Searching for literature

Tips and advice for finding the publication or information you need.

When searching for scientific information, the search strategy and database you use largely depend on what you need. Below are different types of searches with sources, tips and instruction videos on how to best accomplish these searches.

Locate a known publication

When you need the full text of a publication, first search in Global Search or Google Scholar.
- Put the title within double quotes, e.g.,  “Packaging of food”
- Use filters like author or publication year to narrow your search
- Once you find the publication, click on the title link or use the links “get-it” or “Wageningen full-text
- Check the FAQ if you cannot access the publication

Simple search

If you are looking for a few sources on a topic, focus your research by typing the most relevant search terms or phrases in Global Search, Google Scholar or Scopus.
- Identify concepts and combine them with AND
- Put short phrases or multiple search terms within double quotes

Example: “Climate change” AND “food security” AND policy

Systematic search

If you want to efficiently find all relevant publications on your topic, you need to systematically search in databases like Scopus or Web of Science.
- Identify concepts and relevant search terms, including synonyms
- Combine concepts and terms with the operators AND/OR
- Use wildcards like * to find word variations
- Limit your search to title, abstract and keywords
- Adapt and repeat your search in more databases
- Check the Help for database specific tools

Example: (“natural disasters” OR “natural catastrophes” OR flood* OR landslides OR “natural hazards”) AND (farm* OR agricult* OR crops OR livestock) AND (coping OR deal OR “risk reduc*”) AND (losses OR yields)

Following a thread

With this method you start with highly relevant publications. The reference list of these publications leads you to older publications on your topic. If you look up these references in Scopus, Web of Science or Google Scholar, you will also find more recent papers that cite this publication.

Systematic review search

A search for a systematic review follows the principles of a systematic search but is more extensive. Check the sources below or contact an information specialist for advice.

- VU Libguides on Systematic Reviews
- Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide
- Systematic Review Centre for Laboratory Animal Experimentation
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Systematic reviews tutorials for searching health science literature, Yale University