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EGIS (Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society)

Which resources to use?

The types of information sources you use to find facts, figures and data, will differ from those that provide an overview/introduction to a topic, which in turn will differ from those sources which provide up-to-date and in-depth focus on topic and the type of information you choose to use will change depending on the question you are trying to answer. Therefore, when literature searching, the three main things to consider are:

  • What type of information am I looking for?
  • Which resources are best suited to find that type of information?
  • Which Keywords / Search terms / Phrases / Combinations should I use?

Using a resource that has been designed to help you find the type information you require will save you time, as your results will be more relevant.

EGIS resources by resource type

Using what you know to find other useful sources

Let’s assume you have done a search and have found (or have been given on a reading list) a really useful article. How can you use this article to find other good articles? There are various different ways:

  • Keywords/controlled vocabulary
    If you are struggling to think of appropriate keywords to broaden/narrow your search, look at those used in a useful paper. A&I Databases will have better/more keywords than a publisher database.
  • Author Details/links
    Is this author an expert in the field, might they have other useful papers? Search for author name in the A&I database/s, or search for their papers in their personal/institutional website.
  • Recommended articles / ‘Other users also viewed’
    Articles which share some of the same references
  • Journal Details
    Is this quite a specialised journal, might it publish papers on the same topic? Search within that journal with your selected keywords/ set up table of contents alerts to be notified of new articles.
  • Cited reference searching (see below)

For further help with this, or with any aspect of Literature Searching, please contact your:

Cited Reference Searching

It is possible to search in the following resources for a specific article title and then see who has subsequently cited that paper:

  • WoS = Times Cited
  • Scopus = Cited By

This is necessarily looking forward i.e. how has this area of research developed/who has subsequently cited this paper in their research.

Using keywords

Keywords are important! The words you use will determine how successful your search results are. Think about what you know already and what you need to find out about. For example, let’s assume you have a topic title e.g. "Energy Efficient Housing". How well do you know this topic? If this is an entirely new topic to you, the first stage will be general background reading (not journal articles). Having a better understanding of the topic, will give you a better idea of the vocabulary/keywords used, the sorts of questions you might want your dissertation/essay to answer and the sub-topic/chapters that you will research.

The reason you would want to ask yourself questions is that although "Energy Efficient Housing" is a good starting point, when it comes to looking for research conducted in this area, you may want to be both broader...and more specific e.g.: To have a broad overview of this topic, you might want to look at:

  • Energy Efficient/efficiency, but maybe also:
    • Carbon neutral
    • Eco-house/eco-home
    • Passive house/haus
    • ​Green (not “greenhouse”)
    • Low energy / energy reduction / energy consumption
    • Zero energy (zeb)
    • Sustainable


  • Housing/houses, but maybe also:
    • Home/s
    • Building/s
    • Design
    • Architecture/architectural
    • Construction

Thinking about more specific areas of interest, you might want to look at:

  • Specific type of construction? (Larsen Truss Construction, Stick Frame Construction, Straw bale construction, Prefabricated homes (frame and insulation combined), Log Walls, Dome homes, Double wall construction, Super insulation, SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels), Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) / Rastra, Papercrete)
  • Insulation (heat retention/energy loss/ventilation/air tightness/thermal performance)
  • Windows (size, orientation, technology)
  • Roof
  • Utilities - heating/electricity, sanitation (solar, heat pump, rain water tank, wood heating, heat exchanger, geothermal...)
  • Landscape/house orientation?
  • Household appliances, lighting etc? 

Therefore, sometimes you have to use broad concepts/keywords (to get a better understanding of a topic) and narrow concepts/keywords when you want to pinpoint more specific research/developments.

Remember also, think about synonymous and related terms as well as alternate spellings and root words etc (e.g. "load" is the root of "loads" and "loading").

The likelihood is that each sub-topic/chapter/area will have different keywords that you will use to find the information you want i.e. you will never find all the information you want with one search for 'Energy Efficient Housing', rather it is likely that you will do several different searches specific for each chapter/area of interest.

EGIS Skills Hub classes and materials

Note: these run in addition to timetabled classes within the School.  Check your own timetable to see if there is a class arranged specifically for your courseAlso check Canvas for learning materials, or get in touch for course specific materials.

Literature Review Cycle / Related topics

Street, B. (2014) 'Seven steps to producing a literature review', University of Sheffield Library, 18 December 2014. Available at:


Literature searching is only part of the cycle of producing a literature review.  It is closely tied together with, strategic reading, critical thinking, citing and referencing/managing your references and academic writing.  Therefore, attending relevant Skills Hub workshops, would also be useful:

Systematic reviews

There are various types of literature reviews that range from a scoping review (to get an initial overview of the topic) to a systematic literature review (which has to be both rigorous in it's approach and replicable).  For help with systematic reviews see:


Social Sciences and Environment