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What is a journal?

Newspapers, magazines and books are written and published in different ways.  This affects how reliable and current their information is.  Journals are the main way that experts publish the results of their research, using a format that allows readers to check the validity of the work. 

Definition of a journal

A journal is a type of publication that is issued over a long period as part of a series. Because the publications form a series, they are usually referred to by volume or issue number, and by date. It usually contains articles by many authors and is published by a society, university, or publishing company. 

Journals vary widely in their audience and content: some are intended for the members of a society or for subscribers, some are on sale to the general public; some contain scholarly research, some news and gossip.

Journals are also sometimes described as periodicals, serial publications, and magazines. Newspapers are 'journals' but because of their size, layout, content and frequency they are often treated separately by libraries.  The rules that journalists follow when writing stories emphasise new or current information (“What do we think now?” ; “Is this new drug a miracle cure?”) rather than analysis of a wide range of past knowledge.

The main long-term value of journals lies in the main articles, but they may also contain editorial matter (contents, acknowledgements, information about the contributors), society notes (lists of members and officers, annual accounts, meeting reports), and advertisements.

How are articles written?

It is the editor's job to choose the articles to include in each issue. They usually rely on authors sending in articles likely to interest the journal's readers, rather than commissioning or inviting them. After deciding which to accept, the editor has the articles checked. This may be done by the editors themselves (editorial review) or by someone else who is an expert on the subject (peer review[1] or refereeing). The comments are then sent back to the author so that they can revise the text. The process may occur several times before the editor decides that the text is finished.  Because of this checking, finished articles should contain reliable information.

The articles are then sent to the printer, who typesets it as a page ready for printing.  In the past this involved assembling each line of text on a page letter by letter, but it now is mainly done on computer using specialist software which produces text which is more readable than pages from word processors.  Before all the copies are printed, the printer prints off a test version (known as a galley or proof[2]), which is sent to the editor and author for checking (proofreading); the author notes any printing mistakes, along with any other final changes they wish to make, and returns the proof.

The process of producing a finished printed article involves at least three different people: the editor, printer, and author. This should mean that there are few errors of fact, but there is also a lot of opportunity for minor errors of presentation. Authors who do not check the proofs carefully may appear in print saying things they would not agree with.   When such errors occur, corrections may be printed in next issue or on a small slip of paper bound into the issue (an erratum slip).

Because others have some control over what the published article includes, authors with controversial views sometimes prefer to publish pamphlets themselves. 

How are the contents of a journal organised?

Journals contain four main types of material:

  • Articles, with a title and named author, usually self-contained
  • Reviews, letters and other shorter contributions
  • Editor’s notes, introduction, society notices, often unsigned
  • Additional material: covers, title page, and contents page

They may also contain advertisements, lists of books received, financial statements, and lists of subscribers.  Often the additional material has no page numbers, or is numbered in Roman numerals.  For ease of binding, large-format illustrations and photographs are sometimes inserted into the journal some distance from the article they relate to.

In the 19th century, there was a tradition that the authors of reviews and other short articles should be unnamed, or identified by initials or a nickname only.

Scholarly articles will cite their sources, either in the text, in footnotes, or at the end of the article.  These references allow readers to go back to the source to confirm that the article’s interpretation is correct. 

How reliable is the information?

There is no simple test to decide whether a piece of text is reliable, but readers should use a combination of internal and external evidence when evaluating a source.

Internal evidence includes:

Authorship                    Is the author well-known or -qualified? Are they affiliated to an respected institution?

Structure                      Is the article set out in a clear and organised way?

Sources                        Are the sources listed? Do they include the main works on a topic? Do they include recently-published work?

Acknowledgements      Does the author mention other experts they have consulted?


External evidence includes:

Journal title                   Is the publication respected as an important source with high editorial values?

Citations                       Is this article referred to by other authors?


Unfortunately, even after applying these tests, the information may still be unreliable.  It may have been thought true at the time, but has since been shown to be false (see, for example, the miasmatic theory of disease).  In general, articles by establishment figures will promote orthodox views.  It is common to give too much respect to prominent authors whose views on any particular topic may have been ill-informed or incorrect (this is the logical fallacy called the ‘argument from authority’: “it must be true because somebody important says so”).

