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Guides & Tutorial, Pao-yue Kong Library, The Polytechnic University of Hong Kong

Researchers@Library: Locate Materials

This guide serves as a one-stop shop for PolyU researchers and postgraduate students to gain easy access to information pertinent to their research and publishing needs.


1 - Preparing Your Research

 Locate Materials

  • Select Information Sources
  • Find Scholarly Materials

 Research Alerts

 Research Skills Training

 Research Funding

Know More About...

Related Library Workshops

The Library conducts many workshops on finding relevant research materials from library catalogs, library databases, or online resources. Click here to know more.

library workshop_purple

Contact Us

Research Support



In Person   Research Help Desk, 3/F, 
        Pao Yue-kong Library

Locate Materials

Which tool is most suited to find research or scholarly materials? 
Google, Google Scholar, OneSearch, or Library Databases?

Google vs. Google Scholar vs. OneSearch vs. Databases


  • Search for EVERYTHING online, both scholarly and non-scholarly
  • Usually too many results and it takes time to select

Google Scholar

  • Scholarly version of Google
  • Not all works are peer-reviewed
  • Also too many results and it takes time to select


  • One-stop platform to search for almost all library resources (library catalogue + library subscribed databases)
  • Most resources obtained in OneSearch are scholarly works
  • Resources from specific online databases (such as newspapers, images) cannot be retrieved from OneSearch. You need to go to those individual databases
  • When you conduct a search, you will eventually be directed to the library catalogue (for print materials) or a specific database (for e-resources)
  • The specificity of keywords you choose will affect the accuracy of the results returned. The more specific your keywords are in a field, the lesser number of results returned. Our advise is to play around with a few keywords and evaluate the relevancy of the results returned first. 

Library Databases

  • Subject-specific databases are specialized in materials on a particular subject, which saves your time from filtering out the contents that are not relevant to your subject (chick here to see list of databases by subject)
  • Information in these subject-specific databases has been curated by subject professionals 

Scholarly materials are published works written by experts in a particular field. They are referred as academic and usually peer-reviewed works. Reference works, books, theses/dissertations and scholarly journal articles, are common types of scholarly materials. Reference books provide more general information (definitions, facts, concepts) while scholarly journal articles focus on latest development in a specific subject area. Note that magazines (or popular journals) and newspaper articles are not scholarly materials - they are popular sources targeting the general public. You are likely to use popular sources to help you build understanding of a topic before using scholarly sources to further develop an academic argument for your research. 

Library databases contain information from published works (mostly scholarly works) and provide access to the abstracts and/or full-text of these works. Currently, the Library has subscribed to more than 500 databases. Most databases contain books and/or journals, while a few contain theses, standards, etc. Some databases are subject-specific, e.g., PubMed, IEEE, and some are multi-disciplinary, e.g., Web of Science, Scopus. To find out relevant databases in your field, access via "Databases by Subject" below or refer to your subject guide.

The selection of type of materials depends on the type of information you need. The table below lists some most commonly used scholarly sources and popular sources for serving different purposes. You may always refer to your subject guide for more recommended sources in your subject field.


Type of materials Purpose Recommended sources
► Scholarly sources    

- Reference sources

  • Handbooks
  • Encyclopedias
  • Dictionaries
  • etc.

To get an “definition” of a subject, like Wikipedia, but in scholarly format;
To answer specific questions;
To determine a fact

Print reference books are located at 3/F and G/F of the Library.

- Books

To get the whole picture or context of a subject

Option 1: OneSearch

     - search by keyword, title of book, etc.
     - narrow results to books

Option 2: Go directly to individual e-book database and search by keywords, title of book, etc.

- Theses/ Dissertations

To understand the development of a specific topic;
To find out what has been written on a topic (Literature Review chapter);
To explore other sources through citations;
Need a reference or model to start a new thesis or dissertation

Click here to see full list of Dissertations & Theses databases.

- Scholarly Journals

  • Journal articles
    (including Reviews, Articles, etc.)

To understand the current development of a very specific topic;
To find out what has been written on that specific topic (Literature Review section);
To explore other relevant research through citations

  • Reviews - Summarize the current state of the research
  • Articles - Report new findings from original research (experiments, methods, etc.)

Citation databases (where citation information are available)

Other multi-disciplinary key databases:

- Standards

To find the rules, conditions, or requirements concerning definitions of terms, procedures, or quality of performance for materials, products, systems, etc.

► Popular sources    

- Newspapers

To find current and timely information about international, national and local events;
To find editorials, expert or popular opinions

Click here to see full list of Newspapers databases.

- Magazines/ Popular Journals

To find up-to-date information about international, national and local events;
To find opinions about popular culture


Click here to see difference between popular journals and scholarly journals