Finding information in the Albert Sloman Library


This guide is designed to help you make the most of the Library's resources in support of your learning, whether you are looking for weekly readings specified by your tutor, or searching more generally for resources for a project or dissertation.

Finding items on reading lists

The Library aims to check all reading lists sent to us by the academic departments and centres, so that everything specified on a reading list is available from the Library. There are two main types of material on reading lists, books and journal articles.

Finding books

To find a book: enter some words from the title into Library Search or search by Title or Author in the Classic catalogue, then make a note of the classmark, availability and shelved at information (see the Guide to the Library Catalogue for more details).

For Example to find:

Jonathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China, (Norton, 1990). Search under Title "search for modern china" or under Author "spence, jonathan" in the Classic catalogue.

The information you will need to make a note of is:

- Classmark: DS 754.S7
- Availability: IN LIBRARY
- Shelved at: Floor 3

(Classmarks DB-DX can be found on the 3rd floor - see the Classification scheme summary and the Shelved At locations pages for more details).

Many books on reading lists are part of the Short Loan collection on the ground floor of the Library or the Student collection on the first floor. Some books are also available online. These can be searched for in the same way as ordinary books and have the classmark "Online book". To access the text of an e-book, click on the link in the middle of the relevant catalogue record to "view the full text".

Finding journal articles

To find a journal article: Enter some words from the title of the article into Library Search. If the article appears under the "Article results" section, click on the WebBridge button to find out whether the full text of the article is available online and where you can access it. You can also use the Periodical Title search in the Classic catalogue to find the location of the journal and then look for the relevant volume on the shelves or access it online.

You will need to check the holdings information to make sure the Library has the volume you are looking for.

For example to find:

Thomas Bernstein, Stalinism, Famine and Chinese Peasants, Theory and Society vol. 13, no. 3, May 1984, pp. 339-347. Search under Periodical Title "theory and society".

The information you will need to make a note of is:

- Classmark: H 1.T57
- Shelved at: Store C/Floor 3
- Availability: Not Loanable (- most journals are for use in the Library only, although some can be borrowed for three days at a time)
- Holdings: Vol. 1- 1974- (the Library holds all volumes from vol. 1 (1974) onwards). Earlier years are kept in store and have to be requested in advance from there.

Online journal articles

Many journals are also available online. You can use the Periodical Title search to check to see whether the Library provides online access for a particular title. You can check which volumes are covered by looking at the Online Coverage information, then follow the relevant link to Access Full Text.

To access the article  from volume 13 above, you would click on JSTOR under Access Full Text (Online Coverage 1974-2010).

If you wanted to the current volume, you would click on Springer Link under Access Full Text (Online Coverage 1997-).

Journal articles in the XD collection

Some journal articles on reading lists have been photocopied and catalogued separately, especially if the Library does not subscribe to the journal they have been taken from. These articles are available on request from the Library Helpdesk on the ground floor and can be found by searching Encore, or by searching for the Title or Author in the Classic catalogue, and making a note of the classmark (beginning XD).

For example:

Julia Lesage, "The political aesthetics of the feminist documentary film", Quarterly Review of Film Studies, vol. 3/4, 1978, pp. 507-523. Ask for XD 9850 at the Service Desk.

(TIP: to find out more about how to tell which items on reading lists are books and which are journal articles, see the reference guides or complete the Moodle course on referencing. Remember that Encore and the Classic catalogue are sources of the kind of information which you will need to compile bibliographies for essays, reports and dissertations, such as publication dates and page numbers.)

Using Online reading lists

Another way in which to find items on reading lists is to use the online version of the reading list on the Talis reading list database

Finding items on a particular subject (i.e. for short term projects, such as presentations and essays)

The Library provides access to an extensive array of materials which you can use to supplement reading list recommendations when writing essays or reports, or preparing presentations. For short term assignments, you will probably still want to focus on books and journal articles.

Finding books


Encore will help you to identify items which are relevant to the particular subject you are interested in. Enter one or more words which describe your subject and it will return a list of results. This search will also find relevant e-books which the Library provides access to. You can also use the Keyword option in the Classic catalogue.

For Example

To look for books on the economy in modern China. Search for "modern china economy"

Truncation (Classic catalogue)

Using a truncation operator in the Classic catalogue can help to find more titles. For example, searching for "modern china econom*" will also find titles which have the word economics and economic in the record, as well as those which have economy. In fact, this search finds 21 additional titles.

