Using search engines

There are many different search engines you can use, and people tend to have their own preferences related to the type of searches they conduct.

Google Scholar searches databases of academic books and journals, so that almost all the results are ones that you could refer to in academic writing. However, many of the results relate to journal articles that are only available on paid subscription. Universities have subscriptions to a wider range of journals, but these are only available to their staff or students.

A google scholar search bar

There are lots of other databases where you can access academic articles and journals. For example: JSTOR, which is a digital library of books and academic journals and the Directory of Open Access Journals. You may need a subscription to access many articles or e-books in JSTOR, but DOAJ is open access.

If you are going to use a search engine like Google think about the keywords and phrases you are going to need to search with. Then think about alternatives or synonyms for those words. For example, for the essay question you are using in this course:

“Evaluate the success or failure of the World Bank in water privatisation in the global south”

you could search for:

  • “water privatisation”

  • “water privatisation” “World Bank”

  • “water privatisation” “World Bank” “global south”


….and also search for synonyms for key terms

  • advantages of water privatisation

  • water privatisation problems

  • water privatisation in Africa

  • water privatisation in Asia


Which search engine do you find useful and why?

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This article is from the free online course:

An Intermediate Guide to Writing in English for University Study

University of Reading