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English Literature: researching your dissertation: Searching effectively

This guide gives an overview of the range of resources available to you when researching your dissertation topic. Topics covered include developing effective search strategies and finding scholarly primary and secondary source material.

Effective search strategies

The Library can offer a wealth of resources, both in print and online to support your dissertation research. But, if you do not know how to search for these effectively you may be missing out on key materials.

The key points to remember are:

  • Brainstorm search terms - the keywords and concepts relating to your topic (see the example given below)
  • Develop effective search techniques
  • Plan your search
  • Don't rely on only one resource for finding relevant material
  • Manage your search results
  • Take time to read our guides to effective searching and conducting your literature review, they will save  you a great deal of time when searching for relevant materials in the long run. 

The Library and Study Advice have a series of guides to help you develop effective search strategies - see the links below.

Library guides to effective searching

Doing a literature review

Study Advice guide to help you with your dissertation research and writing

Our Study Advice team have put together a comprehensive guide to doing dissertations and major projects. It includes guidance on planning your dissertation, researching and doing a literature review, writing up and much more. There are also links to brief video tutorials on these topics.

Brainstorming keywords and concepts

The following example shows how a search topic ('the representation of women in fairy tales') can be broken down into keywords and grouped by concept. It shows how they relate to one other.

Concept 1 AND Concept 2 AND Concept 3
construction femininity/feminine fairy tales
representation women/woman fables
depiction gender folk tales

Using these as a guide, you can begin to develop effective search strategies to find relevant materials for your research.

Videos: doing your literature search

This playlist of two videos shows you how to prepare for and perform a literature search. The first video introduces literature searches and their role. The second video covers using the search operators AND and OR to create a search statement, and explains the role of wildcards and truncation in constructing a comprehensive search. This information is also available in written guides - see the links below. 

If you are unable to view these videos on YouTube they are also available on YuJa or Stream (University username and password required):

Related guides

Create your search