The best test for reliability is to become a critical reader.  This does not mean disagreeing with the author: it means carefully reading the article, checking the sources where possible, and trying to think of alternative explanations.  This is particularly important if a topic is controversial, where there will often be authors on both sides of a debate, and the reader must judge for themselves which is correct.


Further reading

[1] ‘Peer’ means ‘person of equal status’ so that a biologist’s article will be reviewed by other biologists.

[2] ‘Proof’ here meaning ‘test’ rather than ‘evidence’, as in the phrase ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating.’



Journal publishing in Wales

Welsh culture has a strong tradition of periodical publication, despite perpetual problems with circulation and advertising.  The periodicals reflect the interests, views and personalities of their editors and contributors, and it is possible to see contemporary debates and attitudes reflected in their pages.  


General interest and popular titles

The longest-running publication in Wales intended for the general reader is Y Traethodydd [the essayist], started in 1845 to provide the Welsh-language audience with information about current affairs, literature, philosophy, science and technology.  It is published by the Presbyterian Church of Wales.  Cymru [Wales], in contrast, was published by Owen M. Edwards between 1891 and 1927 as an explicitly non-denominational journal, aiming to develop a unified Welsh culture that transcended narrow partisan interests.  Y Llenor [the reader] was started in 1922 by the Welsh societies of the University of Wales for its members (students and graduates).  Y Ford Gron [the round table] was a bi-monthly popular magazine published in the 1930s, featuring fashion, travel, fiction, and news sections.

Gower is the only English-language general title included; published by the Gower Society, it includes articles on nature, geology, history and the landscape, aimed at a non-specialist audience.


History, geography and archaeology

Most historical and archaeological writing in Wales to this day is published under the auspices of national and local societies, for the benefit primarily of their members; academic publication is a relative newcomer.

The first journal to appear was that of the Honourable Society of the Cymmrodorion (set up by Welshmen studying or working in London), covering Welsh history, mythology and language; after a fitful first attempt at publication between 1822 and 1843, Y Cymmrodor became an annual publication from 1877.  In 1892 it was supplemented by the Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, which became the principal publication in the 1930s, when Y Cymmrodor concentrated on publishing editions of important manuscripts (ceasing completely in 1950). 

The Cambrian Archaeological Association was founded in 1846 as an antiquarian society covering all of Wales, publishing the journal Archaeologia Cambrensis.  In its early years, the journal mixed erudite archaeological and linguistic articles with more fanciful and conjectural content, but throughout the 20th century it has published authoritative excavation reports. 

Alongside the national societies, the publications of county historical and antiquarian societies cover much of Wales, including  Montgomeryshire Collections (the oldest, starting in 1868), Brycheiniog and Radnorshire Society Transactions [Powys], Flintshire Historical Society Transactions [Flintshire], Morgannwg [Swansea-Cardiff], Transactions of Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society and Ceredigion [Ceredigion], The Pembrokeshire Historian and Journal of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society [Pembrokeshire], Minerva [Swansea], Presenting Monmouthshire and Gwent Local History [Monmouthshire].  These usually contain articles based on lectures to the society and the results of local history research, and sometimes include reports on archaeological work in the area.


Academic titles covering the subject arose from the need to publish research by the University of Wales staff: the first was Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, which covered linguistics, law and archaeology; Studia Celtica was later started to focus entirely on linguistics, but in 1993 took other topics over from the Bulletin.  The Welsh History Review was started in 1959 and is the principal journal for the field.  These journals are aimed at the specialist reader.


The South Wales Record Society publications include transcripts of important historical sources, accompanied by an introduction, footnotes and indexes.  The National Library of Wales Journal, published since 1939, includes articles on historical topics relating to material by the Library.

Llafur  is an academic journal on Welsh labour history, published by an independent society.  Cambria, published between 1974 and 1989, was an academic geographical journal. 

Numerous titles covering ecclesiastical history are covered by the Religion category.


Law, politics and education

Politics is covered by two titles here. Welsh Outlook was published from 1914 to 1933 and was influential in political debate in Wales at the time, covering social and economic issues, government and administration, and cultural matters.  Contemporary Wales is an academic journal covering politics and public policy.

The Cambrian law review, published since 1970, is an academic journal with articles on general legal topics, international law and recent legislation.

Lleufer was published by the Welsh branch of the Workers’ Educational Association and covered a wide range of current affairs and the arts.

