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Finding what you need in the library and online Language & Linguistic Science

Information Skills for Language and Linguistic Science Table of contents: Section 1: Introduction and overview Section 2: What information do you need to find? Section 3: Creating your search strategy Section 4: Finding resources for Language and Linguistic Science        

Books Academic journals Reference works and dictionaries Newspapers Conference proceedings and papers Theses and dissertations Websites Corpora

Section 5: Evaluating information Section 6: Keeping up-to-date with information Useful Links and Contact Details

Vanya Gallimore March 2012

Information Skills for Language and Linguistic Science Section 1: Introduction and Overview This booklet is designed to help you develop your information skills so that you can find the best possible resources to support your study and research at York. There are ongoing developments in the field of Language and Linguistic Science so it is vital that you learn the skills that will enable you to keep up date with new research in your field of interest. The information skills that you learn here should also help you in the future careers, as you learn how to regularly update your knowledge and respond to the latest developments taking place around you. Example: investigating the word „market‟

Question: what is the earliest recorded use of the word “market” and how has usage of that word developed over time? Is our understanding of the word “market” the same as it was five hundred years ago? Have there been any changes in spelling? Answer: you can search the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Online to find the answers, using the timeline feature. The earliest recorded usage of the word „market‟ was in 1125 during the Anglo-Saxon period. You can also see changing definitions of the word over time.

The booklet is divided into key areas that will help you to develop your information literacy skills. These are based on the Seven Pillars Model for Information Literacy (SCONUL, 2001)1 and research carried out by Richardson and McBryde-Wilding 2009)2. When using this booklet, it is important to recognise your own individual learning style and to use the booklet in the way that is most helpful for you. There are some specific tasks to follow or, if you prefer, you can use your own examples.

SCONUL (2007). The Seven Pillars of Information Literacy. Retrieved November 8 2011 from 2 Richardson, L. & McBryde-Wilding, H. (2009). Information skills for education students. Exeter: Learning Matters. 1

Information Skills for Language and Linguistic Science Section 2: What information do you need to find? As a student here at the University of York, you will need to use a variety of different types of information to complete your assignments. When putting forward arguments in essays, for example, your tutors will want you to provide evidence from a range of reliable, scholarly, current and authoritative sources. Many tutors will provide reading lists for you to follow; however it is also important to learn how to search for materials beyond these reading lists so that you can demonstrate breadth of knowledge and originality. The first step to finding information is to think clearly about what information you need to complete a piece of work. This will allow you to focus your search effectively and not waste time finding irrelevant materials. Once you have established what information you need, you can then start to track it down via the range of printed and electronic resources available to you here in York, as well as from sources further afield (via the Internet). Example task: Make a list of the information that you would need in order to answer the following question: Discuss the use of 'social class' as a variable in sociolinguistics. Mention ways in which it has been used in sociolinguistic studies, factors to be careful of when using it, and typical findings. To answer this question successfully, you will need to think about the following: 1. How can we define „social classâ€&#x; as a variable in sociolinguistics? Where can we find definitions of this phrase using authoritative sources? 2. Are there any similar variables that we could consider?

3. What sociolinguistic studies have discussed “social class”? How has it been used in different ways in different studies? 4. What are the main findings from the studies? Do they tend to agree with each other or disagree? Before starting to track down the information (section 4) you will need to consider:

Am I facing any specific constraints? Once you have identified what information you need to find out, you might want to identify any particular constraints on you, for example time, cost or access factors3. These constraints may affect how you proceed with your information search so it is important to consider them before you begin to find resources. If you are working to a very tight deadline, for example, you will need to limit your searching to materials that you can access quickly and easily through the library‟s print and electronic collections. Remember that your Academic Liaison Librarian can help you find resources at York: email to make an appointment.

