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University of York Library
Library Subject Guides

Searching for information: a practical guide

Online sources

Searching for information is not always straightforward. We got a bunch of librarians to suggest some insider pointers and useful techniques.

Sources of information

We've considered some basic principles of searching for information so now let's consider some specific online sources in more detail, particularly in regard to sourcing academic materials.

Sometimes we'll be directed to particular bits of literature; sometimes we'll need to find things for ourselves. When you're starting out in your studies you'll be working with reading lists and the library catalogue, YorSearch, but you'll soon have to find your own examples. YorSearch can help with that too, but you may fare better with something like Google Scholar. And depending what you're searching for, or how precise your search needs to be, you might even need to explore advanced sources like bibliographic databases.

In this section we'll take a look in more detail at these and other academic sources of information:

Academic sources

The Library subscribes to a lot of academic resources that aren't available via Google. We'll start by giving you an overview of the types of academic literature you're likely to encounter.

Reading Lists

For each module you take, you will find at least one Reading List. This curated list of potential reading matter will contain a variety of academic sources for you to work from.


The Library holds an awful lot of resources, both print and electronic. The Library catalogue, YorSearch, indexes pretty much everything we've got. It's particularly useful for finding things like books and journals.


Internet search engines are a great tool for finding information online. But with so much information out there, how can you make sure you're finding the best stuff?

Google Scholar

Eventually you're going to have to go beyond your reading list in search of academic literature. Google has a dedicated search engine for just searching across academic texts. It's really easy to use, and surprisingly effective for most needs. Find out more about how it works and how to use it.


There's times when Google Scholar just isn't enough. So the Library subscribes to specialist databases that let us search across multiple academic sources in a precise and controlled way. But what exactly do they have in them?

Grey literature

A lot of useful material isn't published in a conventional way. It's things like pamphlets and PDFs. We dig into this 'grey' literature, and look at how to find it.

Data sources

How can you get hold of data and statistics? We look at the sources available.

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