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CamGuides: Finding and Using Resources

There are a lot of links on this page

There are many catalogues and search engines that you can use to find and locate materials for your assignments, presentation or research. Before your course begins it is worth spending some time exploring some of these resources, and what is available to you in Cambridge.

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Critically evaluate the resources you explore or use.

Select some of the links on this page, and try out the resources. As you do, think critically about them. If something does not seem to be relevant to you, ask yourself why; if it is relevant, ask yourself how relevant it is, and for what reasons.

Consider the scope of a resource - the types of publications it includes, how comprehensive it is, the quality of the material there. Assess how easy it is to use and how effective the search facilities are.

This kind of critical approach should be present through all of your study and research, and should help you to become more familiar with any resource you use.

Where to start

How you search for information and resources in Cambridge depends on what you're looking for, and for what purpose.

You will become familiar with the University of Cambridge's main catalogue, iDiscover, which allows you to search across all the printed and electronic resources in the university - including books, journals, databases, Apollo (the University's repository) and other online content.

There's plenty of information on using iDiscover available here but you'll probably find that, if you've used a library catalogue before, it'll probably seem fairly straightforward to you.

iDiscover's pretty simple!

- MPhil Japanese Studies student, 2017-18 (2018)


Depending on the kind of information you're looking for and its format, you might also find it useful to start your searches elsewhere. For example:

  • the A-Z of online databases: this is a list of all of the online databases that we subscribe to in Cambridge. You'll see that it's really easy to limit the list by subject, or to search for a specific one.
  • the A-Z of online journals: this allows you to search specifically for journals which are available online. It's really useful in particular to identify what the coverage (i.e. which volumes) of a journal can be accessed electronically.
  • newspapers: you can find a list of the archives and current news sites to which Cambridge subscribes at this link - tip: hovering over the 'i' icon will give you additional information about its scope.
  • Janus, the archives and manuscripts catalogue: this is a brilliant resource to help you to locate archival collections in Cambridge, and it includes references to the papers of politicians, scientists, economists, and to medical and healthcare history.
  • Apollo, the research repository: this holds the research output of academics and students across the university, and includes many open access resources relating to a wide range of disciplines. There are also other sites you can use to track down theses and dissertations.
  • Other university catalogues: not all of the material available to you through the university can be located through online catalogues, and some materials relating to maps, music, and fiction can only be found on card catalogues in the University Library.


Useful and general resources, outside Cambridge

Image from Newton's Laboratory Notebook, MS Add. 3975As a graduate student, you will identify your own collection of resources, catalogues and search engines that you routinely use. Those listed above may well be part of it, but here are some other general resources which will be helpful regardless of your subject, and which may take you beyond the vast range of resources held by the University of Cambridge. 

  • Library catalogues like Library Hub Discover and WorldCat will allow you to identify materials - especially books and ebooks - that Cambridge does not have. Copac searches over 100 academic libraries across the UK and Ireland (including Oxford and the British Library) while WorldCat has an international scope.
  • The journal stores JStor and Project Muse have a huge range of articles and other materials, and are excellent places to search; similarly, Google Scholar can help you to locate and find a very broad range of resources.
  • Suncat will help you to identify where journals or serials (in print and online) are available.
  • For archives, try the National Archive and Archives Hub - both for physical and digital archives, of universities, museums, galleries, the media, medicine, industry, business, and more.
  • The English Short Title Catalogue lists almost half a million items published between 1473 and 1800, mostly in English, and mostly in the British Isles or North America.

Resources for your subject

Resources that are particularly helpful for your subject, or your research interest, will probably be the next and main section of your collection of the things you use. It might be that you're already well aware of the best databases in your subject, but there may still be more to discover.

The first place to look is your subject library and your subject library's guide of resources

Here you might find, curated by librarians with expertise in your subject, a list of recommended resources, both from within and beyond Cambridge. 


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Find, locate and evaluate some online resources relevant to your research area.

You can do this using your subject library's website or recommended resources, the Databases A-Z, or even just trying out some speculative googling of key terms related to your research interest. Think particularly about access - whether Cambridge subscribes to databases or resources you've used before. 

Remember to do this critically, to think about what you're including and excluding, and what the implications of this might be.

Image credits

Image from Newton's Laboratory Notebook, MS Add. 3975. CC-BY-SA by Cambridge Digital Library, University of Cambridge.