If you are working on a longer assignment, such as an extended project, you will have more time to think about your research and find a range of resources. You may wish to explore other library collections, for example at the British Library or another university library. The library webpages have information about visiting the British Library‟s reading room at Boston Spa and also obtaining a SCONUL card which allows you access to other academic libraries. 3

Richardson, L., & McBryde-Wilding, H. (2009). Information skills for education students. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Whether you are writing a short essay or a long thesis, it is always possible to order materials that are not available in York through the libraryâ€&#x;s Interlending service. Please note that you will have to pay for this service and items do need to be ordered well in advance of your assignment deadline. Further details are available online: supply/ Once you have identified what information you need to find and what time/cost/access constraints you are working under, if any, you are now ready to create your search strategy...

Information Skills for Language and Linguistic Science Section 3: Creating your search strategy Having identified what information you need to find in order to answer a particular essay or research question, it is important to then devise an appropriate search strategy for locating that information. Start with the following questions (Richardson and McBryde-Wilding, 2009): 1. Is it a quick answer or does it require more depth? 2. Do you need up-to-date or historical information? 3. Do you need primary or secondary information? Primary sources are original materials, often first-hand accounts of research, whereas secondary sources describe primary sources and represent the thinking of someone else. 4. Do you only want English language material? 5. What is the date range for publication of material? 6. Do you only want research carried out in the UK or even just England? 7. Do you need to find specific types of material e.g. statistics, news, reports etc. Task: using the essay question in Section 2 as an example, go through the above checklist to identify what kind of resources you need to answer the question. The next important step is to identify key concepts and key search terms for your search strategy that will help ensure that you find the key resources for your research. If you limit your search to just the keywords given in your essay or project title, you may not find all the relevant resources on your topic so try and think more widely about different keywords and synonyms. You can then apply these key concepts and terms to any searchable information resource, to ensure that you are finding all the relevant sources of information on your topic. They will be particularly helpful when searching databases or the web.

These are some guidelines to follow when planning a search. You will see how the different elements of the search strategy relate to our original essay question from Section 2. You may find it helpful to draw up your search strategy in a blank document before launching into the search... Guidelines for creating an effective search strategy: 1.

Think about your project topic as a question or series of questions


Write down one of these questions and underline the key words or phrase(s) e.g. Discuss the use of 'social class' as a variable in sociolinguistics. Mention ways in which it has been used in sociolinguistic studies, factors to be careful of when using it, and typical findings.


Create a list of synonyms (alternative terms) for each word that you have underlined. Note that some key terms that are very specific to linguistics will not have obvious synonyms e.g. variable. You may want to search for alternative phrases instead (see example below). You may also need to think quite broadly about synonyms, but not too broadly otherwise you‟ll start going off topic.

E.g. Social class: social group; status; upbringing; family; culture, background; personal circumstances etc. Sociolinguistics: “language and society” or ”social and cultural factors” Sociolinguistic studies: “sociolinguistics considerations”; research Tip: Use an online thesaurus (e.g. Roget‟s online thesaurus at or the thesaurus in Word to come up with a range of synonyms. There are also excellent online dictionaries in the reference section of the library‟s e-resources gateway: MetaLib. Look for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Online in the Linguistics section:


Consider using truncation or wildcard symbols to increase the number of matching terms when using the search function of an electronic information resource:  The truncation symbol (often * or $) to search for variant endings of a word stem: e.g. soci* matches society, social, sociology etc.  The wildcard symbol (often ?) to replace any single letter: e.g. organi?ation finds organisation or organization.


Combine your search terms using OR or AND whereby: OR finds references which contain either term, e.g. impact OR effect (This expands the search) AND finds references which contain both terms, e.g. language AND society (This narrows the search)

You can put all your search terms into one search string; however this may not always bring up a full set of results. Sometimes it is helpful to break the searches down into two or three essential keywords to begin with. Example: Question:

Discuss the use of 'social class' as a variable in sociolinguistics. Mention ways in which it has been used in sociolinguistic studies, factors to be careful of when using it, and typical findings.


