Searching for Literature


Library for Educators
6 min readJul 19, 2022

Previous plan:

SYNC Content

Total Length of session: 45 minutes

Intended Audience: postgraduate students

Materials: Post-its, slides

By the end of this session you will:

  • Identify and document search terms to inform a coherent literature search for relevant evidence
  • Create a search string of search terms
  • Practice inputting search terms into Library databases to search for literature

Introduction and outline of the workshop: The facilitator should introduce the session as a workshop where students will practice a literature searching strategy. The workshop will offer both an approach to researching the literature in a systematic way alongside guidance to support you when you are making use of the key databases in the education field.

Students will be asked to engage in activities that will enable them to practice developing research skills. The session will also highlight and signpost towards online support that is available at the point of need.

The session will cover a process that students can apply to their research and includes a couple of strategies to apply to future learning.

Activity: Ask the students the following questions:

How do you keep up to date?

What information are you looking for to stay up to date?

Direct instruction: Lots of experience has indicated that many problems with searching for information stem from identifying the correct keywords before commencing with searching. Capturing appropriate keywords before commencing searching can facilitate the searching process and is a form of record keeping for ongoing searching. Consider both broad and narrow concepts and related words will enable judgements to be made that will return the most relevant results.

Activity: Broad to narrow

Fruit stall to demonstrate broad and narrow search terms
  1. Describe what they see in the picture above. Write down the words and phrases of what they see.
  2. Note down any words that mean the same as what they have already written (ie synonyms).
  3. Finally they should write down words/phrases that are related to what they have already made a note of.
  4. Ask the group to call out what they have written down one at a time. Refer to the concept of broad and narrow and how databases classify information into folders representing the broad terms holding more narrower specific terms.

Before commencing searching it is useful to plan out what words and phrases are going to retrieve the most relevant literature. This can assist in clarifying WHAT words can used to search to maximise the time spent searching. This is the first step to the searching strategy.

Activity: practice concept mapping to compile keywords

With reference to Social Constructivism: How does grouping by gender influence attainment within the mathematics classroom?

WHAT keywords do I use to search for good literature/evidence?

Example mind map of breaking down a question
  1. Using post its take the example title/area from the slide and consider the key ideas that the question is exploring. From the ideas you can begin to select the words and phrases that you would use to type into your Google box to find information that will enable you to locate the evidence in your field.
  2. Add each concept/term to a separate post it.

3. Create a mind map/spider diagram to represent all the potential terms that could be used to search for the literature.

Ask how many terms did you find? What is the problem with this? What is the advantage of this activity? This represents the broadness….but what needs to happen now?

Introduce the traffic light technique of highlighting your keywords and phrases to indicate what you definitely expect to use and what is less relevant. Predict what terms are expected to be found in the literature.

Moving to thinking about HOW to use the words that have been identified and have the students build a search string. This step is where the students will put search terms together.

  1. Using post its the students should build a search string using the operators.

2. Stick them to the flip chart paper and write down the limits and scope that you would apply as a group to the research

Both of these will influence your decision on WHERE to search.

Introduce Library Search as an option for finding literature and demonstrate how it works to find a specific item using one of the course recommended e-books:

  • Cremin, T. & Burnett, C. (eds) (2018). Learning to Teach in the Primary School, (4th edn), London: Routledge

Show how they can access/download the book/search/make notes etc.

Activity: put into practice

Ask the room to direct Anna/Susan into performing the search using their search terms from the previous activity on the PC at the front of the room using Library Search . Have the students ask questions as they guide the search.

  • Finally ask the students to indicate what things that can make searching more efficient.
  • Ask them what things they need to consider when they are approaching a literature review?

It is their answers to these questions that are most useful to them.

Introduce the Education subject guide and subject databases as additional sources of information. Indicate where it can be found and that a link will be made available in BB.

Wrap up: Summarise the strategies and the actions that the students should take. Emphasise the importance of saving the details of searches so that it is easy to write up the project. Support is available in the online Library drop-ins, Chat and in Blackboard — emphasise online resources (async) rather than workshops. Ask SCONUL question.

ASYNC Content for Bb

Hi there. A key part of approaching research is performing a literature search. In the live session we practiced a couple of strategies that would enable you to develop how you approach research. Specifically we covered concept mapping search terms and key words, to document the terms that would be relevant to your research. Documenting and recording the terms provides you with the ability to narrow and broaden your search with ease as well as have conversations about how you are approaching your research.

(Embed slides) ADD LINK TO SLIDES

To refresh your thinking on planning a search then work through the following resource which refers to a 7 step process to searching for literature.

(Embed) Planning ahead: making your search work,

Once you have your key terms then you can start to combine them to make them increase the amount of relevant evidence. In the Search operators resource below you can find out all about how to combine the terms to maximum effect.

(Embed) Search operators

In the live session we looked at using Library Search to find literature, including text books and journal articles. The following information guides you through how to make the most of Library Search.

(Embed 2–2.5 Bb SEARCHING content Library Search)

As many of you will be working away from campus then do make the most of the electronic access that we provide. You have access to books and journals online that the Library pays for.

You can find out more about e-books.

Your subject Guide is where you will find links to all of the relevant databases for education.

(Embed) Education subject guide

Finally once you have a list of relevant evidence then you will have to evaluate them so that they are relevant, objective and credible.

Developing these researching skills will be useful throughout your course so do return here when you need to and reach out to use for any more detailed support that you need.

(Embed general support)



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