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Dissertation Station: Dissertation Station

The Dissertation Station is aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate students who are doing dissertations. It provides advice and resources to help you stay on track and on top, focusing mainly on your literature search.

Your Seven Steps

The Dissertation Station, aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate students working on dissertations, provides advice and resources to help you stay on track and on top, focusing mainly on your literature search.

We can't do your research for you, but we can help save you time and stress.

The Station is split into seven main sections, taking you through the planning, development and management of your literature search. Don't forget to visit the Buffet Car afterwards for really helpful guidance and advice from elsewhere.

So hop on board and grab yourself a window seat for a nice smooth journey with us!

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Your literature search in numbers

1. Signal box: Plan your literature search

Invest a little bit of time before you embark on your search, and you'll save yourself a lot of time later.

Download the attached planner (below) and fill it in to create your personal literature search plan. You may well find that you need to update it throughout your search as you consider new angles and sources.

Looking for specialist resources? Take a look at your subject guide

2. Excess baggage: Found too much stuff?

Redcap unloading baggage at Union Station in Kansas City Missouri, June 1974

Feeling overwhelmed by thousands of results?

The attached document (below) suggests some simple but effective techniques for narrowing down your search.


3. Narrow gauge. Can't find enough?

'Ffestiniog, Small Gauge Railway'Struggling to find useful references? Your search turning up lots of irrelevant material? The attached document has some simple but effective techniques to help you broaden your search.


4. Engine Room: critical evaluation

October 1, 1962Critical evaluation of the references you find is, of course, an intrinsic part of your literature review. You should apply the critical thinking skills you have developed during your studies to help you read, sift, evaluate and discuss the references you have found.

For example, the following criteria should help with your evaluation of each item:

  • Provenance/purpose: who has produced it, and why?
  • Reliability/authenticity: what are the credentials of the author? Are you sure you are looking at an authentic version of the text, image, data or other type of material?
  • Scope and relevance to your topic.
  • Currency: is the material out of date? Note that currency will be more important for some topics than others.
  • Format and presentation of the information.

The Final Chapter guide from the University of Leeds includes a whole section about critical thinking and reading and you may also find other resources helpful, such as this information evaluation guide from the Open University.

Try out our new virtual dissertation consultancy

Too busy to book a dissertation consultancy with us? Not sure if it would benefit you? Take a look at our new 'virtual' consultancy'!

5. Full steam ahead: keeping up to date

Once you've carried out your initial searches, you'll need to develop techniques for keeping up to date with new publications and research in your subject area.

Click on the tabs to discover some great techniques for making our online resources do the work for you and deliver customised updates to your desktop.

Most of our databases offer search alert options. These enable you to store searches and set them up to be run again at regular intervals. Any new records which match your search will be delivered to you, usually by email or newsfeed. Options and instructions vary from database to database, and in some cases you might have to set up a separate profile, but it is well worth the effort.

Some of the major databases which enable alerts include:

  • EBSCO databases: with results displayed, click on Share, and look for Create an alert.
  • JSTOR: click on MyJSTOR. You'll need to set up a profile.
  • Library Search: log in, then click Save query in bottom left of results screen.
  • Proquest databases: with results displayed, click on Create alert.
  • Scopus: click on Alerts. You'll need to set up a profile.
  • Web of Knowledge: click on My Tools > Saved Searches and Alerts. You'll need to set up a profile.

Many journals enable you to set up alerts too, so you'll automatically receive the table of contents when a new issue is published. Just find the journal home page and look for an alert or table of contents option. Or try our new service, Browzine, which enables you to set up your own bookshelf of favourite journals.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) helps you keep up to date with changes to your favourite online resources, whether it's a journal, blog, podcast or web page. You can subscribe to feeds whenever you see the orange RSS symbol. It means you don't have to keep checking back to see if sites have been updated, as you can view all your favourite feeds in one glance.

You can subscribe and manage your feeds in various ways, such as via Outlook, your browser, or a dedicated site such as Feedly. Other newsfeed management resources are described here and here.

Want to know more? The BBC has a simple guide, or watch the short video below.

Most researchers are used to looking through bibliographies of books and articles to see which references the author(s) has consulted for their research. However, that takes you backwards in time. Did you know you can also bring your search forwards in time with citation searching? In other words, finding out which papers or books have cited the work of interest to you since it was published.

You can do this in various ways:

  • Google Scholar: click on the Cited by link in the bottom left of any book or article reference of interest.
  • Proquest databases: click on the Cited by link under any reference of interest.
  • Scopus: with your results displayed, click on the number in the Cited by column on the far right to see more recent articles which have cited each paper.
  • Web of Knowledge: click on the number next to Times Cited on any reference of interest.

You can also set up citation alerts to find out when new papers cite an article of interest to you.

Science, technology and medical subjects use citations much more extensively than arts subjects, particularly in measuring the impact of publications. For more detail, please see our separate research impact guide

Traditional scholarly communication can be very slow moving, so researchers are increasingly using social media resources to discover and disseminate their research.

Tools such as Twitter and blogs offer fast, flexible and free ways of finding out about the latest research, and making connections with other researchers. We've highlighted the most useful social media tools for researchers on our separate guide.

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6. Keeping on track: managing your references

Once you start accumulating references, you'll need to develop a strategy to keep them organised. It's also essential to keep careful records so that you can provide accurate and correctly formatted references for the sources you have used.

Our separate referencing Library Guide is full of clear and helpful guidance.

You may also find it helpful to use EndNote, freely available on and off-campus (via RAS). This is a bibliographic software package which can really help take the stress out of referencing, enabling you to import references, organise them, and create correctly formatted references and bibliographies in your documents.

Our Endnote guide has all the information you need to get started, and we provide lots of training and support. We also have brief information about other reference management software.

7. Explorer: access to resources elsewhere

Although we try to provide access to the key resources you need, you might need to consult resources elsewhere as your research develops. Click on the tabs for guidance to help you track down what you require: locally, nationally and internationally. 

You might also find it helpful to use our two services below: 

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Book a Library one-to-one appointment

Need more in-depth guidance with your dissertation, thesis or project literature search? Why not book a one-to-one appointment with our helpful and knowledgeable Library liaison team?

As you'll see from the feedback above, many other students have found these appointments really helpful. Whether you're starting out and don't know where to begin, or further forward with your research, but worried you've missed something...or somewhere in the middle.....we're here to help!

In your consultancy, we'll discuss your information needs in more detail, and suggest useful resources for you within and beyond the Library. We'll explain how to get the best out of them, and give you a personalised search plan to help you get organised.

We can help you in person or online, and we'll do our best to meet you on a day and time which suits you.

Book your appointment now for tailor-made advice. 

Need a break? Visit the Buffet Car

Lounge car of the Southwest Limited, an Amtrak train between Los Angeles, California, and Chicago, June 1974

Been studying hard? Time to relax and enjoy the view!

In the Buffet Car, we've gathered together the best advice we can find from elsewhere about doing your dissertation. Whether from academic staff who mark them, or students who have just completed them, you're sure to find some useful advice.