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GIS & Geospatial Data Services

Search for Academic Literature

Search Techniques for Successfully Finding Relevant Academic Literature

Searching for academic literature on a particular research topic can be a little daunting at first as the search process is not always quite as easy a traditional search for non-academic information in a regular search engine. Consider using the techniques described below when you look search for literature relevant to your research topic. Keep in mind that these techniques may not work in all 3 of the recommended academic literature search engines listed in the right hand column of this page.
Search for terms in article title
Works with: Google Scholar, UT Libraries Search
How to use: If you are using Google Scholar, you can add intitle: before a key search term to only retrieve results that have that term included in the title of book or article itself. You can also accomplish the same goal when using the UT Libraries search tool but you will need to add title: instead of intitle: in front of each search you want to ensure is found in the title of each search result. This technique can help narrow the results of your search to only literature that is focused on that particular topic and will filter out books and articles that only make passing reference to the topic.
Find articles that include exact phrases
Works with: Google Scholar, UT Libraries Search
How to use: If your search includes multiple words that you want to group together as specific terms rather than treating the words as separate and unconnected, you may benefit from using quotation marks to enclose the terms you want to group together. For example, if your query is food desert you will receive results that might not necessarily focus on areas without access to grocery stores and healthy meal options and rather results that just happen to include the individual words food and desert at various points in their text, like articles about the food sources of desert animals (for reference, this search returns 1,600,000 results in Google Scholar). On the other hand, if your your query is "food desert" in quotation marks, your list of results will only include books and articles that contain those words together and which are likely to focus specifically on the topic of population centers without access to nutritious food options (this more focused search only returns 7,000 results).
Filter out search results that include specific terms
Works with: Google Scholar, UT Libraries Search
How to use: You can easily filter out search results that contain terms which you feel are good indicators that a potential book or article is not actually relevant by adding a dash (negative sign or substraction symbol) in front of the term you want to exclude. For example, if you are trying to find articles about how GIS software and the Python programming language have been used to develop tree species distribution models you might want to search GIS Python species trees modeling -snake to filter out articles discussing the use of GIS for developing species distribution models for snake species in the python family.
Select a range of acceptable publication years
Works with: Google Scholar, UT Libraries Search, Microsoft Academic
How to use: This technique is extremely useful if you are trying to limit your search to only recently published information or if you are trying to find a specific book or article that you cannot remember the title of, but which you know was published in a certain timeframe. All you need to do is submit your search terms and then look for the date range restriction tools available in the menu on the left side of the results page which you can use to select the start and end year for your acceptable publication range. Consider using this technique for narrowing your list of results if you are researching technical topics (anything involving the use of specific software, programming languages, UAV technology, etc.) as the methodologies described in books or articles that are more than just a few years old may be obsolete and no longer relevant. There certainly are cases, however, when you still may want to read through widely cited sources of information that are 5, 10, even 20+ years old and this is especially true if you are trying to gain a better understanding of critical developments and foundational research pertaining to your topic of interest - just keep in mind that you do not necessarily want to still be using the methods described in older academic literature.
Use advanced search options
Works with: Google Scholar, UT Libraries Search
How to use: If you are still having trouble finding relevant academic sources of information after trying out the techniques above, consider conducting an advanced search which will require you to fill in additional parameters in order to further refine your search results. Google Scholar's advanced search, for example, gives users the ability to narrow results down to those authored by particular researchers or found in particular journals. It also provides a simple interface for excluding results that contain certain words or returning only results which feature key terms in the work's title.

Academic Literature Search Engines

There are 3 major academic literature specific search engines you should consider when searching for books, journal articles, and other relevant sources of information: using the UT Libraries' unified search tool, using the Google Scholar search portal, and using Microsoft Academic search engine. Links to these search portals are provided below.

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