Skills Earth Sciences

Research baby steps: Preparation

There are many ways to find useful literature for your own research. There are different online databases and engines, and each database/engine has its pros and cons. So firstly, you need to ask yourself two questions before you start looking:

  1. What subject(s) am I looking for? You could already write down some key words that describe the topic you are looking at. You can use these as search terms later.
  2. What kind of document do you expect to find this information in? Would this be a hard copy book or map, or only an article which you want in PDF-format? Or are you just looking for raw datasets from other research projects?

If you can answer these questions, you already have an idea of where to look for the literature. Below is a list of databases organized by document type to help you get started

  • WorldCat (Search Utrecht University Library ( is the search engine that contains all the available hard copy literature (books, journals and maps) available through the UU library. Moreover, if the UU does not possess a hard copy, WorldCat shows you the nearest university that does. You can also see different versions of the specific publication you are looking for – sometimes an online version of a book is available through the UU, WorldCat indicates this as well. As a student of the UU, you can rent literature for free from the library.
  • Books | Utrecht University (
  • Maps and atlases – Special material – LibGuides at Utrecht University (

There are several online search engines you can use to find the article you are looking for. Each engine works slightly differently, and your choice of preference should be based on the search strategy you are going to apply (see below).

  • Google Scholar
  • Scopus
  • Web of Science
  • WorldCat

Sometimes you want to use already existing data sets for your own research. There are various ways to find existing data sets on the internet, depending on what you are looking for. Some examples are listed below:

The Research Data Management Support at the UU has made a useful tutorial on how to use the different search engines to find existing datasets. For more information, see also Finding existing data | Utrecht University (