Library session: business programmes

What is an academic library for?

Most likely, you will come across the library when looking for:

  • textbooks

  • scholarly journal articles and market data for research

  • study space and facilities

  • help from librarians

You can use the QAHE Library: QA Higher Education.

Where to start?

The QAHE library portal page will show you the resources and services available from both Middlesex University and QAHE. This page is worth bookmarking.

Reading lists will guide you to the textbooks and articles your lecturers suggest you read to succeed. Each module has its own reading list.

A subject guide explains the business management-related electronic resources available to you from Middlesex University.


Textbooks are a particular kind of book. They are written in order to explain various broad areas of knowledge, e.g. marketing or business ethics. Normally, they discuss the main approaches and theories in a balanced manner. It is helpful to use a good textbook when studying a new subject (module). Read more about textbooks.

Not all books are textbooks. Many books advocate one point of view, often based on the research done by the author. You do not have to agree with every book you read. As you develop your own knowledge and experience, you will get better at reading critically other people’s views.

Finding books

Use the library catalogue (QAHE Library catalogue) to find books. Catalogues do not search inside books, so try to predict what helpful books may be called. For example, a topic of employee motivation is likely to be discussed in books about organisational behaviour or human resource management (HRM). Search for "organisational behaviour", "human resource management" or "HRM". Then search these books for the section discussing employee motivation. Read more about finding and accessing ebooks from QAHE.

Google Books can be helpful if you do not know what books cover your topic of interest. Google Books searches inside many printed and electronic books; however, it is usually not allowed to show their full texts. Browsing some pages may be enough for your research. It may also give you an idea of what books to search for in the library catalogues.

Academic research

Academic research is interested in bigger-picture theories that could be applied across a range of products, companies, industries or even markets.

Normally, a researcher uses experiments, observations, surveys and other established methods to develop solutions, form conclusions, propose new theories etc. Before publication, the results of this research are reviewed by other specialists in the same field of knowledge. This peer-review process adds credibility to the research.

Knowledge is constantly developing, therefore some research conclusions accepted as correct earlier may be regarded wrong at a later date after more rigorous research has been done. Or the society, economy etc. may change and what was true years ago is not correct anymore.

Scholarly (academic) publications

Examples of academic research publications are scholarly (or peer-reviewed) journals, collections of conference papers (or conference proceedings), monographs and similar. These publications exist to report the outcomes of research produced by researchers.

There are many thousands of scholarly journals. Your lecturers may also call them academic journals.

Publishers aggregate these publications into collections, which are normally called databases. You may also come across phrases like "academic databases", "university databases" and similar - these all mean the same thing: collections of research publications and other content relevant to students and researchers.

Google Scholar tips

Google Scholar only searches for scholarly publications (i.e. academic research). It does not include trade (i.e. industry) publications, market research, company information etc.

Search for transformational leadership. How many results did you get?

Now search for this phrase in quotation marks (“transformational leadership”) and search. How many results did you get? Why is there a difference in the number of results?

The phrases that you want the search to retrieve exactly as typed (e.g. “relationship marketing” or “corporate social responsibility”) can be placed in quotation marks to run a phrase search. Google Scholar will not run separate searches for each word; it will search only for the whole phrase inside the quotation marks. Most academic databases understand phrase searching too.

The [PDF] (or similar) link on the right side of the screen indicates that the article can be accessed for free. To access it, click on the link.

The Cited by link will show more recent publications that used the current article as a source and acknowledged it in the reference list. Adding the word "review" to your search may help you find publications providing a broad critical overview of the established research on a particular topic.

Market research, statistics and data

The subject of market research is the performance of specific products, companies, industries and markets (i.e. economies). There is no one tool capable of searching across the sources of market research, statistics and data simultaneously. Generic search engines like Google can find some free-to-use data; however, a lot of market research is behind a paywall. For this reason, your university subscribes to a number of databases and specialist electronic resources. Most of the time, they must be searched individually.

Please use the databases guide on how to access and search business databases.

For statistics on open access, please see this guide.

You may find it helpful to watch the following videos discussing some of the content explained above:

Contact librarians

To discuss your research and its sources, and resolve any problems related to the library, please contact the Library team.

Example 1: SWOT analysis of Tesco

  1. A textbook will explain what SWOT analysis is. See, for example, introduction to management textbooks; or search for SWOT in the library catalogue.

  2. Once you know what SWOT is about, you are ready to start looking for statistics, market data, news reporting and analytical reporting about Tesco using specialist electronic resources. These resources can be found on the list of Databases, as follows.

  3. In Business Source Complete, search for "Tesco". Limit your search to full text. Limit your publication date to the most recent articles. Specify the source type you are looking for, for example, SWOT analyses, and click on Update. The list shows all the SWOT analyses mentioning Tesco. Click on the title of the SWOT analysis or select 'PDF Full Text' to open the it: Tesco PLC SWOT Analysis.
    TIP: When reading SWOT analyses, pay attention to the vocabulary (terminology) and use it in your research and writing.

  4. In Mintel Reports, type in "Tesco" in the ''I'm looking for...'' search box. In the ''Show all content types'' drop-down menu, select reports to narrow down your search.

Example of searching on Business Source Complete

Reports on Tesco

Example 2. PESTLE analysis of the aviation industry in Canada

(a) Search for "airlines AND Canada". Limit your search to full text. Limit your publication date to the most recent articles. Specify the source type you are looking for, for example, SWOT analyses, and click on Update. The list shows all the industry reports mentioning airlines and Canada.

TIP: Reading about particular companies will help you understand the whole industry better.

(b) Search for ''Canada''. In the menu on the left, under Source Types, select Market Research Reports. Limit your publication date to the most recent articles.

    1. In Mintel Reports, type in "airlines AND Canada" in the ''I'm looking for...'' search box. In the ''Show all content types'' drop-down menu, select reports to narrow down your search.