Finding Information

Site: QMplus - The Online Learning Environment of Queen Mary University of London
Module: Find It! Use It! Reference It! QMUL Information Literacy Skills
Book: Finding Information
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Tuesday, 28 May 2024, 10:28 AM


This section explains how to effectively find information for your studies

1. - Can't I just use Google and Wikipedia?

an illustration of a student with a speech bubble containing the question " So Why can't I just use Google and Wikipedia?"


This is a perfectly reasonable question which new students often ask. 

Drag the statements below to the relevant side - whether they're a reason why you might, or might not, want to use Google and Wikipedia. Then click check to see how you've done.

As you can see, there are some occasions when you might want to consider using Google or Wikipedia, but remember to always thoroughly evaluate the information you retrieve.

There are much quicker and smarter ways of searching for the academic information. We provide a few pointers here that will help you on your way to becoming highly competent in finding and handling information - start developing your research expertise immediately by working through these pages.


Need help or advice about anything on this page?  Contact the LLSE Team 

2. - So if I can't just use Google and Wikipedia, where can I find the right sort of information?

To some extent the answer to this question depends on the subject you are studying. But it is important for all students to understand that whatever you happen to be studying some sources are appropriate for academic work and others are not. A crucial first step in eliminating the bad stuff lies in knowing where to begin searching.

In time, as you develop into a confident self-directed learner, you will expand your searching horizons, but the Library website should be your main primary resource while you are studying at Queen Mary. In case you are not familiar with it, the homepage looks like this (we've highlighted some of the most important tabs and links which you can use to begin exploring the site):

Library Search will enable you to gain access to a wealth of appropriate:

  • books - including e-books available to you 24/7 anywhere in the world with an Internet connection
  • journals - including the full text of many individual articles, also available 24/7
  • databases - which you can use to focus your searching and exclude irrelevant material

Many of these high-quality academic resources form part of the 'hidden' or 'deep' web - information that is not easily accessible through Google and other popular search engines.

The process of looking for books and articles can be as basic as typing a few words in the Library Search box; however, by learning a few simple search techniques you'll find that Library Search is easy to use and delivers the results you need.

We have included some examples of specimen searches using Library Search to help get you started.

Need help or advice about anything on this page?  Contact the LLSE Team  

2.1. Books

An image of a slip of paper containing the quote by Ray Bradbury. "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them."

Familiarising yourself with the Library Search tool from the Queen Mary Library website will be an excellent start. It searches a wide range of print and electronic content held or subscribed by the Library, as well as freely available open resources.

If you are looking for a specific title, you can enter some keywords from the title and the surname of the author.

The short tutorial below takes you through a simple search for the book Critical Thinking Skills by Stella Cottrell.

For print books, don't forget to get into the habit of noting down the shelfmarks of books that you would like to consult. BF441 COT is the shelfmark in the example used in the tutorial. 

For downloading from ebooks, remember there are different publishers with different requirements for downloading their content. Please check the library’s E-books section for more details on this as well as the different platforms.

Try this quiz to practice searching for books and ebooks using the Library Search 

Need help or advice about anything on this page?  Contact the LLSE Team 

2.2. Articles

What is a journal, and why might it be useful? Drag the correct words into the gaps below:

Guest users do not have permission to interact with embedded questions.
You can use Library Search to find the full text of journal articles relating to your subject; watch the following short tutorial for an introduction to the most basic search technique - finding and retrieving the full text by using the title of an article. The example we'll use is a multi-author paper entitled:

  • 'High Throughput Parallel Fano Decoding', from the IEEE Transactions on Communications

Try this quiz to practice searching for some journal articles using the Library Search

Need help or advice about anything on this page?  Contact the LLSE Team 

2.3. Searching for a topic

As you progress with your studies, you will move beyond searching for reading materials suggested by your tutors, and start searching more independently to broaden your knowledge on a certain topic. Library Search offers a valid alternative to a simple Google search.

To carry out your own search on a topic,  use the Library Search from the Library Website. 

Need help or advice about anything on this page?  Contact the LLSE Team 

2.4. Databases

What is a database, and why might you want to use databases to search for information? Drag the correct words into the gaps below:

Guest users do not have permission to interact with embedded questions.

Let’s take a look at a search example of a question below taken from a past Geography exam paper.

See if you can identify the three key elements to this question. 

Once you have identified the three key elements to this question you can enter the keywords into a database of your choice to start searching on the topics.  

To find any Queen Mary Library subscribed databases  - go to the Queen Mary Library WebsiteBelow the Library Search is the A-Z list of Databases. This is the quickest way to access databases if you know the exact one you’d like to use.

Image showing where A-Z List of databases and Resources by Subject are located on Library website

However, if you are not sure which database to use  - we suggest you go to Resources Guides by Subject  and then click on your subject to see a list of databases recommended for your study discipline.

Scopus and Web of Science are both multidisciplinary databases which you can use to search any topics.

Our short video demo shows you how to search Scopus using  the three keywords from the Geography exam paper question.

The search technique can also be used with many of the of the other databases which are available via the library.

Need help or advice about anything on this page?  Contact the LLSE Team 

2.5. Search tips for databases

Databases can provide you with relevant and highly accountable resources for your research.

To find the right information that is specific to your needs -  it helps to become familiar with the underlying logic of  databases. Small words can make a big difference when searching a database.

Check out The Language of Databases or click on the image below to access a summary of tips. 

Image of the file Language of Databases

Or why not watch the short video below which tells you all about the small but important words that are called Boolean Operators. It explains how to use them in your searches to get the best results:

What if you end up with too few or too many results?

The video below shows you some simple but effective techniques that can help you broaden your search if you find that you are getting too few results, or narrow your search if you have too many results:

Need help or advice about anything on this page?  Contact the LLSE Team 







3. It's Quiz Time!

We've provided you with a lot of practical guidance in this section of the module that will improve your Information Literacy Skills. Of course the more you apply the techniques outlined here the more you will improve: practice makes perfect.

See how much you can remember by trying this quiz:

Need help or advice about anything on this page?  Contact the LLSE Team