Literature and the arts

There have been a series of literary journals in Wales which owed their existence to the enthusiasm of their editors and contributors, exerting an influence over the nation’s culture out of proportion to their readership and commercial success.  In English language literature these include several titles still being published: New Welsh Review, Poetry Wales, and Planet: the Welsh Internationalist (for licensing reasons, these are not included in Welsh Journals Online)  .  The journal Wales, edited by Keidrych Rhys, published in the 1940s and 1950s, brought together many of the Welsh writers then becoming established.  Welsh-language literary magazines from the 1930s to 1950s include Tir Newydd,  Heddiw, Y Fflam, and   Yr Arloeswr; current Welsh poetry appears in Barddas.

The history of the arts in Wales is covered by Bwletin Cymdeithas Emynau Cymru and Welsh music history, and titles such as Canu Gwerin not included in Welsh Journals Online.  The history of literature and the publishing industry is described in the Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society and Welsh book studies.

Religion and philosophy

Religious denominations in Wales have always been keenly interested in their history, reflected in the establishment of Bathafarn: the journal of the Historical Society of the Methodist Church in Wales, and Cofiadur : sef cylchgrawn Cymdeithas Hanes Annibynwyr Cymru; Cristion is an exception as a contemporary inter-denominational publication.   The academic study of religious history is covered by the  Journal of Welsh ecclesiastical history and its successor, Journal of Welsh religious history and Welsh philosophy by Efrydiau Athronyddol.

Science and engineering

The majority of scientific research in Wales has been published in UK-wide or international journals.  Exceptions are the Welsh-language medicine journal Cennad and the general science publication Y Gwyddonydd.  For engineering and technology, particularly for mining and railways, Proceedings of the South Wales Institute of Engineers published contemporary reports on techniques and projects.

Cardiff Naturalists Society was established in the 1860s for those interested in natural history and the environment, although its Reports and Transactions also included geology, archaeology and photography.   Nature in Wales was intended for a more general readership.


Although these journals appear very similar in layout, their contents reflect the interests of the publishers and the audience for whom they were intended.  This affects the subjects covered by the articles and the type of advertisements.  Taken together, the journals provide an insight into the nature of 20th century Welsh culture.

References and bibliographies

Providing references to sources is an important part of preparing a report. This activity explains why references are needed and discusses different styles for displaying them in the text.


Why are references needed?

When you are writing a report, essay or article, the text will appear under your name as the author. Readers will assume that anything included is your idea, expressed in your words, unless you tell them otherwise.  If you derived them from a source, you must say so: otherwise you would be taking credit for another’s work. 

Although it is possible to include a simple list of sources consulted at the end of your report, it is better to link individual statements to their source (especially for direct quotations).  The reader can then go back to the source to check that you have understood it correctly, or to find out more about a topic.  This is especially important in scientific and academic writing, where your new information or analysis relies on the results of previous studies.

Referencing is an essential part of the writing process, and doing it well is an important skill.  Readers will often look at your references and the way you have set them out when they are deciding whether to trust your statements.

What is a bibliography?

Your list of sources can be called your references, bibliography, or citations.  There are two parts: the information about the source, provided in a standardised way to allow it to be identified easily, and a pointer to the specific page you are referring to.  There are many different sets of rules about how these should be arranged: the two main families are in-text or parenthetical referencing (eg Harvard) and footnotes.




Smith (1989, 35) has a poor understanding of strategy: she calls Napoleon's decision to march on Moscow "a brilliant stroke".


Smith, P., 1989. 1812: year of destiny. Journal of Warfare, 24 (1989), pp. 34-37


Smith[1] has a poor understanding of strategy: she calls Napoleon's decision to march on Moscow "a brilliant stroke".


The punctuation to be used in the references is very strictly defined.  Typically, these will include:

  • Use italics[2] for titles of books, journals, theses, newspapers, music albums. The general rule is that only one part of a reference should be in italics.
  • Use bold for part numbers and issue numbers for journals; give the issue date in brackets.
  • Use capitals for the start of names and the start of titles.
  • Use normal text for titles of articles, poems, and songs.
  • Use commas and full stops in the author name and the rest of the entry as required by the rules.
  • Use underlining for web addresses.
  • List the sources in alphabetical order by author’s surname

In addition, you will need to provide information about the source:

  • For books, the name of the publisher and place of publication
  • For articles, the doi (Digital Object Identifier) (if any)
  • For websites, the url and the date you accessed the site



Exercise 1

Using the rules above, work out the type of source for the following examples, and note the error or omission in each of the references.

