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Research Online Course

This site aims to provide you with tips, strategies and tools which make it easier for you to find reliable literature and specialist information for your academic work. In addition to our own course materials, here you will find useful external links concerning the research process.


Well-founded research consists of four stages: preparation of the search, the research itself, evaluation of the sources found and citation of the relevant information. The research and evaluation stages interact: depending on the relevance of the literature found, you can modify and adapt your search.

The “Action Plan for Literature Research” from the Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg explains the stages of the research process:

This brochure from the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics contains valuable information on writing an academic paper for students from all disciplines and guides you through finding a topic, searching, evaluating literature, writing and correct citation.

Preparing your research

Regardless of whether you are searching in the library catalogue, a subject-specific database or a search engine: the key to finding relevant literature is the search terms that you use.

You can prepare your search by breaking down your topic or research question into different aspects, which can then be used as your main search terms. For each of these, collect additional words or phrases in order to find as many relevant results in the databases as possible. Use a topic table to help you, and think of both broader and more specific terms, synonyms and various spellings (for example British and American English).

Here you can find an example topic table, which has already been filled out for you.

The video “Search for scientific information” from the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics) shows how you can use a topic table to support your research:

Further resources:

Tip: The Learning Centre has a wide range of books on working academically. Look in our library catalogue!

Search Strategies

There are many research tricks that can be used in most catalogues and databases as well as in search engines. You can combine the search terms that you collected in the preparation stage using the following tricks to find more or less results as well as more relevant sources:

Phrase search: “ … ” searches for phrases exactly as they are typed in the quotation marks, rather than the words individually. For example, “self-driving vehicle” searches only for this phrase instead of searching separately for “self-driving” and “vehicle”.

Truncation: a place holder (e.g. *, #, !) is used to replace as a number of characters following a word root. For example, comput* searches for compute, computer, computing, computers etc.

Boolean operators: your search terms can be combined using AND, OR or NOT (also UND, ODER, NICHT in certain German databases).

This video from McMaster University Library explains the research tricks in more detail and shows how you can combine them to get the best results:

Tip: It is always worth looking at the “Help” function in each of the individual databases. This way, you can see which tricks work in that specific database. Some databases also offer a key word index or a thesaurus, which is particularly valuable for finding relevant literature because the keywords describe the content of the sources.

Further resources:

  • In this completed topic table you can see how your search terms can be combined using the Boolean operators.
  • The video “Searching Databases” from Yavapai College Library shows how you can use an advanced search to find more specific results.
  • This site from CQUniversity Library leads you through the steps of your literature search, including information on how to optimise your search results.
Research Tools

In the previous sections, you will have learnt how to prepare and carry out a methodical literature search. But where should you look to find high quality, subject relevant literature?

In our library catalogue, you will find books and e-books as well as the titles of journals and e-journals.

With the discovery system EDDI, you can simultaneously search our library catalogue and some of our licensed subject databases. Here you will find books, newspapers, e-books and e-journals, as well as the articles that can be found in these. For more information on using EDDI, check out our quick guide.

Individual databases allow you to search more precisely as well as enabling a subject specific approach to literature. DBIS (the database information system) lists both openly available databases and those that Reutlingen University has a license for: select a database from your subject area and use it to carry out a structured search, as described on this page. Use the  button in the result list to access the full texts online.

Please note: members of Reutlingen University can only access e-books, e-journals and licensed databases from off-campus when they are connected using VPN. Unfortunately, all other users can only access these on-campus.

E-books and excerpts from e-books and e-journals may only be printed and saved for personal use and research purposes. It is not permitted to distribute these either electronically or in printed form.

Tip: No success when searching the library catalogue? Make a purchase suggestion or request an interlibrary loan!

Evaluating your search results

Are you happy with the literature that you have found? If not, you can use your topic table to adjust your search, as well as including relevant terms from the sources that you have already found.

Tip: Don’t forget to use our research tricks! You can use them in the following way to optimise your results:

One tool to critically evaluate the quality of your search results is the “CRAAP test”, where you can use the following five criteria to evaluate the quality of the texts:

  • Currency: How current is the information?
  • Relevance: How relevant is the information for your purpose?
  • Authority: Is the source of the information reliable?
  • Accuracy: Is the information reliable, truthful and accurate?
  • Purpose: What is the information aiming to do?

The video "How to evaluate Resources" from the McMaster University Library explains the CRAAP Test in more detail.

Further resources:

  • The video “Evaluating Sources for Credibility” from NC State University Libraries explores why it is important to cite reliable sources and the most important factors to consider when doing so, as well as explaining what peer review is.
  • The playlist “Evaluating Information” from UTS Library introduces scholarly sources, explaining different types of publication, how to differentiate between them and how to evaluate them.
  • This written guide from Monash University provides definitions for evaluating your sources, important criteria and a checklist that you can use to analyse the quality of your sources
Referencing relevant information

Have you found the right sources for your paper? Now you can continue:

As a general rule, you must acknowledge any third-party content that you have used and do so in a consistent manner. You can find out why by watching “Why Citations?” from the Communication, Information, Media Centre at the Universität Konstanz.

This video from Brock University library further explains what plagiarism is and how to avoid it:

This video from NC State University provides an introduction on how to cite, as well as explaining again why you should do so.

Tip: Your faculty probably provides guidelines and tips as to which citation style you should use. Ask your supervisors about this!

Literature management programmes such as Citavi can help you cite and make it easier for you to keep track of your sources. The video “Organizing literature efficiently” from the Technische Universität Berlin explains the advantages of using such programmes.

We offer Citavi courses where you can learn the basics of how to use the software.