“social class” OR “social group” OR background OR culture

variable AND

sociolinguistics AND

OR “language and society”

[Remember that you can search for particular phrases by putting “ ” around the phrase.] It is useful to devise a search strategy before you launch into searching the library catalogue or databases and you will find that your search strategy continues to develop throughout your research. Keep a note of new keywords and synonyms as you go along. So, now that you have identified what information you need and devised a search strategy for finding that information, it‟s time to start researching...

Information Skills for Language and Linguistic Science Section 4: Finding resources for Language and Linguistic Science The Library provides access to a range of print and electronic resources that will be key to your studies here at York. These are complemented by the range of materials freely available online through the web. Key resources: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Books Academic Journals Reference works and dictionaries Newspapers Conference proceedings and papers Theses and dissertations Websites Corpora

1. Books The library has a large collection of print and electronic books (e-books) for research and teaching in Language and Linguistic Science. Academic books will normally contain bibliographies at the back which will help you identify other references on the same topic. The relatively long publishing process means that books may not always contain the most up-to-date information, however, so you will need to complement your research with journals and web resources (see later sections). If you are doing an extended project, thesis or dissertation, you will need to identify a range of relevant books that have been published on your topic. Try searching the British Library catalogue ( or COPAC ( You may need to order some titles through the libraryâ€&#x;s Interlending service if they are not in York (see Section 2). To find books in York, you will need to use our catalogue. We have two versions of the catalogue: Classic Catalogue [] and YorSearch:

YorSearch provides an efficient way of searching for print and electronic books, journals and other publications. It is a good place to start when you have a topic to research. YorSearch searches the same books, journals, DVDs etc. as the classic catalogue but allows you to search in different ways. YorSearch also searches White Rose Research Online, a shared open-access repository containing full-text research papers from for the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York, as well as online PhD theses. Please note that to access an e-book you will need your university login details. To access YorSearch, click on the link from the main library homepage (in the Quick Links section) or alternatively navigate directly to YorSearch at: Use the search box at the top of the screen to input a specific book title or author, or your subject keywords (e.g. sociolinguistics and gender):

Refine your search by e.g. subject or year of publication.

Click on the hyperlink for each title to see the full item record. It is particularly important to make a note of the subject headings listed. These headings describe what the book is about and allow you to find other books on the same topic by clicking on the hyperlink:

The subject headings for this book are: Language and Languages – Sex differences Conversation Sociolinguistics Social interaction If a book is on loan and you wish to make a request, you will be taken into the main Classic Catalogue which is still available for those who prefer to use it for searching instead: For further help with searching the library catalogue, try the online tutorial available on the main library homepage or on Yorkshare, the Universityâ€&#x;s Virtual Learning Environment. 2. Academic


The library subscribes to a number of academic and practitioner journals for Language and Linguistic Science. Our policy now is to buy electronic journals where possible although we do still maintain a small print collection which is housed in the Compact Store rooms on the ground floor of the library. The advantage of using journals is that they provide current, up-to-date research findings.

All our print and electronic journal titles are listed on YorSearch or the library catalogue. Search for journal titles in the same way that you would search for a book using the Books and more tab:

[Note that there is a separate tab „Articles and more‟ for finding journal articles on specific topics. This function is still under development and will be rolled out in due course. In the meantime, to find journal articles on a specific topic, follow the instructions further down in this section.] Once you have identified a journal title that you are interested in, click on the hyperlink of the title. This will take you to a screen with details of the library‟s print holdings and a Find It link to navigate through to the full-text journal online, if available. The library uses a system called SFX to organise its online journals. Electronic access may be offered by more than one host service (e.g. SwetsWise or Ingenta). Different host services provide access to a different range of years so you will need to look out for this.

Click on Go to access the full-text journal online.