  1. Aristophanes, G, 1966, Strategy and tactics in the Napoleonic era Journal of  World History XXII, pp. 12-25.
  2. Brown, John, 1990 "10 military mistakes", Journal of Warfare 25 (1990), 1-12.
  3. Marx, G. 1966 "War And Armaments In The Imagery Of The Tragedies", Shakespeare Studies from Stratford, 12.1 (1966), p. 23-99.
  4. Marx, H. 1980 Shakespeare's texts (London)
  5. Voltaire, F, 1954 Napoleon: L'homme, le general, le president. (Nouveau Livres)
  6. Napoleon the leader,



























Advantages and disadvantages of Harvard and footnote referencing

Harvard referencing brings all the books together as a single list at the end, making it easy for the reader to go through a library catalogue and find the relevant sources.  It is easy to use. The main disadvantage is that the inclusion of author names in the text can be confusing to read, especially if there are numerous references.


Some believers in the Napoleon Myth try to pass off this doomed venture as a brilliant stroke. (Aristophanes, 1966, 12; Brown, 1990, 10).  But to do so they must ignore the views of contemporary witnesses (Voltaire 1954, pp. 120-127). 

Footnote referencing allows readers to follow the text without distraction unless they want to follow up a source; it is more expensive and cumbersome to prepare text and can involve a lot of repetition if the same source is used often.

The important point is that the reference system will usually be set by the publisher or body setting the assignment, and you should follow their choice.

Abbreviations and Latin phrases

The standards of modern academic practice are rooted in the Renaissance, when Latin was the preferred language for recording knowledge, since it was understood by scholars throughout the Western world.  Certain Latin phrases (and shortened forms of them) are still used in references, especially when using footnotes.  Because they are in another language, they should be shown in italics.

Ibid. (ibidem = 'in the same place') the same work as that cited in the previous note (a reference to a different page in the same work)

Id. (idem = 'the same') the same reference as the previous note (the same page)

Op. cit. (opere citato = 'in the work cited') the work previously cited in an earlier note

cf. (confer = 'compare, consult') see further information or discussion

contra (= 'against') the author disagrees with this source

pace (='at peace') the author notes the source's argument but disagrees with it


Exercise 2

The following text is based on the sources listed.  How would you write the references for a footnote for each sentence?



1          Miasma was considered to be a poisonous mist filled with particles from decomposed matter (miasmata) that caused illnesses. 

2          It was identifiable by its foul smell. 

3          A prominent supporter of the miasmatic theory was Abaris the Hyperborean, who cleaned Sparta to protect it from miasmata.

4          The miasmatic theory of disease was replaced by the germ theory in the 1850s.

5          The name of the disease malaria means ‘bad air’, because that was how it was believed to be caused.


Sentence 1            John Jones, A history of disease, p. 12.

Sentence 2            John Jones, A history of disease, p. 25.

Sentence 3       Erica Boggs, ‘Greek pioneers of medicine’, Hellenic Studies 23 (1990), pp. 23-45, p. 31.

Sentence 4            John Jones, A history of disease, p. 24.

Sentence 5            John Jones, A history of disease, p. 24.

















Further reading


Citing References


Answers to Exercise 1






Journal title should be in italics, not article title



Issue number should be bold not italics



Capitals used for all words in article title



No publisher stated



Place of publication not stated



Date accessed not stated


Aristophanes, G, 1966, Strategy and tactics in the Napoleonic era Journal of  World History XXII, pp. 12-25.

Brown, John, 1990 "10 military mistakes", Journal of Warfare 25 (1990), 1-12.

Marx, G. 1966 "War and armaments in the imagery of the tragedies", Shakespeare Studies from Stratford, 12.1 (1966), p. 23-99.

Marx, H. 1980 Shakespeare's texts (London: Blackwell)

Voltaire, F, 1954 Napoleon: L'homme, le general, le president. (Paris: Nouveau Livres)

Napoleon the leader, [accessed 26 March 2009]



Answers to Exercise 2





John Jones, A history of disease, p. 12.


Ibid., p. 25.


Erica Boggs, ‘Greek pioneers of medicine’, Hellenic Studies 23 (1990), pp. 23-45, p. 31.