Subject headings

Once you have found a book that is relevant to your topic, you can use the subject headings assigned to it to find other similar books.

For example

Nicholas R. Lardy, Agriculture in China's Modern Economic Development, (Cambridge University Press, 1983). Click on subject heading "Agriculture -- Economic Aspects -- China"

Finding journal articles

Abstracting/indexing and full text resources

You can search for journal articles on a topic using Encore, or you can use some of the Library's other resources. Resources for finding journal articles can be in print or online, and can cover wide subject areas or be very subject specific.

There are two main types of resource: abstracting and indexing resources and full text resources. You can use both types of resource to search for articles, but abstracting and indexing resources will only tell you where a particular article is published (sometimes called a citation or a reference), rather than providing access to the article itself. They may also provide a summary of the article which you can use to help you to decide whether it is worth reading the whole thing (this is usually called an abstract).

Using an abstracting and indexing resource is therefore a two stage process - you use the resource to find references to articles that you may be interested in reading, and then you go to a different resource, usually the Library catalogue, to find out whether you can get hold of the article itself through the Library.

The Web of Knowledge (also known as Web of Science) is an example of a widely used abstracting and indexing resource. When using Web of Knowledge, there is an option whereby you can access linked full text (if available) for a particular journal by clicking the "full text options" icon (top left) and selecting "WebBridge". If this doesn't take you to the article then click on "holdings" (under the "full text options" icon), to see if the library has access to the journal.

Full text resources vary in terms of whether all or only some of the searchable articles are provided in full text through the resource.

JSTOR is an example of a resource where all of the content which you can search can be accessed in full text (TIP: this is only the case if you search JSTOR from links on the Library website. When searching through an internet search engine, such as Google, you may come across references to articles in JSTOR which the Library does not provide access to.) Many resources provide access to some articles in full and some as citations only. Ingenta is an example of this kind of resource.

To find out which resources the Library provides access to which are relevant to your subject area, look at the subject listings on the E-Resource and Database Menu, or search by Resource Subject in the Classic catalogue. For example, searching for "history primary" will find a list of primary source databases relevant to history.

For more information on individual resources, see the E-Resource and Database Menu page, which contains details of coverage and access arrangements for electronic resources, as well as guidance on how to search.

Some of the more general resources are:

1. Web of Knowledge

2. EBSCOHost Electronic Journals Service


4. ZETOC: the British Library Electronic Table of Contents

Where the full text of an article is not available through a particular resource, you can check to see whether the Library provides access to the journal in print or online, using the Periodical Title option in the Classic catalogue. If the Library does not provide access to the journal then it may be possible to get hold of the article from another library (see Finding items II below).

Search terms and Boolean operators

Before you start any kind of subject searching, whether in the Library catalogue, or one of the other resources, it is worth spending some time thinking about exactly what your topic is, and the different words that can be used to describe it, including any relevant synonyms and regional spelling variations. You may need to do several different searches combining your keywords in different ways before you find all the material that is relevant to your topic.

Electronic resources all tend to work slightly differently so before searching a particular resource, it is important to have a look at any help which is available, to see how your terms can be combined, and whether there are any particular options which will help you find what you are looking for.

If you find that your searches are coming up with too many results or too few, you will need to think of ways of making your topic more specific, or more general, or possibly describing it in different terms. Using a truncation operator as shown in the Classic catalogue above is one way to broaden a search. It is also possible to combine keywords by using Boolean operators (AND, OR and NOT). Combining keywords with AND will narrow a search as all keywords must therefore be present in any results. Combining keywords with OR will broaden a search as results only need to contain one of the keywords.

For example

The Keyword search in the Classic catalogue automatically assumes that keywords are to be combined with AND unless you specify otherwise. The search "death dying" finds 78 titles, whereas the search "death or dying" finds 2123 titles.

Finding items on a particular subject more generally (i.e. for longer term projects, such as dissertations and theses)

In addition to the materials available in this Library, for longer term projects you may want to consider looking for materials which are available from other libraries. For major projects, dissertations and theses, you may wish to visit other libraries, to obtain items by Inter Library Loan, or to recommend that the Library purchases items which it does not already have in stock.

Finding books

Other library catalogues are a good place to start when you want to widen your search. The British Library Catalogue and the Consortium of University Research Libraries Catalogue (COPAC) are both available online, as are many other Higher Education institutions' library catalogues.

It may also be worth searching the websites of some of the larger bookshops on the internet, such as Amazon and Blackwell.

