Tips and tricks for longer research projects

The focus of this blogpost is literature searching, specifically for longer research projects such as dissertations, and it is aimed at St George’s students.

Your expert Liaison Librarians are able to support you with every step of the way so don’t hesitate to get in touch by emailing liaison@sgul.ac.uk. We are able to advise on how to plan and carry out a complex literature search in a variety of databases. We can also recommend which databases are most suitable for your topic.

You can email us for an individual appointment or come to one of our online drop-ins. Monday to Friday between 12-1pm you can chat to a Liaison Librarian directly. Click on the relevant link on the day you want to drop by.

Here we provide tips and tricks, no matter which stage of the process you are currently at.

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If you are…

…just getting started

Do a scoping search in Hunter. Even if you already use Hunter to locate books and journal articles in our collection, our Hunter video might teach you another thing or two about how to really make the most of its search functions.

If you aren’t familiar with the planning stage of literature searching or you usually skip this bit to get stuck in straight away, now is a good time to change that. When it comes to dissertations and research projects, you need to be much more systematic in your work, including when you formulate your research question. Have a look at our Canvas unit on this topic. It gives you more information and by the end, you will have a research question ready to start searching with.

If you are worried about how to structure your dissertation or academic writing, you can make an appointment with the Academic Success Centre team. Their details are found on the Study+ section in Canvas. We also have a number of books in our collection which can help with academic writing, including how to approach a literature review, dissertation or research paper. They are listed on our Writing for Assessment Wakelet.

If you need specific software to do your research, such as SPSS, have a look at what is available to you through St George’s University and request it here.

And finally, a little tip on how to get started. If you know of a paper which covers the area you are interested in already, have a look at which articles they reference and perhaps you find some relevant papers in their reference list for your project. While this is not a systematic method, it can help you get started and add to your search strategy (e.g. which alternative terms to use).

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…ready for an in-depth literature search

If you are a little overwhelmed by the prospect of doing a complex search in multiple databases (and who can blame you), you need to start by familiarising yourself with how to build a complex search, what alternative terms are and how to include them and how to use advanced search strategies. We have a libguide that takes you through the whole literature searching process. For those of you who are working on a systematic literature review, have a look at our relevant libguide, which highlights what you need to consider to turn your literature review into a systematic literature review. Watch the following videos to find out more about identifying keywords and alternative terms.

We have introductory videos on Ovid (Medline), Ebsco (Cinahl) and Internurse to get you started. Once you have familiarised yourself with the basics, watch our detailed video tutorial on how to search in Ovid/Medline using advanced search techniques.

Have a look at our Databases A-Z list to see which databases are available to you. Your subject guide will tell you which databases are most relevant to your course.

Don’t forget – you can also ask a Liaison Librarian for help by emailing us at liaison@sgul.ac.uk or coming to one of our daily online drop-ins. We can recommend which databases are most suitable for your topic.

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…finishing up and sorting out your references

To cite correctly at St George’s, most of you need to use Harvard Cite Them Right. While we have a number of physical copies of this in the library, you will probably be using the Cite Them Right website (login required). In case you need a refresher on how to navigate Cite Them Right, we also have a detailed walkthrough video on our YouTube channel and in our Referencing Essentials unit in Canvas.

We strongly recommend you don’t use reference generators such as Cite This for Me as we find that generally the references produced by such tools are wrong. You end up spending longer correcting and double-checking your references than you would have done writing them from scratch. If you find the resource in Hunter, you will notice a “citation” option for each record. This has been formatted to match the requirements of Harvard Cite Them Right but it is not always correct. Make sure you compare it to Cite Them Right and correct it if necessary.

For a longer project, we encourage you to use reference management software as it helps you to deduplicate your search results, manage your references and create in-text citations and references. At St George’s, we support RefWorks, which is a web-based software. You need your St George’s login to access it and create an account. To get started, have a look at our RefWorks libguide. Additionally, our detailed video tutorial covers everything from how to get started to how to create references and in-text citations from within Microsoft Word.

We can also help you with your references, so if you are unsure about anything please email liaison@sgul.ac.uk or come to our drop-ins.