science now and I am just going to put my search terms in. And I’m going to use the ‘Add Another Field’ link to add more fields to make my search easier to input. So, I’ve got the ‘America’ and it’s various synonyms all linked with ‘OR’ in the top field and then ‘nutrition’ etc. and ‘child’ etc. in the last one. The drop-down boxes next to where I’ve put my search terms I could set to other things. However, it’s defaulted to ‘Topic’ which means it will search for my search terms in the title, the abstract, the keywords, and the full text of the article, which is what I want so I’ll leave that as ‘Topic’. And the ‘Time Span’, we can see at the bottom, has defaulted to showing me results in the last 5 years only. And that will give me an idea of current practice, so that’s what I want. I’m going to leave that too. However, if I click the drop-down arrow, I would then have the option to see ‘All years’ or ‘The last year’ etc. But I’m going to leave those as is and click ‘Search’ now. So, this has given me lots of results. Far too many to look through. So at this point, I would have a little rethink of my search. As with Library Search, there are limiters on the left of the page to help me refine my search down to less items that are more relevant to my search. These include things like ‘Research Area’ which is really helpful for helping you think about what areas within your search that you’re really interested in. It also includes things like ‘Document Type’ and indeed ‘Author’. So if there were key authors within the field I could just narrow my search results down to the ones they’d published. If we look across more to the middle-top of the page, we can see how Web of Science has sorted my long list of results. And it’s defaulted to ‘Times Cited- highest to lowest’ but there are other options I could choose. What ‘Times Cited- highest to lowest’ shows you is the articles that have been most influential within the topic. So, for example, this article by Lim has been cited by 1757 other articles. So this means, that number of other articles have put this Lim article in their bibliography. Okay, and whilst how influential an article has been within a subject is a very important measure, it’s not the be all and end all. If you find an article that has been published very recently you might find it has a low ‘times cited’ number purely because other authors haven’t had a chance to read it and then publish referring to the new article you’ve found. So it’s a useful measure but it’s not the be all and end all. Okay so, moving on now. If I wanted to access the full text of this article I could click the ‘Find it at OU’ button. Now, the ‘Find it at OU’ button appears in indexes like Web of Science where the database searches across a very wide area but doesn’t guarantee you the full text of the item. To link you through to the full text of the item, to make that as easy as possible, we’ve created the ‘Find it at OU button’. And what that does is it checks to see if we have the full text of this article in any of our library databases. So if I click ‘Find it at OU’ now, if we have the article it will take me through, as it has here. If we didn’t, which does happen sometimes, you would get a ‘No Full Text Available’ box. So, back to Web of Science now. Okay, if I click on the title of an article what I will get is an abstract for it, if I just scroll down slightly. And within the abstract I can see that the terms I’ve searched for have been highlighted, which is great. This will help me assess how relevant the article is going to be for me. And if I scroll down a bit more, I can see keywords have been assigned to this article. Now again, that’s really helpful because the keywords might be something that I haven’t put in my original search but actually, on reading them, I could go “Ooh no. That’s a term I need to add to help me”. So that’s going back to what I said before about searching being iterative. Okay, if I scroll up again slightly. As well as each article in Web of Science having a ‘Times Cited’ count, which you can see on the right, it also gives you a link through to the item’s bibliography, so it’s reference list which you can view by clicking there. It’s just a different way of discovering articles that are likely to be relevant to your subject. Again, talking about functionality within Web of Science, if I had looked at these two articles and went, “Goodness, they look really relevant to my search”, I could select them by clicking the tick box and then I have an option to add them to a Marked List by clicking the ‘Add to Marked List’ button. And from there I can print these references, but I would just be printing the references, I wouldn’t be printing the whole text of the article, I can email the references to myself, and then using the option next to that I can save the references to a particular reference management tool, if I happened to be using one. So that’s all helpful functionality. As is the ‘Search History’ option within Web of Science. So this tells me the searches I’ve done recently. What I can do with this is ask Web of Science to create a search alert from any of the searches I’ve done. And then email me if new articles are published that fit my search criteria. So to do that I would click ‘Save History/Create Alert’. However, to do that, you do need to sign in to Web of Science. Sorry, you do need to create an account with Web of Science which is free but you do have to register. Okay, so that’s all I wanted to say about Web of Science for now. So I’m just going to move back to our slides now. And moving on to Google Scholar. So Google Scholar searches a very large number of journals, some of which we don’t subscribe to. It also searches conference proceedings, and reports. So you’ll find often that you get a very large number of results and you will