Jones, op. cit. in note 1




[1] Paula Smith 1989 "1812: year of destiny", Journal of Warfare 24 (1989), 34-37

[2] You may underline text if you cannot use italics.  Do not use both.



Introduction to copyright and intellectual property rights

Copyright is a concept idea that affects many aspects of modern life, including publishing, the broadcast media, music and the internet. It will control what you can include in coursework, presentations, and reports. It is important to understand how it might affect you as a user and creator of copyright material.

What is copyright?

Copyright is the legal right of creators to benefit from their work. Anybody else who wants to copy or re-use the work may need permission from the creator, who can demand payment in return. Copyright law concentrates on commercial exploitation, and there are exceptions which can allow people to make copies for their own use. Although there are international agreements about copyright, laws in different countries vary in their details and application.

The publishing and entertainment industries rely on copyright to protect their exclusive rights, and the law has to balance the interests of creators, publishers and the public. It is a complex and controversial subject and causes many court cases.

Why is copyright protection needed?

Copyright has always been controversial, and developments in copying technology make physical copying easier (music cassettes and CDs, photocopies, digital files). In the context of the internet, people become frustrated at restrictions on what they can access, save and copy.

The justification for copyright protection is that without it, creators will be denied the benefits of their work, and will therefore be unable or unwilling to create new works. Authors and musicians rely on money from their works to allow them to be full-time artists.

Some people have argued that copyright protection is not necessary, on the basis that ideas are free, creators create because they want to, not to benefit from their works, and society would benefit from unrestricted access to them. This is reflected in file-sharing, DRM software cracking and copying of restricted access material on the web.

A less radical approach has been that of the Creative Commons movement which retains the framework of copyright but encourage creators to give up some of their rights to facilitate re-use. When publishing material on the web, information about permitted re-use is often included as logos. A parallel development is open source software and copyleft, which allows free copying and development but requires any new version to be released under the same terms.

Types of work covered

Copyright covers written works (fiction, non-fiction and poetry), artistic works (images and photographs), music, and performance works (plays and TV programmes). The works created are unique and involve an element of creativity contributed by one or more individuals. Copyright covers physical and digital material.

There are other rights covering trademarks (logos and brand names), designs, and patents (methods and inventions).

Whose copyright?

Copyright usually belongs to the creator or creators. If a work is created as part of someone’s job, the copyright will belong to the employer. There may be a bundle of rights held by different people for a single work: for example, a movie may include screenplay, music, and performance rights.

The position can become more complicated with 'derivative works', new works that include elements of other works, since there will be new rights covering the derived work alongside the rights to the works drawn upon (eg in music where samples from one song are included in a new song). Different countries treat derivative works in various ways: in the United States they belong to the original creator.

Out of copyright, orphan works, and public domain

When the period of copyright protection ends, the work is out of copyright, and can be re-used without permission. A new edition of an out-of-copyright book will be protected by its own copyright covering its layout and any new material. Orphan works are publications whose copyright holders cannot be identified. At the moment, somebody republishing an orphan work would have to pay damages if the copyright holder came forward, but the law is under review. The term 'public domain' is used in copyright terms to mean specifically out-of-copyright works, or works that have been deliberately released from copyright protection ahead of time; this is a different meaning than that used when discussing confidentiality and publication. A report may be published and available to the public but still not be ‘public domain’ in copyright terms.

How is copyright created and registered?

Copyright exists from the moment of creation. There is no need to register or mark it in a specific way to enjoy protection. It is much easier for people to respect copyright if they can find out who the holder is, and it is standard practice to include the © symbol, the creator’s name and the date of publication (eg © by Jane Bennett 2007). For some types of material, collection societies take responsibility for bringing together income from licensees and sharing it out among the copyright holders (for example, radio stations pay a standard fee per song played to an agency which passes it on to the relevant artist, record company, and songwriter).

Length of copyright

Copyright protection initially covered a specific period from first publication, but the duration of most rights are now linked to the creator’s life. In the EU, it is standard for protection to last for 70 years after the death of the creator (allowing the creator’s relatives and descendants to continue to benefit). Once the term of copyright has expired, the work is in the Public Domain and can be copied and re-used without restriction. Different rules apply to government publications and for publication formats.

