Finding and retrieval

Academic staff nurture the development of students’ abilities to frame questions in their descipline, to see patterns in the literature, to evaluate the arguments and to find the gaps. Subject librarians can help to develop students’ skills in finding where the academic discussions are taking place, in identifying quality resources and background evidence as well as in finding resources for other tasks, such as for creating presentations or researching potentials employers.


…use search tools and sources best suited to the task at hand.

…identify the key conversations and research in the topic i am investigating.

…ask questions about what i find to be sure that information is accurate, authoritive and relevent to my purpose.

Skills Examples
I can… …select appropriate search engines, gateways, catalogues, databases and abstracting and indexing services, recognising the differences between them and their benefits and limitations. Identify your top 3 (or 5) current information sources and evaluate their fitness for purpose in line with academic expectations – create a mind-map of your information landscape as it currently appears and share with peers.
…analyse my topic and formulate keywords. Minding mapping keywords Use a prop or image to get students to think about alternative keywords e.g. can of coke, fruit stall.
…Construct search strategies and use advanced techniques, such as Boolean searching, wildcards and truncation, and limit searches by particular parameters. In pairs, explore the effect of using these techniques on the relevance of the results found.
…locate sources of full text information, both online and print, and download where applicable. Incorporate an exercise on accessing the full text of journal articles in a searching task.
…track further relevant sources by using citations. Practical task using Scopus and Web of Science to track citations.
…select appropriate resources for my assignment, applying relevant evaluation criteria to determine the quality of the information found. In pairs students are given a broad topic (e.g. climate change) and asked to prepare a for / against argument. Students debate issue and vote is taken. Marks awarded for use of evidence to support arguments.
…maintain a record of searches carried out and information found. In database search exercises ask students to set up a personal accounts in databases to save search histories and/or email results to themselves. Practice use of research trails in session and require as part of formative assignment.
…find specialist content appropriate to my task e.g. statistics, systematic reviews, legal information, market reports, maps, historic documents, re-usable images etc. Search exercise which shows ways to limit to specific types of information.
…identify and search for research datasets relevant to my work.
…use social media and alerting services to keep up to date with my discipline. Keeping your research up-to-date workshops materials.
Awareness Examples
I am aware of…

…the importance of supporting my arguments and research findings using secondary sources.
…the people and services who can help me access information. Library induction presentations
…the need to consider the relevance, accuracy, bias, reputation and credibility of information found. Search Google for a given topic and look at the type of websites retrieved – which ones are credible? Look at domain, date updated etc.

Website evaluation checklist
…the iterative nature of the search process as i review my findings and explore new avenues. During a search exercise ask students to note and reflect on success of their search strategies.