There is a separate listing of all our electronic journals from the main library homepage (Find e-journal) or directly at: In order to find journal articles on a particular topic, you will need to search one of the library databases which are available via the MetaLib gateway:

The databases on MetaLib allow you to put in your search terms and retrieve articles from a range of journals. MetaLib is organised by subject and there is a specific section for Linguistics listing all relevant databases. Please note that there may be databases in other subject areas such as English, Law, Medicine and Psychology which may be worth exploring as well. There are various relevant journal databases for Language and Linguistic Science including:  JSTOR: an online archive of selected full-text humanities journals (not including the last five years)  AMED (Allied and Complementary Medicine): useful for those studying Clinical Linguistics;  British Education Index and ERIC: two databases that index resources relating to language education;

 CINAHL: indexes journals in the area of nursing and allied health. Useful for those studying Clinical Linguistics;  Criminal Justice Abstracts: useful for those studying forensic linguistics;  MLA International Bibliography: includes bibliographic records pertaining to literature, language, linguistics, and folklore;  Web of Science: a large multi-disciplinary database of articles covering a range of subjects. The KEY database for journal articles in Language and Linguistic Science is:  Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA) – a major source of information for language, linguistics and related topics, accessible via the ProQuest platform. The database indexes books, book reviews and over 1,250 journals in these fields from 1973 onwards. There are separate ProQuest help guides available on the VLE and the library subject pages for Language and Linguistic Science. These quick tips may also be useful:  To access the LLBA, go to the Linguistics section on MetaLib and click on the link for the database. You will need to select the LLBA again from the list of ProQuest databases on the initial screen. Once you are in the LLBA, make sure that you use the Advanced search screen as this will allow you to focus your search and combine different keywords.

 When you have found an article that looks useful, make a note of the subject headings assigned to that article. These headings will help you find articles in the database on the same topic, and are often active links so you can click on them to retrieve a set of results or add them to your search strategy. Click on the Find It box to access the full-text article where available. Another place to look for journal articles on a particular topic is:

You can use Google Scholar ( to search specifically for academic-type material such as journal articles, peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports. Google Scholar will retrieve information from a range of sources including: academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities. When you use a campus-networked PC, Google Scholar will automatically link to the University of York library catalogue so that you can check library holdings. Where the library has a subscription to the full-text electronic version of a journal article, a link will take you directly to that article. If you are using a PC off campus, it is possible to set your preferences within Google Scholar so that you can still see these links. To do this:  Go to Scholar Preferences (link from the cog on the top right-hand corner of the main Google Scholar homepage);  Type University of York in the „Library links‟ section and tick the box to select it;  Click on Save Preferences. TIP: Use the Advanced search screen on Google Scholar to focus your search with specific dates, authors, keywords etc.

3. Reference works and dictionaries Before you start any searching, it is important to make sure that you understand any linguistic-specific terminology e.g. what an “ING-variable” is. If you want to do a quick search for a linguistics definition, you can use the define: feature on Google although be aware that this search will generate lots of hits and not all of them will be authoritative:

For more scholarly resources, try using the following MetaLib resources which are all accessible via the Linguistics section on MetaLib:  Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Online – allows you to search on words, definitions, etymology and quotations. The timeline illustrates the development of the usage and meanings of words over time.  Oxford Language Dictionaries Online – access to French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish and Chinese dictionaries.  Oxford Reference Online: Premium Collection – a fully-indexed and cross-searchable database of over 100 dictionaries, companions, language reference and subject reference works published by Oxford University Press. Includes the Oxford Dictionary of Grammar and the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics. 4. Newspapers Newspapers provide current opinion and debate and can be an interesting way of examining how language is used in contemporary society. Remember that articles are written by journalists rather than educationalists so you need to be aware of potential bias and lack of objectivity. Many major newspapers have websites although they do not generally provide free access to past editions. York students have access to full-text newspaper articles via Nexis UK, a major full-text database of British and International newspapers. To access Nexis UK, go to the Newspapers section of MetaLib.

