Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Developing your search strategy

  • Building a search strategy will help you find relevant current results, and narrow down or broaden your search as necessary
  • You can use key resources to find out about particular resources where you can put this strategy into action
  • The results of your searches will form the basis of your literature review

Interview skills

Interviews can be a good way of collecting qualitative data to support research into your topic. This may be the first time you've had to interview so please follow this useful tutorial from University of Leicester, which takes you through all the points you need to think about.

How to complete a literature review

Need a reminder? Here are a couple of books and other useful explanations of literature reviews and dissertation skills.

 The Literature Review, by Diana Ridley

 The Undergraduate Research Handbook, by Gina Wisker

Basics: what is a literature review?

The answer to this question might seem obvious, but this video has some good, simple analogies of what a literature review is and should aim to do. It is a bit long, but stick with it, and you will come out more clued up at the end!

Going further: how should I structure my literature review?

Student Careers and Skills website goes a bit further, giving you some ideas about how you should structure your literature review, as well as a helpful example.

And finally

You could also try searching in the Library catalogue for "literature review" to find print and e-books we have which might help.

Going beyond Warwick

There are a number of institutions which may find useful resources for your dissertation research. Below are ideas of how to find these resources, and the key institutions to consider visiting.

Remember always to check online or contact an institution first to find out about:

  • access requirements (like registering beforehand, or bringing proof of identity)
  • opening times and directions
  • their collection and whether you have to request any of it before you arrive

Ask your Supervisor or your Academic Support Librarian if you have any more questions about these, or other collections you are interested in.

Can't find it at Warwick?

If you are looking for a book or journal article which we don't have in the Library you can search Library Hub Discover. Library Hub Discover enables you to search the catalogues of Unified some of the largest university research libraries in the UK and Ireland. It will include academic libraries near to your home, which you may be able to work in, using the SCONUL access scheme and also includes the British Library.

If you find an item you think Warwick should have then the Library is always interested in developing their collection, so let Richard Perkins know.

British Library

The British Library holds most items published in the English Language. You can search for items in Copac (see above) or in the BL's own catalogue. Some items are kept off site and may need requesting beforehand. For details on registering for a reader pass see the British Library. If you have any questions ask your supervisor or Academic Support Librarian before you go!

BFI Library

The BFI Library on the Southbank has a huge collection of books, academic and trade journals, documents and audio recordings about the world of film and television. The library collection spans the history of cinema. Their priority is comprehensive coverage of moving image in Britain, but the collection is international in scope. Of particular interest are their journals, clippings folders, press books and fan magazines.

The department has a membership card available for the BFI. Please contact Richard Perkins before your visit for more information (and be sure to return the card afterwards). You will find information on their website about Library access, planning your visit, requesting materials (which often needs to be done in advance) and making copies.

British Library Newspaper Reading Room, Colindale

The National Newspaper Archives allow you to trace film and television programmes through popular journalism. Their collections include local and national newspapers as well as overseas items and popular magazines and trade journals

You'll need to register in advance for a Reader Pass and order your material before you arrive. Follow the links to find out more. (Tips: You need to use pencil or a laptop in the search rooms - no pens allowed!)

National Archives, Kew

The National Archives at Kew have historical holdings for example government papers and police and court records. Remember, you cannot take your belongings into the search rooms (there are lockers available) and you must use pencil or your laptop when taking notes (no pens!). There are camera mounts available, for which you must take your own camera, to enable copies of documents to be made.

To consult documents you must obtain a reader's ticket on your arrival, for which you will require certain items for identification. Some items must be ordered in advance, so make sure you check before you visit.

Other useful collections

You may also find it useful to consult items in the British Library at St Pancras, or in the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum. As always, check on the insitution websites for anything you need to do beforehand, for example registering for a reader pass or requesting materials.

Video guide

Creating Effective Search Strategies - accessible transcript

This short video will help you to plan effective literature searches for a given topic or title which you can then use to search academic databases. First let's look at how to effectively plan your searches it is important to make a plan before you begin searching so you can find precisely what you need and save yourself time.

First identify any key concepts or keywords in your topic or question, for example for the title analyse the use of colour in any one or more films, the keywords would be colour and films. If you want to focus on a particular country or time period you might also want to add extra keywords to limit your search.

Next identify any possible alternative terms for the main keywords to help broaden your search and prevent you from missing literature on your topic that uses slightly different language. In this example you would need to include film cinema moving images or movie as alternatives to films. While for the term colour you might want to consider both British and American spellings as well as any relevant translations.

Finally if appropriate you can use phrase searching putting quotation marks around two or more words to search them as a phrase. Free searching is particularly useful for titles of books or films and can help narrow and reduce the number results you get in databases.

Now you have identified your search terms you need to create a search strategy. For this there are four key things you might want to consider. First you need to combine your search terms using ‘and' and ‘or' to pick up on all alternatives to your key words or concepts. You will need to combine your search terms with all this will pick up on any of your terms to find material that just covers both or all of your search areas you'll want to include and in your search terms these operators can be combined to create advanced searches that will search for multiple themes and concepts.

Second you can use symbols to make your searches more efficient you can put an asterisk after the stem of a word to find any variant endings this is called truncation. You can also use a wild-card, usually a question mark which replaces one or no characters and picks up variant spellings.

Thirdly you can narrow your search area so you don't get overwhelmed with results. Most academic databases allow you to specify where you want to search for your keywords whether it is in the title the abstract or the full-text it is often a good idea to search the abstract or subject headings as titles are often brief or misleading. When searching the whole text it will pick up resources that don't really focus on your area of interest.

Finally applying limits to your search will help to narrow down to the results. If you really want you can limit it by publication date which is particularly useful if you want to find primary sources from a specific period or search for the most recent literature on a topic. Publication type can be useful if you just want to find academic sources from books or scholarly journals or by language which is useful if you want to find criticism in a specific language.

When you've done your search have a look at the results you are finding ,they will nearly always suggest some terms you haven't used in your initial searching so you can log those and add them for future searches.

Thank you for watching this video if you have any questions or want some help with your research essays or dissertations please get in touch with your Academic Support Librarian.