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Guide to information retrieval: Executing information retrieval

Information resources

Books and journals

Traditional resources such as books and articles published in journals have gone through an acceptance process prior to their publication, so they can be considered as trusted sources of information.

As the publication process of journals is generally quicker than that of books, scientific articles in journals often contain the most current information available in a scientific field. The bibliographies of relevant books are also a good place to look for new information resources for your research.

Reference works

Reference works (dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, registers and standards) provide factual information, including relevant terminology and concepts, and help you form a general picture of your research topic. Some reference books are multidisciplinary, whereas others are specialised in a certain field.


When starting your final thesis project, you should check whether any research has been done on your topic. Relevant theses from previous students provide a good starting point and example. However, you should not use them as the only information resource because the quality of the theses can vary.

Reports and conference publications

Research reports, report serials and conference publications by different organisations also offer information on new research.

Archive materials

The archives of different organisations maintain and arrange documents, objects and images accumulated by the mother organisation that can be used for research purposes. The National Archive Services of Finland website provides links to different archive databases.


Databases can be categorised for example as follows:

Reference databases point towards the required information, but you will still have to retrieve the information from the original document (e.g. library collection databases).

Full-text databases contain full-text versions of the required materials (e.g. electronic journals and books).

Image databases include databases managed by memory organisations (museums, archives and libraries), image banks by image agencies and open access images available on the Internet.

Factual databases contain the required information so that retrieving the original document is not necessary (e.g. statistical databases).

Databases can also combine features from the above.

Some databases are openly available to everyone on the Internet (e.g. library collection databases). Most scientific databases, however, require a usage fee and can only be accessed via the University network,  for instance via the Finna search service.

The SFX linking service available at the Aalto University Learning Centre is linked with Google Scholar, a search engine specialised in the retrieval of scientific information.

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The materials available at libraries are described and/or categorised to make their retrieval easier. In addition, library materials have gone through a publication process and been approved by e.g. a publisher or peer review.

In comparison, anyone can publish material on the Internet. Therefore it is not uncommon to find unintentional or intentional mistakes in online content, or even false information presented as facts. This means that you should be especially critical towards any information you find on the Internet. You should also keep in mind that online content is still subject to copyright laws and regulations.