If you find material that you think is essential to your research, you can apply for it by Inter Library Loan, or recommend that the Library purchases it, using the online book suggestion form. Alternatively you may be able to arrange to visit the library where the material is held (see access to other libraries for more information).

Finding journal articles

As mentioned above, the abstracting/indexing resources which the Library provides access to are not restricted to items in this Library, so you can use them to search more generally for references to articles, which can then be obtained by Inter Library Loan.

Finding specific kinds of material

So far, we have looked at ways to locate books and journal articles for different purposes, but there are some other types of material that you may wish to use as part of your academic work. See the E-Resource and Database Menu for resources by Material type

Finding newspaper articles

Some of the Library's newspaper holdings are on microfilm, although increasingly they are available digitally through databases like Nexis which provides an archive of news from a large number of global sources (coverage varies from source to source but is back to the 1980s for some papers). The Library has online access to newspapers from 1600 onwards, including the historical archive of some major titles, such as The Times, Guardian, Observer, Financial Times, New York Times. For further information see the Newspapers page, and our A/Z listing of newspaper databases.

Finding theses and research

Details of University of Essex theses held by the Library (including all PhD theses up until September 2016) are available from the library website where you may search by author or title, or by keyword (add "essex" and "thesis" as keywords to your topic).

For any University of Essex theses from after September 2016, please search the Research Repository.

For theses produced by other universities see:
EThOS (British Library Electronic theses online service) - some dissertations available in digital form (registration required to access) Proquest Dissertations and Theses - details of all UK and Irish theses (dating back to 1716) and North American theses (from 1861) plus selective coverage of other countries. An increasing number available as full text.

For further information please see the Library's Theses web page

Finding conference proceedings

Conference proceedings can be found by searching in the Classic catalogue using the subject heading search of "conference" and the first words of the subject of the conference.
Some general indexes to conference proceedings are:

Conference proceedings citation index - part of Web of Science database (click on "more settings" to select). Coverage is from 1990-
Index of Conference proceedings received by the British library - no longer current, 1974-2000 only (shelved in Store A at Z 1140)

Finding exam papers

Past exam papers for most departments are available online as part of the Online Resource Bank or on Moodle

Using the Web for research

The web can be both a method of finding information and a source of full text. There are two main ways of navigating the web a. search engines and b. directories. Be wary of the quality of the sites you use on the web, you should be looking for information that is of an academically rigorous standard.

Search Engines

Google is the best search engine but there are different versions, Google Scholar purports to search "scholarly literature", Google books searches books "cover to cover" and can have useful extracts.

Directories, Portals and Gateways

Directories, portals and gateways can be useful for finding information on the web as they are often organised by subject. The advantage to gateways is that some evaluation has taken place as part of their creation i.e. a human being has assessed the website and decided the resource is useful. This can mean that the sites included in gateways are of a high standard.

However, this is not always the case so you should be careful. Gateways or portals provided on academic sites or by Higher Education bodies (i.e. .ac, or .edu) can usually be regarded as reliable.

Many reliable websites are listed on the Library's subject pages

Glossary of relevant terms


An abstracting/indexing resource indexes the contents of a number of journals, and provides summaries (abstracts) of the indexed articles. Not all indexing resources include abstracts.


The element of a catalogue record that shows whether or not the book is available to be borrowed.

Boolean operators

A set of words (usually AND, OR, NOT) that can be used to combine search terms in order to produce certain results.


The bibliographic details of a piece of information (such as a book or journal article), used to locate that piece of information.


The alphanumeric code assigned to items in the Library, based on the subject of the item. Items in the Library are shelved on the basis of this code.


Collections of electronic data, such as library catalogues, abstracting/indexing resources, and digitised full text collections.

Full Text

The entire text of a journal article available online. As opposed to a citation.


Another word for a book, but refers specifically to publications which are issued once and are then complete. As opposed to a periodical.


Any publication which is produced in serial form, usually with parts that are issued at regular intervals. As opposed to a monograph.

Shelved At

The element of a catalogue record that shows where a book is shelved.

Subject heading

A reference to the topic and focus of an item, which is included in the catalogue record.

Truncation operators

A symbol (or set of symbols) that can be used to represent the presence of unspecified letters following a word stem.


The classmark used in the Library to refer to journal articles which have been photocopied and form part of the Short Loan collection.  

Getting further help

For more help on finding information, ask at the library helpdesk on the or contact your subject librarian directly.


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