Finding literature on a topic: general tips
You are writing a seminar paper or have to prepare a presentation and need academic sources for it?
A thematic search is useful if you need literature on a specific topic and do not know any relevant titles.
Now how do you proceed?
Search terms are central to the search. The search results depend decisively on which terms are entered. This applies to every Google search, but even more so to research in library catalogues and subject databases.
Background reading and preparation
Start with some background reading - textbooks, subject encyclopaedias or even Wikipedia to understand the context of the topic and the terminology used in the discussion.
Pick a small set of publications that could give you an overview of the topic. A relevant book or journal article on the topic may contain useful suggestions for further reading.
Identify search terms
At the beginning of a literature search, it is necessary to identify as many of the most important terms associated with the topic as possible. We have listed these tips for doing so:
- Do not stick to the wording of the topic when researching! By thinking about different aspects of the topic and the question or by exchanging ideas with others, you will come up with more search terms.
Other ways to find search terms:
- Start the first search query and see what other useful search terms appear in the hit lists, and use these search terms.
- Look at the subject indexing or classifications to use as further links.
- Make a note of authors or institutions that publish a lot on the topic and start a search for them in the catalogue.
- When the first titles are available, analyse footnotes and bibliographies.
- Note down further search terms from the first readings.
- Keep a list of useful search terms.
Unfortunately, regardless of the subject you are studying, there is not a single source of information that contains everything you need for your literature research.