Top 5 Things to Know About… Using Library Search for Your Assignment

Finding and using good quality information in your assignments will help you to attract top marks. Here's how to make effective use of Library Search.

For many of your assignments, it is quite likely that you’ll be required to find additional information resources. Most modules have a reading list to help you find out more about the subject, but Library Search is the ideal place to help you go beyond your reading list and to find additional information about a topic. Here is what Library Search looks like… but what exactly is it?

Put simply, Library Search is like a big academic search engine. It is an easy-to-use tool which allows you to search across the huge range of resources provided by the OU Library that you can access anytime and anywhere. You can use it to find journal articles, eBooks, images, newspaper articles, databases, and more. 

By finding and using good quality information in your assignments, you are demonstrating to those marking your work that your opinions are informed and built on research conducted by experts in your field – helping you to attract top marks. However, learning to use the Library and its resources is an important skill to master. To help you get started, this post will provide you with 5 top tops on how to make effective use of Library Search to find the information you need for your studies. 

Always remember to sign in when using Library Search so that you can access the full range of features and find all available resources. 

Tip 1: Searching and viewing results 

If you were to go to Library Search and simply type digital wellbeing, for example, into the search box, the search would retrieve many thousands of results… but don't panic. You can see from each record in your results list what type of resource it is (for example journal article, ebook, thesis). Basic bibliographic details such as title, author and year of publication will also be provided. Clicking on Full text available will take you straight through to the full text of the item, but if you want to find out more about the resource before you do that, click on the title. 

Some (but not all) records will provide a summary of what the article's about in the Details area. This can help you decide whether you want to explore the text further. If the article you chose doesn't have one, try finding another. 

Peer review is a form of quality control. It means that academics in the field have scrutinised and evaluated the article prior to publication. Any articles that have been subject to this process will have 'peer reviewed' in the record. 

When you view the full record for a journal article, the title of the journal it's published in will be listed underneath the article title. In the View Online area you'll also be able to see which provider is giving us access to that journal. Sometimes our access might be through more than one provider and each one might cover different date ranges. 

Next, we’ll be looking at some of the filters which will help you narrow down your results list. 

Tip 2: Filtering your results 

When you use Library Search, you're searching across lots of different individual collections at once. This means that you can sometimes end up with what feels like an overwhelming number of results. One way of focusing your search and retrieving fewer, more relevant results, is to use the filter options available at the side of your results list. 

The different ways you can filter your results include: 

  • Resource type 

  • Subject 

  • Creation date 

  • Author 

  • Language 

  • Collection 

Using filters is a quick and easy way to remove irrelevant resources. There are lots of other reasons you might want to filter your results. For example, you might be looking for recently published material, or a particular type of resource, such as peer-reviewed journal articles. 

Your active filters will display at the top of the page, and you can remove individual ones at any time by selecting the cross next to the filtered word. If you want to remove all filters, click on Reset filters. 

To keep using a particular filter in subsequent searches, select the padlock. This will turn it into what's called a persistent filter and it will be active for the rest of your session. You can cancel this at any time by clicking on the padlock again. 

Next, we'll be looking at how you can save and organise all your favourite resources in one place. 

Tip 3: Adding items and searches to your ‘My Favourites’ section 

'My Favourites' is an area of Library Search where you can save items that you've found and want to keep track of. You can also save searches here so that it's easy to re-run them at a later date. You can access 'My Favourites' by selecting the pin icon next to your name.  

Adding items to My Favourites 

You can add items of interest to 'My Favourites' by clicking on the pin within the item record. The pin will then appear crossed out and you can click on this if or when you want to remove the item. When you've added a few items, go to your 'My Favourites' area by selecting the pin at the top of the page, next to your name. By default, your 'Favourites' will be sorted in the order in which you added them. You can order by title or author instead by changing the option in the Sort by area. 

Adding searches to My Favourites 

Each time you run a search there will be an option to Save search at the top of your results. If you click on this your current search will be added to the 'Saved searches' area of 'My Favourites' and will include any filters that were applied to that search. Saved searches stay in 'My Favourites' until you decide to remove them, even if you exit Library Search. 

You can also activate the set alert for this search feature by selecting the bell icon. This means that a message will be sent to your email address any time items that match the criteria of your saved search are added to Library Search. To cancel an alert, select the icon of the bell again. 

In the 'My Favourites' area there is also a Search history tab. Clicking on this will bring up a list of all the searches you've run in your current session. This list clears every time you exit Library Search so if there is something there that you'd like to save for next time, click on the pin icon to add the search to your saved searches. 

Tip 4: Assigning tags 

Tags are words or phrases that you assign to items to help you categorise and organise them. You can assign as many tags to an item as you like, so it's a more flexible way of managing information than using folders. 

To assign a tag, simply go to your 'My Favourites' area by clicking the pin next to your name at the top of the page, find an item you want to tag, click on the pencil icon, and select 'Add new tag'. Then type in the name of tag you're adding and press the Enter key. 

As you add tags to different resources in your 'My Favourites' area you'll see a list of tags building up at the side of the page. When you click on any tag in that list it will instantly bring up all of the items that have had that tag attached to them. 

Before you start tagging, it's always useful to spend time thinking how you might want to categorise your resources. For example, do you want to be able to recall items relating to particular subjects that have cropped up in your module? Perhaps you'd like to be able to identify which resources will be useful for particular TMAs? Remember, you can assign as many tags as you like to a single item. If you wish to remove any tags from items, click on the pencil icon next to the tag and select the cross next to the tag name. 


Tip 5: Where to go for additional help and resources 

The Library Services website is your gateway to a wide range of online information resources. 

You can use it to find out more about the Library, search our extensive online collection of Library resources (including eBooks, journals, databases and more), and explore our programme of live online training sessions that are available to all OU students and staff. Or indeed, come and speak with us at the Helpdesk: we look forward to it and are ready to save the day 24/7. 

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