If, rather than keyword searching, you are searching for a specific article for which you have the full reference then first search for the article title in .
1. Ask a clear research question. Break the question down in to keywords.
2. For each keyword, consider relevant search terms (synonyms, alternative spellings, broader/narrower terms, etc.)
3. Apply truncation, usually * to find plurals/alternative word endings and ? to replace a single character.
4. Quote marks are often used to specify a phrase.
5. Consider the relationships between your search terms using Boolean logic: use AND to narrow your search (records must contain both search terms); OR to broaden your search (records can contain either search term); and NOT to exclude from your search (records must not include a particular term).
6. Search strings may be joined using parentheses or run as separate search sets and combined at the end.
7. Consider whether filters should be applied to your search e.g. by date – try to be consistent between databases.
8. Where possible tap into the subject headings or thesauri provided by the databases to retrieve relevant records.
9. Bibliographies at the end of articles (citations) facilitate searching by the ‘association of ideas’.
10. ‘Related records’ (e.g. based on similar bibliographies) can be a good way to retrieve information from other disciplines that keyword searching may miss.
For structured literature searching you should begin with SCOPUS and then try Web of Science and Proquest Social Science Premium which are different collections of academic journals and other academic literature.
SCOPUS is a multidisciplinary collection including Geobase which has over 2 million journal articles covering human and physical geography, development studies, earth sciences, ecology, geomechanics and oceanography.
Proquest searches a broad range of social science related academic journals and other academic sources of information.
JSTOR contains the full-text of many of the classic journals, some as far back as the 1880s.
The JournalTOCs Tables of Contents service makes it easy to keep up-to-date with newly published scholarly material by allowing to find, display, store, combine and reuse thousands of journal tables of contents from multiple publishers.
Alerting service from the British Library provides access to the British Library's Electronic Table of Contents of current journals and conference proceedings. The Zetoc database covers 1993 to date, and is updated daily.
You can search for journal articles and conference proceedings; set up, modify and delete email alerts; or set RSS feeds for journals.
Google Scholar uses the Google interface to search for academic literature. It's a good way to start a broad search for academic literature. However, it is a web search and not everything that you find will be of good academic quality. Also the extent of its coverage is unclear. Therefore always use it alongside databases such as Web of Science and Scopus that only include higher quality and peer reviewed academic publications.
In Google Scholar you must also ensure that you use the "Find it @ Oxford" links to the right of the articles, rather than the article title link to gain access to the full text that the library subscribes to. (If you are outside the Oxford network, select Oxford University in Settings and Library Links to the top left of the Google Scholar webpage.
Citation searching (finding out which scholarly papers have cited an article or book after publication) can be done on either Web of Science or SCOPUS. It's a good way of tracing the development of an idea after the article as well as seeing the research that came beforhand in the article's bibliography.
An online tutorial for using Web of Science to do cited reference can be viewed by clicking on the image below: