What this guide covers:
An abstract is a summary of an article, and can appear in an indexing or full text database. On the basis of an abstract, you can decide if the article is worth reading in full.
A bibliography is a list of all the resources used in the research and background reading for a piece of work. You may include a bibliography at the end of your own dissertation. Your bibliography is in addition to your reference list (see further down) which only includes the work you have specifically referenced in your writing. If you are reading a book or article on your chosen topic, you may find the bibliography a useful starting point with ideas for additional resources to explore your topic further.
A catalogue is similar to an index and a database, but in this case specifically related to materials held in Libraries. Search the catalogue for information on whether we have a particular resource, and find out how to access it, either by noting the shelfmark or clicking on the link to the online platform. Library Search is Royal Holloway's library catalogue.
Your citation is in the body of your writing, and is the method you use to acknowledge the ideas or work of others in your dissertation. When using the Harvard system of referencing, this is usually the author’s surname and the year of publication, however different referencing styles may have different requirements. Always check your course handbook for what system you should be using.
Citing and Referencing
It is important that you cite and reference all the sources of information you use in your work. This not only is a sign of good academic practice and good writing, but will also help you avoid plagiarism which is a serious issue at university. There are lots of difference styles of referencing. One of the most common is Harvard style, although your School may recommend another.
A database is a collection of items that can be searched at the same time. A database can hold many different formats – a database can be a collection of images, articles or even words and their definitions (e.g. an online dictionary). Databases can link to the full text or to an abstract.
The full text version is the whole version of a document. Not all databases link to the full text version, so you may have to do some extra work to secure the full text.
An index is a listing of articles in a database relevant to your search. Depending on the type of database, you might just be able to get the abstract about an article, but not the full text of the article itself. You also find indexes at the back of books. Scanning the index for your subject terms is a quick way of finding the information you need within the book without having to read the whole thing.
Journals are publications that are regularly published on specific topics or areas of research. They communicate the latest research and thinking and are intended for a scholarly and academic audience. Good quality academic journals are peer reviewed. The individual papers in a journal are called articles. When searching on the library catalogue search for the journal title, in the databases search at an article level.
A literature review is a thorough investigation of a topic and should include research from lots of sources that are relevant to your subject. It helps you to place your ideas into context historically and within broader society and where your ideas might fit into this.
This is the process that scholarly journal articles go through. Articles are submitted, and then reviewed by academics or ‘peers’ to check it is academically correct and of s suitably high standard. Corrections may be made before the article is accepted for publication. Peer reviewed articles will be fundamental to your literature review.
Plagiarism is where you use the ideas, words, theories or work of someone else in your own work without acknowledging them. This can happen intentionally (by cutting and pasting from an article) or unintentionally (poor referencing, for example). The university takes the issue of plagiarism seriously and has measures in place to detect it.
A primary source is a piece of original material. Examples of primary sources are books, newspaper reports, statistics, standards, statutes and original works of art.
A reference contains all the details about the source you have cited, with enough information so that your reader can locate the resource. Typically it includes the author, year of publication, title, place and publisher of the material. There are set conventions in how to present your reference depending on the style that you use. References are gathered together at the end of your work in a reference list and sometimes a bibliography.
Your reference list comes at the end of your work. When using the Harvard referencing, this is an alphabetical list of all the resources you have cited in your work. Your reference list is compulsory in your work, however you can also choose to include a bibliography in addition to this.
You use a search engine to search for information on the World Wide Web. Each search engine works differently; many send ‘spiders’ that ‘crawl’ pages following the links (usually the main pages of a site) and indexing the keywords they find. They only search a fraction of what is available on the Internet, so you may have to try different keywords and searches, going to a website and searching it directly, or using the a portal or gateway.
A secondary source is an original piece of information that has been processed in some way, usually gathered together and commented upon in a book or journal article. Examples of secondary sources are encyclopaedias, dictionaries and text books.
This is the code which allows you to find a book on the shelf. If you look a book up on the catalogue it will have shelfmark with it. This is on the spine of the book and all books with the same shelf mark are shelved together.
Synonyms are alternative words. These words may not mean exactly the same thing but you may need to include a number of alternatives to your keywords to ensure you don’t miss anything. For example search for ‘Teenager OR Youth’.
Table of contents
Scanning the table of contents at the start of a book is a very quick way of deciding if it is worth reading as it gives you a list of all the topics covered. Table of Contents alerts (ToCs) are a great way of keeping up to date with your favourite journals. You can usually sign up to these for free from databases and journal websites, which means that the contents of new issues will be emailed to you.
Websites are webpages that are available online. Websites can be created by anyone, so always look for clues about who has produced it. They can be quickly updated (news websites are updated by the minute) and can contain a lot of useful information in all sorts of different formats.