5. Conference proceedings and papers These are an important way of finding current research on your topic, as well as identifying who the major academics and researchers are in your field. To find conference papers, try searching Zetoc: ( For Language-specific conferences, try the Language Conferences Worldwide website: ( Alternatively look directly on the websites of major research organisations and bodies e.g. the British Association for Applied Linguistics: (

Another useful site for information about forthcoming conferences is: 6. Theses and dissertations The library holds all the University‟s PhD and M.Phil theses. All PhD students are now required to submit their thesis electronically and these are loaded into the online White Rose Repository (fully searchable through YorSearch). Masters theses for the previous six years are also retained for certain subjects. The library is currently trialling a project to digitise all theses. Further information is available at: These pages also provide direct links to:  EThOS which is a service provided by the British Library to digitise and make available UK PhD theses in PDF format;  Index to Theses (British and Irish) with abstracts;  Other theses databases available via MetaLib.

7. Websites The amount of information on the Internet is already huge and growing rapidly all the time. Search engines such as Google can be helpful in some instances but have limitations for scholarly research. You will need to plan your searches carefully and precisely to avoid obtaining too many results. Use professional and organisational websites, for example: British Association for Applied Linguistics ( Also use the links on the library subject webpages for Language and Linguistic Science: These links include a number of sites recommended by staff and students in the department including sites for individual modern languages (French, German and Spanish) and others of general interest to all linguistics students e.g. Google ngrams (for analysing usage of words over time): There is also an excellent online tutorial to searching the Internet for Linguistics (donâ€&#x;t be put off by the long URL!):

Make sure you read Section 5 to understand how to evaluate websites properly for academic purposes.

8. Corpora The Department of Language & Linguistic Science is currently working with the library to develop a set of webpages directing students to online corpora – watch this space. In the meantime, the library has purchased a number of corpora over the years from the Linguistic Data Consortium ( which you are welcome to look at. Please contact the Liaison Librarian directly for login details. Otherwise there are a number of free websites for corpora which may be of use including: British National Corpus: Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) from 1990-: Corpus of Historical American English (COHA) from 1810-: Please see the subject pages on the library website for more websites for corpora.

Information Skills for Language and Linguistic Science Section 5: Evaluating Information Critical thinking is an important part of the research process. You need to be able to critically evaluate the information resources that you find before you decide to use them to support your academic work. Richardson and McBryde-Wilding (2009, p.46)4 state that: “All of your course-related information gathering should be guided by critical reading (or listening) as well as by critical thinking, rather than unquestioning acceptance of what you are told... If you are to identify bias and distinguish between fact and opinion you must be critical, that is, you must make judgements about the reliability of your information sources.� With so many resources available to you, both print and electronic, it is essential to develop a list of criteria that will enable you to evaluate and compare different sources of information. This list should be structured and meaningful but flexible enough to cover a range of different types of resources. Academic books and scholarly articles have generally been through a rigorous peer-reviewed evaluative process before they are published, so a lot of the initial evaluation has been done for you, but it is still important to examine whether these sources are suitable for your specific research purposes. Cornell University has an excellent webpage for critically analysing information sources:


Richardson, L., & McBryde-Wilding, H. (2009). Information skills for education students. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Cornell Universityâ€&#x;s criterion for evaluating books includes: 1. Author: who is the author and what are their credentials? 2. Date of publication: when was the resource published and is it out-of-date for your own research needs? 3. Edition or revision: is it a first-edition or has it subsequently been revised by the author? 4. Publisher: if it is a university publisher, then the work will likely be of academic standard. 5. Title of journal: is the journal scholarly or professional? 6. Audience: who is the intended audience of this work? 7. Objective reasoning: is the information covered fact, opinion or propaganda? 8. Coverage: you need to make sure that you read widely so that you have a variety of viewpoints on a particular topic. Evaluating webpages Given the scale of the Internet and the fact that nearly any search on a search engine such as Google generates thousands, if not millions, of hits, it is very important to carefully evaluate websites before you use them in your scholarly research. Task: Test the following criteria against a specific website that you use regularly: 1. Accuracy: can you rely on the information provided on the website? 2. Authority: who has written the webpages and do they have the necessary knowledge or qualifications to do so? 3. Currency: are the pages up-to-date and regularly maintained? 4. Objectivity: Is there any inherent bias in the pages that you need to be aware of? 5. Coverage: Does the website provide enough

information or will you need to look at a range of websites? The Internet Detective is an excellent, free online tutorial which teaches you how to evaluate web resources and manage your online research: (

If you have any doubts about whether or not to use a particular resource, ask your academic tutor or academic liaison librarian. Once you have selected and evaluated a set of resources, you can then start to compare the resources in terms of key themes, ideas and arguments. This will help inform your own thoughts and conclusions and will demonstrate how well you have reviewed and understood the literature.

