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Planning your search

A guide to the steps involved in planning an effective search for information.

Where to look for information

Once you have established your search terms, you will need to consider which resources you will use to search for information. The resources that you use will depend on:

  • The type of information you are looking for. (See Types of information).
  • The purpose of your search: Are you looking for a few key articles? Are you looking for a reading for your academic module or programme? Are you wanting to do a comprehensive and thorough search to support some research? (See Understanding the nature of your search).

In this section we look at the different types of resources available to look for information, and explain when best to use them.

  • Explore: A good place to start is Explore, UCL's library catalogue and gateway to a huge range of online material. 
  • Library webpages: The library's webpages give information about the resources available to you, including Electronic resources and resources for your subject area through our Subject Guides.
  • Reading lists: Your online reading list contains details of readings relevant for your academic module or programme.
  • Databases: Databases are subject-focussed collections of searchable references. 
  • Grey literature: Where to look if you need to research beyond published academic literature.
  • Maps: sources and collections: Online maps and physical map collections.
  • Data and statistics: Where to look for sources of data and guidance on using selected sources.

Our subject guides include links to resources in particular disciplines:

When selecting resources to search, consider whether the resource is appropriate for your purpose and also whether you have considered all relevant sources. See our guide to Evaluating information for further support with thinking critically about the sources you search.