Personal use

The law recognises that the restrictions it imposes are very wide-ranging and if enforced comprehensively would prevent many activities which cause no significant harm to the interests of the copyright holder. The principle of ‘fair dealing’ (or the equivalent principle of 'fair use' in United States law) allows people to make partial copies for their own personal use ('private study') without the permission of the copyright holder. There are restrictions on how much can be copied and what use can be made of the copies, the most important of which is that the purpose must be non-commercial. 'Fair dealing' also requires the copier to acknowledge the source.

In the UK, the Copyright Licensing Agency operates a sticker scheme allowing copying for commercial purposes by paying a standard fee.

Copyright and plagiarism

Plagiarism is a form of misrepresentation where someone does not credit the source of the material they quote. It may breach copyright, since it does not give 'due acknowledgement', but is, more importantly, a form of fraud or deception.

Other exceptions

There are special rules covering the inclusion of material in reviews and parodies.

Managing copyright

If you want to avoid problems with copyright, you should take some simple steps:

  • Be clear about which parts of your work are your own, and which are copied or quoted
  • Ensure that you acknowledge the source of any material you copy
  • When you make or order a copy, think about your intended use
  • Think carefully about re-using material which you obtained on the basis of fair dealing for personal use
  • If you create material, keep copies and records relating to it so that you can demonstrate your authorship
  • If there is commercial demand for your work, consider using a registration or collection agency to deal with copyright issues

Libraries and copying

It is the responsibility of the person needing the copy to consider whether they come under the rules for 'fair dealing', but people or organisations involved in creating the copy may also be liable. They may therefore impose rules on what copying is allowed.

Intellectual Property and moral rights

Intellectual Property is the term used in modern legislation to cover rights over ideas and their expression, and includes copyright, trade marks, and patents. It includes a package of rights, some of which are transferable economic rights (the right to publish a book) and some are non-transferable moral rights.

Moral rights are the right to be identified as the author of work they create, the right not to be identified as the author of work they did not create, and protection from derogatory treatment (by misrepresentation which affects their reputation). In practice, moral rights become important when there are cases of plagiarism (somebody claiming to have written text created by someone else) and misrepresentation (such as a famous author’s name being used on a work they did not create, or somebody being misquoted to mislead the reader as to their views).


The information provided here is not intended as legal advice.

Further information

Effective searching

Using search engines to find sources of information is an important skill: it is easy to waste time sifting through irrelevant results, or to fail to locate the key source that would provide your answer. This exercise explains how search engines work, and how to exploit their features to get the best information quickly.

What is a search engine?

A search engine is a tool that generates a list of pages (the search results page) containing a specified word or phrase (the search term). The best-known is Google. Although many search engines locate internet content, similar tools exist to locate computer files, database entries and text. The term 'search engine' is used for the tool; the search term is typed or pasted into a search box by the user. It is sometimes possible to limit the search to certain types of material or locations to provide better results (for example, 'images only', 'UK sites only').

How does my chosen search term affect the results?

Although search engines are being enhanced to help locate relevant material, the precise format of the search term used has an enormous effect on the number and relevance of the results found.

For example, if you were looking for information about Abernant Colliery in Wales, you could search for:

Search term Results
Wales 120,000,000 results
Wales coal 3,000,000 results
Wales coal Abernant 3,700 results
Abernant colliery 7,000 results
'Abernant colliery' 400 results

Using a broad term like Wales will list a large number of pages which contain no relevant information, and the most relevant pages may not be listed first.

Most search engines will ignore capitalisation (so Wales and wales are treated the same); they may also ignore punctuation and spaces, but may not. Most search for all words separately, so Wales coal Abernant is actually searching for pages with Wales, and/or coal, and/or Abernant.

The use of inverted commas to search for a phrase as it is typed is supported by most search engines.

In general it is best to:

  • Use specific terms rather than general ones (Abernant not coal)
  • Use 'exact match' rather than 'containing these words'
  • Search for a specific concept first and use wider terms if no hits are found
  • Avoid common words

How does a search engine work?

A search engine takes the search term and checks it against text, looking for matches. Some search engines use the internet live to look for matches; others search the pages of text harvested from internet pages previously. Live searching will find up-to-date pages, but is much slower than harvested searching. The pages containing matches are listed on the search results page; the order in which they are displayed will depend on how the engine works. The display order (or ranking) is decided by a formula (algorithm). Google's algorithm gives higher places to recent pages, pages with many links pointing to them, and pages with the search term in the title or appearing often. Search engines are usually free to use; the cost of running them is covered by selling advertisements on the search or results pages.

