Generally speaking, you should use an online database to carry out keyword searches for articles and papers related to your project topic. You'll have experience of using Google Scholar, which is fine, but in my experience Google Scholar can be a bit of a blunt instrument for searching for articles if you use only the simple search options. You might find it more helpful to take some time getting to know some of our subscription database resources or at least get used to the Advanced Search options in Google to help refine your search results:
- The options to filter your results are usually easy to use once you know what they are for
- You can combine keywords and create relationships between your search terms
- The library has set up a system to access the fulltext directly from the database where available via a button that sits beside your search results
Of course, you can come and ask me or my colleagues on Level 3 for advice about using any of the library databases.
What's a database?
A database acts as a catalogue or index to search through academic literature including journals and Conference Proceedings. The coverage and subjects included depend on the individual database, but the principles for using them are generally the same.
Some advantages of using a database:
- Saves you browsing millions of hits on Google and there are no links to commercial websites trying to sell you things
- You don't need to sit flicking through dozens of journal issues on Level 3 looking for a useful article
- You can do keyword searching to find articles related to specific authors, topics, principles, processes etc.,
- Databases usually cover a very broad range of international journal titles over very long periods letting you carry out comprehensive searches
- Where fulltext is available online through a Library subscription, systems are in place to link you from the database result directly to the fulltext of an article on a content provider website.
Disadvantages of using a database:
- Unfamiliar resource, might seem too complex for you
- Full text online not always available and it is not always immediately obvious how to get hold of things
The library subscribes to a number of online resources that provide users with the means to search for literature. There are guides available for some of these databases but if you are comfortable searching for friends on Facebook, I am sure you can figure out how Web of Science and Compendex work! But don't hesitate to come and ask for advice.
What will a database tell me?
Having considered some keywords, thought about Boolean Operators, Truncation and Wildcards, when you type some terms into a database and press search, the system will check it's contents and look for data that matches what you asked for.
This data is usually returned to your screen in the form of a reference
For example, having searched the Compendex database for "composite materials" AND "airliner" I got this as one of my results:
The bold title is the name of the actual article itself: "Evolution of the commercial airliner"
There is a single author in this example - someone named "Covert, E.E." and this database tells us they were associated with the Massachusets Institute of Technology when the article was written. This particular database would also let you click on the name to see other records/references associated with this author
The Source is important to note to get hold of the full text of this article. You can see this article was published in the journal called Scientific American.
The reference gets a bit confusing at this point, if you remember that periodicals/journals are published regularly, the editors have to sort out some way of keeping track of issues over time.
So if you think about journal pages combining to make up a single issue. A number of issues combined over a certain period of time (usually all the issues published in a normal calendar year) make up a volume.
This reference tells us that we need to find Volume 273, Issue number 3 and just to help, the publisher even gave a date to help us find this issue from September, 1995 and we even get the page numbers to find the article in that issue.
Most databases will provide you with an abstract for the article. You can see a link to an abstract in the reference above. This would take you to a page that included a brief summary of the article, its aims, findings and conclusions. Overall, a good abstract can help you identify whether or not you really need to get hold of an article or not by giving you an impression of how relevant the content is to you.
Where's the article?
You should remember that many databases are just catalogues/indexes, they don't always contain fulltext of articles but just provide lots of references to articles. You may hear these kind of database resources being described as "bibliographic indexes" or more generally just as "databases" - they only contain data about articles, books and papers.
Another kind of database would be a "fulltext database" where the actual text of the article you are looking for is available via a click on a PDF icon or HTML link.
However, the library has online systems in place to make checking the availability of fulltext articles using our databases a bit easier
This Links button is usually visible under each reference returned by a bibliographic database search:
You can see where it is in the reference screenshot above. Whenever you click on this links button, a new window should open that checks the reference you want with our electronic journal subscriptions here at Bath.
When there is a match - that is, where we can provide access to the full text you'll see a screen like this:
You can see from this screenshot that under the "Full text online" heading there is some information about a resource provider and the details of your reference are already plugged into the search boxes:
Full text available via EBSCO Business Source Premier
Year:1995 Volume:273 Issue:3 Start page:110
It's not important for you to know, but EBSCOhost Business Source Premier is one of the journal content providers the Library has subscription arrangements with.
The name of the content provider on this page will vary depending upon which journal you are trying to access and which journal content provider the Library has paid for access to the title. But so long as there is a link, you should be able to select the provider name and click through to the relevant journal page.
You would normally get to an article directly and arrive on webpage that gives options for how to view the article (in PDF or HTML format). You would select the option that suits you and download it or view it on your PC. In some cases, you might reach a contents page listing for that issue of the journal, you will have to browse down the list to find the article you are looking for (the page numbers are usually shown to help you find the right part of the contents listing to look at). It all depends on the journal and content provider sometimes but you should find that once you reach a content provider page, some of the work has already been done for you and it is quite easy to find the paper.
But get in contact if it doesn't work as you think it should. You should never have to pay for access to any article. If you want something and the system asks for another login and some money, get in touch with a member of library staff for advice.
Often when you are asked to pay for content, it is because the site does not recognise you as a student from Bath. This usually happens when you access online databases and journal content providers via search engines from off-campus, or because you are trying to download an article from a journal we don't have a subscription to.
But there is no harm in checking if something should be available or not.
And for articles NOT online?
The screen above also provides a link to Check for holdings in the Library Catalogue. This function will look for information about any printed journal holdings we have for that title in the library and open up a new window showing a Library catalogue Search results page.
Print copies of journals , where available, are stored in one of two places.
Anything published BEFORE 1985 will be on Level 1 of the Library in the basesment.
Items from 1985 onward will be on Level 3 the Engineering and Design floor.
The catalogue gives journal locations as a PER number. For example, all the Mechanical Engineering titles are marked PER 62. There is an area of the journals collection where all the PER 62 journals are shelved together. Every journal with this number is arranged in alphabetical order by title
If in doubt, don't hesitate to ask a member of library staff on Level 3 to help you check if something is available or not.
The article I want is not available electronically and the Library doesn't have it in print?
In this situation, send me an email with details of the article reference you are trying to obtain and where you found it from - which resource or article reference etc.
I'll check to make sure we don't have acces to it then contact you with advice about how we might get hold of it.
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If you would like to know more about the information contained on these pages or suggest other resources or information for inclusion please contact the Mechanical Engineering Subject Librarian, via H.C.Tacey@bath.ac.uk