Further resources:

  • In this video you can find a brief overview of Citavi’s various functions. The manufacturers of Citavi provide support in a range of other formats, such as a comprehensive YouTube tutorial on using Citavi for academic research and a user manual that serves as a reference book for all of your questions. You can view the range of support services on the Citavi support site.
  •  This comprehensive online tutorial from Maastricht University covers referencing and citation styles as well as comparing reference manager programmes. Reutlingen University has a license for Citavi.
  •  The Online Writing Lab from Purdue University has online guides for each of the main citation styles, as well as pages and posters explaining the distinction between quoting, paraphrasing and summarising - and when to use these - and whether your information needs citing.
Entire Tutorials

If you would like a detailed introduction to the research process in the form of an online tutorial, we recommend the following resources:

  • The “Information Expert Passport” from the Technische Universität Berlin includes videos on a range of topics, including how to find information and how to manage it.
  • For a much deeper understanding of academic research, the “Mastering Academic Research” online course from Florida Institute of Technology is split into six “weeks” that can be accessed at any time. The course is divided into different stages and can therefore be used if you want to dip in and learn more about just a couple of areas.
  • The IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianopolis) offers a range of resources, including this visualisation of the research process, with more information about each stage in the left hand panel, and the “Library DIY” option, where you can click through the subject areas to find the most relevant information for you and your project.
  • The University of Rhode Island offers research help in two formats, providing either individual videos or interactive tutorials with activities for you to work through.
  • This guide from the University of Reading takes you through all the stages of literature research, including direct links to the questions you might be asking yourself, a citation guide and information on using the right kind of resources. Don't forget to use our library catalogue!
  • Another comprehensive tutorial from Maastricht University is "Finding Information for your Research Project". The tutorial provides the possibility to work through the stages or skip to the area that you feel least comfortable with. 
  • This tutorial from the Charles Sturt University takes you through developing a search strategy. We also recommend looking at the tabs on evaluating sources and managing your literature.

Tip: Many of the tools mentioned above offer other pages and videos that we have not explicitly referred to. If you find a particular format especially useful, we recommend browsing through the other resources provided by that institution.

Database Help

Via the Database Information System (DBIS), the Learning Centre offers members of Reutlingen Univeristy access to a wide range of academic databases. In these databases, you can conduct literature searches and retrieve factual information or entire texts. In DBIS, you will find databases which are licensed by the library and can be used when you are logged into the campus network (on site or using VPN). These databases are marked in yellow, while databases that are feely accessible on the internet are marked in green.

Click here to go directly to the subject overview in DBIS. Please note that many of the databases are German, so adjust your search terms appropriately.

Overview of our top licensed databases in alphabetical order:

Academic Search Ultimate (EBSCO)

Multidisciplinary bibliographical references and full texts, suitable for all subject areas.

This introductory video is applicable to all EBSCO products. To help you get get started, you can use this video tutorial on conducting a basic search and this video tutorial on conducting an advanced search in EBSCO databases.

EBSCO also offers ongoing german and english webinars on individual databases.

ACM Digital Library

Bibliographical references for and full texts on computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering.

Video tutorial


Bibliographical references for and full texts on law.

User guide (database and guide in German)

BISNODE Firmendatenbank (formerly Hoppenstedt)

Address and trade directory for companies in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

User guide (database and guide in German)

Business Source Complete / Business Source Ultimate (EBSCO)

Bibliographical references for and full texts on economics.

This introductory video is applicable to all EBSCO products. To help you get get started, you can use this video tutorial on conducting a basic search and this video tutorial on conducting an advanced search in EBSCO databases.

The business databases also contain special features such as a section for company data. You can find out more about searching for company information here and here.


Bibliographical references for education and pedagogy.

Video tutorial

IEEE Xplore / Electronic Library Online (IEL)

Bibliographical references for and full texts on computer science, electrical engineering, energy and environment.

User guides


Industry reports and market analyses.

User guide


Bibliographical references for medicine, chemistry and psychology.

Subject specific search using MeSH (Medical Subject Headings)

For general and further database help, see Business Source Complete and Academic Search Complete

OECD iLibrary

Economic, social and environmental data, statistics and analyses.

Video tutorial


DIN standards and VDI guidelines

User guide


Bibliographical references for chemistry and biotechnology.

Before using the database for the first time, you must register using your university e-mail address. Research in SciFinder is only possible on campus.

User guide


Multidisciplinary statistics, suitable for all subject areas.

Video tutorial

TEMA Technology and Management

Bibliographical references for mechanical engineering and construction, materials engineering, eletrical engineering, electrombolity, energy technology and medical technology, as well as industrial management and organisation.

User guide

TOGA Textile

Bibliographical references for textiles industry, technology and chemistry.

Please note: the TOGA database is part of the TEMA database, meaning that the search interfaces of the two databases correspond. Please refer to the user guide for TEMA.

VDE NormenBibliothek

DIN-VDE standards and VDE regulations.

Please note that you can read the standards online, but cannot download or print them.

Here you can find video tutorials on using the database and searching with it.

Web of Science Core Collection

Multidisciplinary bibliographical references, suitable for all subject areas.

User guide, various courses from the provider.

WGSN (Worth Global Style Network)

Textile and fashion portal.

How-To videos


Bibliographical references for and full texts on economics, sociology and psychology.

User guide (database and guide are in German)


Do you still have questions?

Service Desk

The Service Desk is the central point of contact in the Learning Centre. Here you can get information about the services of the University Library and the Computer and Media Centre.

You can contact the Service Desk in person, by telephone (07121/271-1333) or by e-mail.

Research Support

Questions about the library's services, in particular about using research tools or accessing electronic media, can be answered at the Service Desk.

If you have complex research questions, book a research consultation.

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