Boolean searches

Boolean searches are derived from a branch of algebra and logic developed by George Boole. Words are used as operators to define the relationship between two or more statements. In searching, only a few operators are needed; if they are understood by the search engine they can greatly filter and refine the search.

Search for 'fossilize' only that spelling found on the page

Search for 'fossilise' ''

Search for 'fossilise' OR 'fossilize' finding either spelling (or both)

AND will retrieve only those pages contain both terms.

NOT will retrieve pages which contain the first term and not the second:

'King of Britain' NOT 'Arthur'

will not list any pages containing Arthur.

When using Boolean searches, the operator is in capitals, and search terms are in quotation marks.

There are two other special operators:

+search term x only lists pages containing term x

-search term y only lists pages which do not contain term y

Example searches

'Kings of Britain' OR 'Kings of England'

'King' NOT 'Arthur'

'King' -arthur

'Britain' +king

How does image searching work?

Image searching does not look at the images: it searches text on the same page as the image, especially its caption, or its file description. There have been many attempts to develop automatic picture searching but none has yet succeeded.

How should I phrase my search term?

Because the search engine is looking for word matches, there is no need to phrase the search as a question. Using a few very relevant words will give results that are specific to your interest. If your first search gives too many results, add further terms to refine it. If you get no matches at all, check your spelling, and try alternative words.

What is Search Engine Optimisation?

Businesses rely on the visitors to their websites for their customers, and it is important to them that they reach as many people as possible. Most people will search for a website rather than type in a web address, even if they know it, and they will usually only look at the first few search results. Commercial websites try to make sure that they are at the top of the list of results by Search Engine Optimisation, deliberately including text and other content in the web pages to score well for relevance. There are so-called 'black hat' web designers who add misleading content to try to generate more traffic.

As a result of this activity, search results will often show commercial sites which content little useful information higher in the listing than non-commercial sites which are more helpful.


Search engines are sophisticated tools for locating information. To get the best results from them you need to use good search terms, and explore advanced techniques.

Further information

Subject guide

The material included in Welsh Journals Online covers a wide range of topics. This page includes some pointers to the key titles for each subject and the sort of content they contain. For convenience, the publications have been grouped into six headings based on the principal area they cover, although the boundaries are not always clear.

Subject groups used by Welsh Journals Online

Heading Topics included Dewey Decimal classification and LCSH equivalents
General Popular and general publications 000 Generalities
Religion Religion (including religious history); philosophy 100 Philosophy & psychology; 200 Religion; Philosophy; Religions
Law, politics and education Law, political history, education 300 Social sciences; Social sciences
Science Science, engineering and natural history 500 Natural sciences & mathematics; 600 Technology (Applied sciences); Science; Technology
Literature Literature, art, language and music 400 Language; 700 The arts; 800 Literature & rhetoric; Language and languages; Arts
History and geography Archaeology, history and geography 900 Geography & history; History; Geography

Titles by subject group


History and geography

Law, politics and education




Relevant headings for courses or subjects

WJEC/CBAC Curriculum Heading
Applied Art and Design Literature
Applied Business General
Applied ICT Science
Applied Science Science
Art Literature
Art & Design Literature
Biology Science
Business Studies Law, politics and education
Chemistry Science
Communication General
Computing Science
Design & Technology Science; Literature
Drama Literature
Economics Law, politics and education
Electronics Science
English Literature
English Language and Literature Literature
English Literature Literature
Film Studies Literature
Food Studies Science
Geography History and geography
Geology History and geography; Science
Government & Politics Law, politics and education
Graphical & Material Studies Literature; Science
Health and Social Care Science
History History and geography
Home Economics General
Human Biology Science
Humanities History and geography; Law, politics and education
Information & Communication Technology Science
Land Studies History and geography; Science
Latin History and geography
Law Law, politics and education
Leisure & Tourism History and geography
Media Studies Literature
Music Literature
Performing Arts Literature
Personal and Social Education Law, politics and education
Personal and Social Skills General
Physics Science
Psychology Science; Religion
Religious Education Religion
Religious Studies Religion
Science Science
Sociology Law, politics and education
Travel & Tourism History and geography
Welsh First Language (All Welsh titles)
Welsh for Adults (All Welsh titles)
Welsh Literature Literature
Welsh Second Language (All Welsh titles)