Efficient literature search in bibliographic databases

It is very common situation, when people are trying to search for something on their topic in bibliographic database, but can’t find anything useful; however there is plenty on literature available. The issue is that many people think they know how to do efficient literature search in bibliographic databases, because they are successfully using different web search engines every day, but bibliographic data bases is not that easy. There are many search tricks only few are aware of.

Many people use bibliographic databases just like they use Google – type some keywords and look if there is something useful available. If there is nothing on specific topic, they stop searching on that database. At the same time, if they ask for a help of a librarian, it turns out there is some very useful literature. That is because librarians know how to search efficiently.

Databases are lot more complex than Google or other web search tools, so you need to train to use them. Librarians have experience in this, that’s why they are so good at it. When they can’t find something at first, they try different approach, for example another key words, different theme sections etc. But don’t worry if you don’t have this experience, because there are some tricks that van be used any time.

First you need to define subject you are looking for. You need to understand that every subject can have different perspectives and ramifications. Try to look at your topic very extensively and find the right approach. After you have realized what exactly you need, write down all the possible keywords that describes your topic. Right keywords the key of success in searching, so take some time for that.

Another important thing is to search for literature in as many databases as possible. Don’t focus on only one database, even if you think it’s the best one. There might be some good literature on your topic also in some smaller and less popular databases. This advice is especially useful if you need some literature on very narrow niche topic.

Sometimes you will have to do some really long and serious research, so better record all your activities. Write down what keywords you have already used in each database and also you might write down, in which databases and by which keywords search was successful. This will let you make sure you are not doing the same thing several times and also you will know which keywords work the best on your topic.

If you have found some useful articles, use them for further search. For example, look for the same authors’ works or use the title of the document or book for search. Also you can choose just some sections and continue searching with them. This is very good method and usually it leads useful results.

You should use this search plan every time you are looking for some literature in databases and you will be surprised about the results. By the time you will be able to search as efficient as any librarian.