Information Skills for Language and Linguistic Science Section 6: Keeping up-to-date with information The library provides some general guidance on keeping up-to-date with information: You can keep yourself up-to-date with specific news and developments in Linguistics in the following ways: 1. Newspapers The library subscribes to a range of newspapers in both print and electronic format. Many newspapers, such as the TES or the Guardian, also provide a lot of free content online via their webpages so it is worth getting in the habit of bookmarking these sites and then checking them regularly. 2. Journal Table of Contents: alerting services There are a number of alerting services which send you details of newlypublished journal articles in your area of study or research. An example of this is Zetoc, the British Libraryâ€&#x;s alerting service which provides access to around 20,000 current journals and approximately 16,000 conference proceedings published every year. The database covers 1993 to the present day and is updated on a daily basis. Using your York single sign-on you can set up an account and start receiving alerts to your email account or RSS reader.

To access Zetoc, go directly to the website ( or consult the libraryâ€&#x;s online guide to Zetoc: ct/current-awareness.pdf

ticTOCs also deliver Table of Contents alerts by RSS feed. It is limited to publishers who supply RSS feeds but still has over 14,000 journal titles available. You can use the service as a one-off or register for free to keep receiving alerts from your own specified list of journals:

3. Saving and running database searches Many bibliographic databases allow you to save a search. The database then automatically runs the search on your behalf at periodic intervals (e.g. fortnightly) and sends you an email when new articles matching your search parameters are added. Procedures for setting up these search alerts vary in different databases but in general, after you have run your search, look out for boxes such as “Create Alert�. Database help pages will give you more information, or speak to your Academic Liaison Librarian for guidance on specific resources. In the Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database, you will need to set up a My Research account in order to set up alerts:

4. Citation alerts from the Web of Science Using MIMAS Web of Science (, you can set up an e-mail alert when articles you select are cited. You can also use this feature to keep a list of your favourite articles. Look at the library‟s keepingup-to-date guide for details. 5. Mailing lists Mailing lists can be an excellent way of sharing ideas and information with others working in your research area, as well as finding out about relevant conferences and other events.

JISCMail ( hosts a large number of academic groups specifically related to Language and Linguistic Science, for example the CorpusCALL mailing list for discussing “issues relating to the use of corpus resources, tools and methodologies in CALL.” You will need to sign up to the site and to individual groups. 6. Blogs and Twitter There are a number of language and linguistics-specific blogs, as well as Twitter groups, which may be helpful to join if you are researching a particular field of education. To find relevant blogs, you can use dedicated search engines like Google blog search ( or go via specific websites such as the Academic Blog Portal: ( 7. Research Outputs: pre-publication Remember to look out for conferences in your research field (see Section 4 for details of how to locate conference papers and proceedings). You may also find some journal pre-prints in the White Rose Research Online repository: (

Information Skills for Language and Linguistic Science Useful Links and Contact Details Finally, here are all the main useful links in one place: The Library website: YorSearch, the Library catalogue: MetaLib Gateway, for finding online resources: Subject pages for Language & Linguistic Science: My email address: Please feel free to email me if you have any general questions about the library or subject-specific questions about finding information resources for your study and research. Iâ€&#x;m based in the Academic Liaison Office on the first-floor of the Harry Fairhurst Building and am happy to arrange a one-to-one appointment with you for specific subject support. Enjoy your studies!

Finding what you need in the library and online  

A guide for Language & Linguistic Science

Finding what you need in the library and online  

A guide for Language & Linguistic Science