need to carefully evaluate the results Google Scholar gives you. However, the really big plus about Google Scholar, is it can be set up automatically to link you through to the full text of articles where the library has access. My only caveat to using Google Scholar is that you can’t find all the content to which the OU library subscribes via Google Scholar. So for a truly comprehensive search you shouldn’t use Google Scholar on it’s own, just like you shouldn’t use Library Search on it’s own. However, using Google Scholar in conjunction with other subject-specific databases is perfectly reasonable and a really good approach for doing literature searching. Okay, so we do have instructions for how to set up Google Scholar which I’m going to take you to now. If we go to the library homepage again. These are in the ‘Help and Support’ section. And then under ‘Finding information on your research topic’, the option on the right. And then the last bullet point is ‘Access eresources using Google Scholar’ So this gives you a little information about using Google Scholar and tells you how to set Google Scholar up. So that it will automatically link you through to articles where we have subscriptions. I’m just going to show you how to do that now. If I go into Google Scholar. This is Google Scholar. And if I go in to the ‘Settings’ option at the top. And then ‘Library Links’ and if I search for ‘Open University’. You can see it gives me quite a few options. The one you’ll need to tick is the one called ‘The Open University- Find it at OU’ and then click ‘Save’. And once you’ve done this once your computer remembers that you’ve done this. And now if I do a search you can see the ‘Find it at OU’ button, ‘Find it at OU’ link, appears against certain results. Where it appears is where Google Scholar has realised that we have a subscription to the article and if I click on it, it will either take me straight through or it will take you to a page that looks like this. You see this page when we have a particular article through more than one database. However, clicking any of these links will take you through. So I’m just going to choose the top one. And it’s taken me through to an abstract for the article but to read the full text all I do is click PDF Full Text. It’s that easy to set up. Okay, and again I’m going to go back to the slides now. So, in a moment, it will be over to you. I’d like you to use this time to practice searching two or more of the following tools. So, Web of Science, or Library Search, or Google Scholar, or a library database of your choice. Either using the search of your choice or the ‘Nutrition of children in America’ search. A) to get some chance in to practicing using the databases but also to give yourself a chance to compare different databases because they will act differently and you will have different search results. Okay, so please pause the recording now and allow yourself some time to do that. Okay, hello again. Hopefully that went well. If it did prompt any questions you can contact the Library Helpdesk. And I’ll point out their contact details later on. But for now, we’ll move on to Evaluating. So, once you have browsed through articles you might be interested in you need to evaluate them to see which ones you might include in your assignment. We have two frameworks to help you do this. We have the WWW framework, which looks at Who, Why and When for simple material, and we have the PROMPT framework for academic sources. And these are both on the library website which I’m going to go to now. So if we go to the ‘Help and Support’ section of the library website and then we go to ‘Finding resources for your assignment’. The third bullet point down is ‘Evaluating what you find’ which describes the ‘Who, Why, When’ questions. But also links through to ‘Evaluation using PROMPT’. So I’ll just skip to the second page. This outlines each step of the criteria here. Giving you what each letter stands for and a couple of questions and then some context for why you’d want to think about that. So PROMPT looks at Presentation, Relevance, Objectivity, for thinking about things like bias, the Method that was used to carry out the study. Provenance, so who wrote what you’re reading and Timeliness. Okay. That was all I wanted to say about evaluation. Okay, Cited Reference Searching. This is a different type of searching and it allows you to see how an area of research has developed. You tend to search for a particular article, and then you see who else has referred to that article. This allows you to follow research forward in time. It is especially useful if your topic is specialized and you’re having trouble finding particular articles. To do this type of search, you’ll need to use a citation index. So either Web of Science, like we were using before, Academic Search Complete, Science Direct, or Scopus. Now, all these can be found via the library website either using Library Search or on the A-Z databases list. We do have guidance on Cited Reference Searching which I’m just going to show you now. Okay, so if I just go back a couple of pages. We’re in the ‘Help and Support’ area of the library website and we want to look at ‘Finding information on your research topic’. So, the option on the right. And then, again on the right, we have ‘How do I do a citation search?’ And this gives you a bit of background information about why you might want to do a citation search, as well as how to do one, and what databases allow you to do a citation search. I’m going to demonstrate doing a citation search in the Web of Science. So if I go back to that now. The Web of Science defaults to your basic search option. But I can change that by clicking on the drop-down arrow and just setting it to ‘Cited Reference Search’. Now this is really nice because it gives me some instruction on the page about how I want to format my cited reference search. So it’s asking me for the author of the article I want to look up, where the particular article was published, and the year it was published. So the article I’m going to look up is called, ‘Food Allergy among Children in the United States’, it’s by Amy Branum, and it’s in the journal ‘Pediatrics’ and was published in 2009. Okay, so I can type in the journal ‘Pediatrics’ here or I can use the ‘look up’ function, the ‘View Abbreviation List’ within Web of Science and if you’re having problems finding a particular work then that ‘View Abbreviation List’ will help you. And 2009 is the year I want. So I’m going to click ‘Search’ now. And this has given me a table with four different rows. And essentially Web of Science is asking me, ‘Are these all the same article?’ So if we have a look at the author column we can see that actually all those are the same author, the cited work, yeah they’re all in the same thing, and the year is the same. The only differences we really appear to have are in the volume and issue and page numbers. But actually we can see things like the page number here, for some reason for my second result someone thought it’s actually the volume number. So really these are just highlighting mistakes where things have been referenced incorrectly. However, they’re definitely all the same article. So I’m going to tick all of them and say ‘Finish Search’. Now, what this will then give me is a list of articles that have referred to my Branum article in their reference list. Because these have all referenced my Branum article within them, they’re going to be likely to be on the same subject so this is another way of finding articles on similar subjects. It also helps me if a particular article gives a view that I haven’t heard before then I can see what other authors have said about it, to then make a judgment call on how influential the article was, and how much I trust the information because essentially this is showing me what other academics in the field think of the article I’ve read. Okay, and as ever, if I wanted to see if these particular articles were likely to be interesting to me, I’d click on their titles and have a look at the abstract. For accessing the full text of these I would click the ‘Find it at OU’ button. Okay, and actually this first one is interesting. If we look at the ‘Times Cited’ count on the right, we can see it’s at zero. However, this particular article was published April 2016, so very recently. Hence it not being cited by anyone else yet. Okay, that’s all I wanted to say about Cited Reference Searching. So we will go back to our slides now. And on to Referencing. As you do your literature search, you may want to use a reference management tool to help you organize and keep track of all the different references you’re collecting. This is completely optional. What these tools allow you to do is to create bibliographies and in-text citations quickly and easily. The ‘Bibliographic Management’ page on the library website provides more detail on these tools. I also want to point out that we run an OU Live training session on choosing a reference management tool. So I’m just going to go to the library website now. And again, in the ‘Help and Support’ area of the library website, if we go to ‘Referencing and plagiarism’ on the right-hand side, the first thing we see in the link to the OU Harvard Guide to Referencing which many modules use. But if we scroll down the page. Again, on the right-hand side, we have a link to the ‘Bibliographic Management’ page. and this is the page that talks about the different reference management or bibliographic management software options. Okay. Back to my slides. So, what to do if the full text isn’t available. It’s inevitable as you’re doing a very thorough literature search that you find things that unfortunately the OU Library doesn’t have access to. You do have a couple of options. You can see if the item is available through the SCONUL Access scheme. And what this is, it’s a scheme that allows you to join libraries, university libraries, near you that are part of the scheme and let’s you access their print collections. It very rarely lets you access any sort of online access. It really is just for getting print items. However, if there is a university library near you that has the print item you want to access, this is a good option. You can organize an inter-library loan through your public library. There will be a charge for this but it’s often subsidized. Or you can go directly to the British Library Document Supply Service. Again, there is a charge for this. But it does tend to be quicker than doing a public library inter-library loan. And these options are on the library website which I’m going to show you now. So again, in the ‘Help and Support’ section of the library website if we go to ‘Finding ejournals and articles’ on the right. And if I scroll down slightly we can see, again on the right it says, ‘I’m being asked to pay for my article’. And if I scroll down again. This lists all the options with a little bit more information about joining the Sconul Access scheme that I’ve just listed. Okay, and I’m going to scroll down to the bottom of the page again. And just to point out, on the bottom right-hand corner of every page on the library website are the details for the library heldesk. You can webchat to a librarian 24 hours a day, you can email a librarian, or you can phone. The email and phone are more within standard office hours. But the webchat, as I said, is available 24/7. So if you do have a question, please ask us. But I’ve come to the end of this session. Thank you very much for listening. And yes, goodbye for now.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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