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Search guide

As a student you will need to search for scholarly texts in many different contexts, for example, when writing an essay. In this search guide you will learn more about how to get started and what you need to think about along the way.

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Learn more about how to get started with your search, how to work creatively with your search terms and combine different search methods. This guide is for students at Södertörn University (SH) and the Swedish Red Cross University (RKH).

Start out by identifying what type of texts you will need. Is it mainly scholarly research you are looking for or could other types of literature be of interest? Is it enough with texts about Sweden or do you need to also find international literature? Also, consider how much material is needed - would a few texts be enough, or do you need to do a more extensive search? The instructions for the essay or assignment should be helpful in this matter.

If you are facing an extensive search, for example in connection with essay writing, you should be aware that searching for information is a process that takes time. Also, prepare yourself for that you may not find information about your exact subject. Most research will be published in English which means that students in Sweden will need to get used to searching and reading in English.

Choosing the right search terms is the key to find your resources. A mind map with search words is a creative and effective way to get started:

  • Write down the question or subject you want to study in a sentence or two.
  • Identify a few key words that describe the question or subject.
  • Find synonyms and similar words - both broad and more specific words.
  • Translate the words into other relevant languages.
  • Group the words that belong together.

Share your mind map with your teacher or fellow students so that you can get more tips on search terms. Try searching with your words in different combinations and collect more search terms from the material you find. Add and delete words to your mind map as the search progresses.

Another way of finding search terms is to use the subject term list in the database, the so-called "thesaurus". Then you know what subject terms the database is using.

When searching in for example, PubMed and CINAHL, the subject term list MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) is useful. Go to the page Svensk MeSH from the Karolinska Institute Library External link, opens in new window..

Many students start their search by making a so-called chain search. Use the bibliography in a book or article to find the next interesting text. One reference leads to another, like a chain.

You can also do a keyword search. This means a more systematic approach where you try different words and combinations in relevant databases and search tools.

One option is to search directly in a scholarly electronic journal. Search for the e-journal in the library search tool SöderScholar and click to access the journal website. Browse through old issues or do a keyword search in the search box for the journal.

A citation search is another method. If you search for a scholarly article in Google Scholar, for example, you can click on "Cited by" to get a list of other texts that refer to the article.

Databases and search tools

You will often have to try several databases and search tools before you begin to find relevant scholarly texts. We will give you a short introduction on how to search for scholarly texts in SöderScholar, Google Scholar, Libris, SwePub and the library’s subject databases.

In the library's own search tool, SöderScholar External link, opens in new window., you will find a large amount of texts: all our printed and electronic books as well as most of the articles and journals we subscribe to. To find scholarly texts, you can limit the search results to, for example, "Articles from peer reviewed publications" or "Dissertations".

Many of the articles are available in full text. To access full texts and get more search results, log in with your SH-account or RKH-account.

By removing the setting "The library's print and electronic collections" in SöderScholar you can expand your search to include material that we don’t have direct access to. SöderScholar then works as a comprehensive search tool for academic material like Google Scholar, for example.

Google Scholar is a comprehensive search tool focused on finding academic material online. Here you will find articles, student essays, books, dissertations, reports and much more. However, it’s not possible to limit your search results by publication type, so more effort is required to determine whether a text is scholarly or not.

Google Scholar is a free search tool with some material available in full text. Log in with your SH-account or RKH-account to access material from the library in full text. Go to Databases to log in to Google Scholar. External link.

Libris is Sweden's national catalogue with information about mainly books at Swedish university libraries, research libraries and a few public libraries. It is possible to limit to "Theses", for example.

Libris is a free search tool with some material in full text. Go to Libris via Databases. External link.

In SwePub you can search for research publications and other texts published at forty Swedish universities and government agencies, including SH and RKH. It is possible to limit your search results by publication type and contents, for example peer reviewed material.

SwePub is a free search tool with some material in full text. Go to SwePub via Databases. External link.

If you want to extend or deepen your search, you can use one of the library's many subject databases. They mainly contain scholarly texts and offer many possibilities of limiting your search results, for example to peer reviewed articles. Here are some examples of our subject databases:

  • Cinahl – Nursing, physical therapy, medicine.
  • ERIC - Education, training and learning.
  • Gender Studies Database - Gender studies.
  • PsycINFO - Psychology, behavioral sciences and related fields.

To access these databases, go to Databases. External link. Choose a database and log in with your SH-account or RKH-account. Only a small part of the articles is available in full text in the databases. You may need to follow links or search for articles in SöderScholar. Read more about how you access the databases (SH students). Read more about how you access the databases (RKH students).

Search techniques

Do you get too many or too few results when searching? By developing your search techniques, you can search more effectively for scholarly texts. Read more about phrase search, truncation, boolean operators and how to limit your search results.

To get fewer and more relevant results, phrase search is a good technique. Put quotation marks around the phrase you’re searching for, for example “mental health”, to get results where the word mental comes directly before the word health. Without the quotation marks, you will have results where both words appear but not necessarily in relation to each other.

By using a truncation symbol, often an asterisk *, you can search for several versions of a word simultaneously. For example, terror* will give you results with the words terror, terrorists, terrorism and so on. Sometimes truncation can be used within or before a word.

By using boolean operators like AND, OR and NOT, you can control your search further in many databases and search tools:

  • History AND Sweden – both terms will be included in each result. (However, it’s usually not necessary to write AND, the operator is included automatically in most databases and search tools).
  • Daycare OR preschool – each search result contains at least one of the terms, or both.
  • Communication NOT marketing – each search result will contain communication but every search result that has the word marketing in it will be omitted.

Bracketing can be used for deciding the order in which the search should be carried out. The words in brackets will be searched for first. For example: Sweden AND (preschool OR kindergarten).

Many databases and search tools offer the possibility to narrow your search results via the Advanced search function. A useful feature is to choose which part of the text you should search, for example title, abstract or subject headings. This allows you to get fewer and more relevant search results than if you search the entire text.

To get a manageable number of results, you must usually limit your search results, before or after you carry out the search. Limiting by language, year and publication type is common. We don’t recommend that you limit the search to full text as you can then miss out on many articles which can be available in full text in other ways through our library.

Sorting the search results by relevance or date is also useful.

What can I find at the library?

Information about all the different types of material that you can access via the library is on page Library collections.

Learn More

To find scholarly articles and other research publications, you might need to read up on what characterizes different types of texts. Read more about scholarly articles.

You can book a time with a librarian to get individual guidance when it comes to searching for information, evaluating texts and referencing. Book tutoring in information seeking.


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