Can the Great British Bake Off help your essay? You be the judge…




Do you want to make researching an essay a piece of cake? Do you knead to know how to find journal articles? Can you rise to the challenge? Are you hoping I’ll stop with the currant puns? Well, even though I’m on a roll I’ll stop and focus on helping you understand how to find useful journal articles for your essay, project, dissertation or thesis by creating a Good Search Strategy.

“What is that, and how do I do it?” I hear you cry. Fear not, Library staff are here to help you out – muffin ventured, muffin gained.

Step 1 is to make sure you are looking for articles in the right place – your Subject Guide will help with this.

Step 2 is to identify the key words (also called key concepts) in your essay title or dissertation proposal – we can help with this too in our Academic Skills hub.

Step 3 is where the Great British Bake Off plays a role (or should that be roll…). After thinking of all the alternative words for your key concepts (for example ‘self esteem’ could also be expressed as ‘self worth’) you need to connect them together using AND or OR. In library jargon we call this Boolean logic, and although it can initially seem confusing to use, it might help to think of your search as a recipe:

Use OR to combine 2 (or more) words for the same concept, for example butter OR margarine OR oil – they are all alternatives for the same thing, so you only need 1 of them in your search.

Use AND to combine all the different concepts in your title (or recipe), for example butter AND sugar AND flour AND eggs.

In Web of Science, a useful database for many subjects, you can use OR and AND to give you a search that looks like this:


Using OR will give you MORE results (because you are looking for alternative words that mean the same thing). You can then use AND to join all the different concepts together, giving you a smaller, more focused results list covering all the key concepts in your title.

(Surprisingly, the search shown above does actually find 1 journal article!)

So now you know how to create a search strategy to find relevant articles, all you need to do is read the articles*, write your assignment* and reference it correctly*.

I think it might be time for cake…

*We can help with this too!


By Nicki Clarkson with grateful thanks to Sue for the recipe analogy 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s