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Search and evaluate success

Beginning your search

Guidance on how and where to search to find the resources you need.

Group of students working together at computer

Explore our guidance on search tools and how to structure your search question.

Jump to a section of this page:

Search tools

Finding the search tool that matches the type of information you want to use and your research approach can save you a lot of time. Here are some of the main search tools we encourage you to explore.

Library catalogue

If you want to search for books, journal articles, newspaper articles and more, our library catalogue will bring you results from across the library collections, print and online.

Library catalogue

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is set up to be used in a similar way to a normal Google search, but will only return results from academic research. This makes it a quick and familiar-feeling method of finding academic resources.

Google Scholar

Accessing resources for free

You may find that some books and journals within the search results will request payment to be accessed.

The Library at York St John University has paid for you to be able to access those that are in our collection, but you will need to make a small change in your Google Scholar settings for this access to be granted:

  • Go to Settings, then Library Links, then search for and choose 'York St John University - Get it @ YSJ'.

This will make sure that you can access our books and journals without payment requests.

Searching for specific subjects and resources

The Library subscribes to a number of specialist tools (sometimes called databases) which can search nationally and internationally for research in specific subjects and formats. You can use these databases to find what is held at other libraries.

On these databases you will find lots of journal article information. The subject-specific nature of the tools means you can use language associated with your subject areas and the search will not produce unrelated subject area research which happens to use the same terms. Choose your subject area from the dropdown menu when you reach the list of tools.

Sometimes you may also want to find resources in a particular format, for example a television programme or newspaper article. Many search tools will allow you to search for those specific things, for example Box of Broadcasts for television programmes.

Specialist Subject Resources

Creating your search

Creating useful search terms is essential to finding the resources you need. Make sure you understand and interpret your question before searching.

Pick out the subject words from the question you want to ask, and search for those. If you enter a whole question in a search, you will get fewer hits. For example:

What is the effect of climate change on the tourism industry in Australia?

The words in bold (climate change, tourism industry, Australia) are the key subjects of the question. Make your search using those terms, and leave out the rest of the question.

Some subject areas require a structured approach to searching, with a documented account of your search words and how they link together. You should refer to your own programme's requirements for this. Common approaches for creating your initial search question include the PICO approach (patient, intervention, comparison, outcome) in healthcare research.

For more information on refining and tracking your search questions, visit our  Improving your search results page.

Tracking your search

Keeping a record of your search will form part of your methods and data collection if you are doing a research project which has a critical literature review as its methodology. Even if you are using another form of data collection, keeping a record of your search and including it in your project will be useful.

There are options in most online search tools for saving and sharing what you have done. You can also use our templates:

Search and Evaluate Success is based on SMILE by Imperial College, Loughborough University and the University of Worcester, modified by Library and Learning Services at York St John University. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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