Skip to main content

Literature searching

A guide to finding articles, books and other materials on your subject, and managing the useful references you find.

Why do I need references?

If you keep a complete and organised record of what you have read, and what you intend to read, it will:

  • demonstrate the breadth of your reading and research
  • help you to work efficiently and avoid duplication of effort and/or references 
  • enable you to include your own notes, comments and quotations where appropriate
  • help you to prepare for your bibliography

What will I be using them for?

In your essay, project, dissertation or thesis you must cite any published or unpublished work that you use and they must be included in your bibliography.

What should good references do?

Good referencing: 

  • Will be complete and consistent
  • Helps to avoid any suspicion of plagiarism
  • Allows your supervisor to find and check the material you have used
  • Enhances the quality of your work

Your reference lists/bibliographies should be presented in the style recommended by your School or Department. Advice on this is usually included in a programme or project handbook. For general help see our guide to Citing References which includes examples of citing specific types of references such as journal articles and webpages.

See also the Study Advice Team's Study Guides for more advice on plagiarism, reading, note-taking and writing.

What methods or tools can I use to manage my references?

There are several ways to manage your references.

Manually on record cards

This system may still work well for short essays. You can easily sort the cards into the order you need, but you will need to be able to transcribe the details accurately into your bibliography.

Using the References feature in Microsoft Word

A facility in Microsoft Word lets you add references to a document and then create a bibliography at the end of the text. This may be sufficient for smaller pieces of work, but for more significant assignments such as dissertations consider using EndNote or another blbiographic management package. Full instructions on using this facility are in the Microsoft Word 2013 References and bibliography guide available via the link below. 

Using the EndNote bibliographic management software

This allows you to: 

  • download references from databases and store them in EndNote
  • enter references manually into your EndNote library
  • store references together with your own notes and comments
  • insert citations in the text of your Word document and automatically construct your bibliography at the end of your work

There are two versions of EndNote. The Desktop version is suitable for PhD students. The simpler online version is most suitable for masters students and finalists working on their dissertations.

Other packages are available - find out more via the link below.