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Recommended resources - Upper School: Home

Finding and selecting sources

This is a guide to finding and selecting suitable sources from all of the wealth of information out there. Reading, note-making and understanding takes time so, of all of the sources available, how are you going to find the ones that are worth your time and effort?

This page contains general advice that is relevant to most subjects, while the tabs above contain subject-specific advice.

Effective search strategies

Whether you are using print or online resources, you will almost certainly search for them using an electronic catalogue.

One of the most important features of any search strategy is the key words and phrases you use - computers aren't mind-readers although some internet search engines are very good at 'guessing', subscription databases and the library catalogue are less so. This can actually be helpful as you have more control over the results you get in a database than on the internet, but when you are used to internet search engines it can also be a challenge.

Use the keyword record (below and in the Resources to support inquiry box on the right hand side of every page of this guide) right from the start of your investigation to collect useful keywords and synonymns to help you to develop an effective search strategy. If you need to ask me (JAT) or your supervisor for help finding resources, it helps us to look at what you have already tried.

Don't forget to check the second page of the document for useful hints and tips on constructing a good search.

There are many websites with excellent tutorials on Boolean searching (searching using AND, OR and NOT) if you want more advice. For example, this one from MIT Libraries:


Search for books using Heritage, our online catalogue.

  • Think about using different search terms. The results depend on your terms being used in the title, as a keyword or in the abstract. Use the keywording resource (in the Resources to support inquiry box to the right) to record your search terms as you work. Can you think of any alternative words (synonyms) or spellings to broaden your search?
  • Remember that the online catalogue is not searching the full text of the book, or even the index. You may need to search for a broader topic and then check the index of the book to see if it covers your specific topic.
  • Look at the classification numbers of any promising results. Other books at these classification numbers will be on a similar subject. Go and look at the other books on the shelves at these classmarks. You are very likely to come across other books on your topic that weren’t picked up by your search.

If you really cannot find any books relevant to your topic, please speak to a member of library staff or use the link on this page to email the relevant Librarian for advice.We might be able to identify books to buy or to borrow from another library. Similarly, if you come across a reference to a book that looks particularly useful that we do not have, let us know and we can try and get hold of it for you.

Databases vs internet

The vast majority of material available on the internet is not indexed by search engines. You can't find it using Google. This includes material behind paywalls. Our Subscription Databases give you access to some of that material - and we have specifically chosen databases containing material that is suitable for students at your level, so a lot of the irrelevant and inappropriate material you would find on a general internet search has been filtered out. Have a look at the subject tabs above to see which databases we recommend for your subject.




Key Point: Only use the general internet for scholarly research if you have plenty of time to wade through irrelevant information and to evaluate sources for authority, accuracy and purpose. Once you have learnt how to use databases effectively, they will save you a great deal of time in the long run.

Search tips for databases


Search Tips

  • Keep a list of the Keywords that you use so that you can identify particularly helpful and unhelpful ones. The sheet to the right may help you.
  • Always use the Advanced Search option where it is available.
  • Put words that you want to appear as complete phrases (rather than the two words appearing separately in different parts of the article) in double quotes e.g. "Handmaid's Tale".
  • Think about whether you want to limit a search term to a particular field (e.g. do you want your search term to appear in the title of the article? Do you want to look for articles written by a particular author?
  • Use wildcard operators:
    • * for ends of words (e.g. mother* = mother, mothers,motherhood, mothering)
    • ? for a single letter (e.g. wom?n = woman, women)
  • Use Boolean operators : AND, OR and NOT
  • Limit your search by Date, Language, Type of publication or ability to access full text.

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay 

Bonus tip: Did you know...? You can use the keystroke Ctrl+F (Cmd+F on a Mac) to Find a word or phrase on any webpage or inside a PDF or Word document.

Academic articles: EBSCO vs JSTOR

EBSCO Advanced Placement Source and JSTOR both contain academic articles, so which one should you use? The table below explains some of the differences (information quoted from JSTOR and EBSCO's own sites).


Advanced Placement Source, Literary Reference Center & UK and Ireland Reference Center

Aimed at

Upper school students Schools, Universities, Museums, Public Libraries and others

EBSCO Advanced Placement Source, which contains:

  • More than 4,200 full-text academic journals and magazines
  • More than 1.9 million photos, maps and flags
  • ebooks

Search also includes EBSCO Literary Reference Center, which includes:

  • Almost 140,000 classic and contemporary poems and short stories and classic novels.
  • More than 36,000 plot summaries, synopses and work overviews
  • More than 77,000 articles/essays of literary criticism
  • More than 240,000 author biographies
  • More than 11,000 author interviews
  • More than 370 full-text literary journals
  • More than 1 million book reviews
  • Literary glossary featuring more than 1,700 terms

And UK and Ireland Reference Center, which includes full text magazine and newspaper articles, biographies, industry and country reports and over 1.9 million photos, maps and flags.

The collections include top peer-reviewed scholarly journals as well as respected literary journals, academic monographs, research reports from trusted institutes, and primary sources.

  • more than 2,600 top scholarly journals in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences
  • More than 2 million primary sources across four collections: Global Plants, 19th Century British Pamphlets, Struggles for Freedom: Southern Africa, and World Heritage Sites: Africa
  • JSTOR’s thematic collections focus on emerging areas of research and contain multiple types of content, including journals and research reports. Collections include Lives of Literature, Security Studies, and Sustainability.
  • ebooks
Special features
  • Ability to save searches and results
  • Makes automatic suggestions for alternative search terms as you type
  • Can change the display language (e.g. to German) using the 'Language' drop down box at the top right of the menu bar.
  • Workspace enable students and researchers to save and organize their work–beyond content in JSTOR–from session to session
  • Text Analyzer allows you to upload your own text to find relevant content
  • The Understanding Series allows you to pick a passage from a growing list of widely studied works and discover content in JSTOR referencing that passage
Useful links

JSTOR Daily: a news source linking to free articles from JSTOR's collection

Research guides and videos

Librarian's comment

EBSCO has a very wide range of different types of resources, but this means you can be overwhelmed by types of resource you don't want. It is important to use the filtering tools to the left of the search results screen to narrow your search.

