Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises


Library research

core definition

Library research is a broad term that refers to the use of bibliograhic resources in a library to discover what existing published material or grey literature is available on a given research topic.

explanatory context

Library research involves using bibliographic references, indices, on-line search facilities, and the expertise of the subject librarian. Although much can be done remotely, on-line, time spent in a library browsing hard copy is also time well spent, often providing leads that the on-line searches neglect.

analytical review

Under the heading 'The library research process' the University of London Research Library Services (2004) outlines a tutorial for effective library research:

The process of conducting library research can be broken down into the following five activities. These are not necessarily distinct steps which can be undertaken in a set order one after the other, the process of conducting research will vary according to the research subject.

Analyse the research subject
This part of the research process is often undertaken in conjunction with a tutor or supervisor, you will need to clarify the research subject by establishing the scope of the research and identifying keywords. This activity is discussed further in The research subject.

Identify research tools and collections to use
A range of tools are available to facilitate the research process, you need to identify which of these are relevant to your subject and when it would be appropriate to use them. Research tools and resources provides an overview of what tools are available and what they do. You may need to visit a number of different collections located in institutions such as libraries, museums and records offices during your research. Further help with this can be found in Institutions and collections and Planning library visits.

Locate and obtain resources
You can use the research tools you have identified to search for relevant resources. It may be necessary to use a range of methods to obtain physically or gain access electronically to these resources. The Using Libraries and Using Resources modules of this tutorial provide information about locating and accessing a range of resources, such as journals or web resources.

Read and evaluate
You will need to evaluate all the resources you consult during your research, whatever their format. General advice about what you should consider can be found in the Using Resources module of this tutorial. It may be necessary to consider a number of factors when evaluating resources and the criteria used can vary between the disciplines, so if in doubt consult your tutor.

Keep records
Keeping records is integral to library research and should be undertaken from the outset and throughout the process. For example, record the searches you have conducted in each of the respective databases, see Keeping records. The Referencing and Bibliography module of this tutorial provides training on recording and citing the bibliographic details of the resources used in your research

associated issues


related areas

See also

Researching the Real World Section 1.14.2


University of London Research Library Services, 2004, 'Library Research Skills Tutorial: The lIbrary research process' available at, accessed 26 January 2013, still available 22 December 2016, 'not found' 9 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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