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Information Literacy Course International Relations: Introduction

Selecting search systems

Once you have a good idea of what information you are looking for, you have to decide which catalogue, database or search engine you want to use to find publications about your topic.

In this first part of the Information Literacy Course we will use SmartCat to find publications, but in November we will introduce databases. Specialised bibliographic databases offer search facilities that give more precision in your searches . Some databases and search engines offer citation searching. In some full-text journal databases and e-books databases you can search in the full text of the publication. 

It is important that you are aware of the type of publication that you want to find. You can use SmartCat to find journal articles, books, audiovisual material, but if you are searching for newspaper articles SmartCat is not suitable. Newpaper articles can only be found in the full text newspaper databases.

Learning outcomes

After studying this chapter you will be aware of the different search systems that are available in the University Library. You will also be able to select the relevant search systems for your specific research question.

Google is not the best option to find scholarly publications

You have to be aware of the fact that there are several reasons why Google's standard Web search is not the best search engine when you want to find scholarly publications.

The majority of scholarly publications is not freely available on the internet. They are hidden in publisher's databases and Google's Web crawlers cannot reach them.

To remedy this Google developed Google Scholar. Google Scholar negotiated with academic publishers to get access to the full text of electronic scholarly publications to index them.

This means that Google Scholar is able to present references to scholarly publications. It does not mean that everyone has free access to the full text. Libraries provide access by subscribing to these databases. When you use Google Scholar to find references, you can access the full text via your university library.

Just as all search systems Google Scholar has its strengths and weaknesses. We will address this in the follow-up of this instruction in November when we will compare the most common search systems for the field of International Relations.