TOP TIP: If you are finding the academic articles too difficult, try limiting to magazines (which often include images and tend to be easier to read).

Coverage is significantly better on some topics than others - if you don't find what you need, try JSTOR.

JSTOR is mainly academic journals and primary sources, with no magazines so reading level tends to be higher. If you are finding the articles too challenging at first, try starting with some of the magazines in EBSCO.

Worth using the filters to the left of the search screen to limit search results.

TOP TIP: Search EBSCO first, make a note of the keyword synonymns it suggests and use them to search JSTOR

Coverage is generally excellent, but if you can't find what you need, try EBSCO.

Note: both JSTOR and EBSCO include sources from around the world in a range of languages. Use the filters to the left of the search result screen to filter results by language. Have a look in the boxes below for more specific advice about using the two databases.

EBSCO Advanced Placement Source: Search tips

If you are on the school network you won't need to log in, but from outside you should use the username and password from the link above.

Fill in the user ID and password from the link above here (don't select 'institutional login')

Select all the databases (unless you are certain which you want) - it does not cause a particularly slow response time.

Choose Advanced Search - it gives you much more control over the search.


EBSCO will make suggestions as you type - you can use this to broaden your search by choosing lists of synonyms.

You might want to narrow your search by selecting a field from the drop down box - perhaps it is important that it appears in the title of the article, for example.

There are lots of options to choose below your search box, but you can usually ignore most of them. It's usually a good idea to tick the 'Full Text' box to make sure you will be able to access any articles you find, and you might want to limit by date.




After you have got your search results you can filter them again using the controls on the left:

  • Results are sorted by relevance - if you sort them by date you will lose this. A better way to get up to date results is to use the publication date filter on the left hand side. Think about how important publication date is for your particular topic.
  • Filtering by source type can help you to find something more readable - try magazines when you are just getting started and move up to academic journals once you understand more about the topic.
  • Filtering by subject can be useful if you are being overwhelmed by results from a less relevant topic area.
  • Notice you can also filter results by language.

Gathering citation information

When you have found a source you are interested in, make sure you download a copy and save it in a safe place, and collect all the information you will need to cite it.

From within the detailed source record, click on the 'cite' icon in the right sidebar (1). Use the information from APA Style (2) to put into your citation tool. APA does not require a URL for a stable source like this, but some exam boards (including the IBO) do, so use te URL from one of the other citation styles (3).


JSTOR: Search tips

If you are on the school network you won't need to log in, but from outside you should use the username and password from the link above.



Put the username and password from the SharePoint page in here - don't use the "Find my institution' button.

You can tell you are logged in because it says "Access provided by Oakham School" at the top of the page.

Always use the Advanced Search - it gives you more control.


Unlike EBSCO, JSTOR doesn't make suggestions for search terms, so it can be a good idea to search EBSCO first and make a note of any new terms you find to use in JSTOR.

Make sure the 'access type' is limited to CONTENT I CAN ACCESS so you don't end up with lost of results you can't read.



You might want to scroll down and narrow your search at this stage - but if you want to try it out first you can always modify the search later.

When you are happy with your search click "submit advanced search".

Now you can refine your results (1) by filtering them by resource type, publication date of subject.

If you want to make changes to your original search (or filter by language), click modify search (2) to go back to the previous screen.

When you've found an article you are interested in, click on the title to go into the detailed record.

Choose cite this item and use the APA citation to gather citation information for your references.

General internet searching: finding quality sources

Do you need to use the general internet?

Given all the excellent sources above, you may well find that you don't need to search the wider internet at all. If you do, you need to take care that you are finding scholarly, reputable information. We recommend CRAAP Testing any source you find on the general internet before using it because of the huge range of reliability, authority, accuracy and purpose in internet sources.

Searching for academic sources on the internet:

undefinedThere are a number of search engines that search academic sources, oneundefined of the most user-friendly and versatile is Google Scholar (others include Microsoft Academic, and a variety of more subject-specific search engines). It is very clear where PDF downloads are freely available, the format makes it easy to trace where an article has been cited and there is a useful advanced search facility (which you can find by using the "three lines" menu button to the left of the page - see image to the right here).

Note that Google Scholar identifies academic papers by their format, not by where they come from, so results may vary wildly in quality. Also, it often returns large numbers of results where the full-text is hidden behind a paywall, which can be frustrating.


Note too that by choosing "settings" from the "three lines" menu, and then the "language" tab, you can choose to search for papers in a range of different languages.




Evaluating sources

Whether you are using print or online resources, you need to consider whether you think they are suitable for your inquiry and why. Consider the:

  • Currency: How important is the age of the resources you use? This will matter more in some subjects than others.
  • Relevance: Does it address your core question?
  • Accuracy: How do you know it is accurate? Have you checked it against other sources?
  • Authority: Who wrote it? What qualifies them to write in this area?
  • Purpose: Why has it been written? To sell you something? To convince you of a point of view? Or is it academically neutral?

The resource below (and in the Resources for inquiry box to the right of every page of this guide) can be used for CRAAP testing, and is particularly useful for websites.

What about Wikipedia?

Normal term-time Library opening hours:
Mon-Fri: 08:30-21:15
Sat: 08:00-16:00
Sun: 14:00-18:00