I’m applying for a postdoctoral role in the UK, and I am asked to have ’bibliographic search skills’. I’m sort of at a loss as to what that means, specifically – does anyone know? I’m assuming it doesn’t just mean ‘can read a bibliography’. I have a Ph.D., so I’m sort of embarrassed not to know what this means, but there you go.

  • 1
    "Is able to use Google Scholar. (check)"
    – xLeitix
    Nov 26, 2014 at 13:46
  • Suspect it just means that you can do a literature review. Not sure though.
    – Flyto
    Nov 26, 2014 at 13:53
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    I share the other commentors’ assumptions and would like to add that it might be a relic from pre-Internet times when searching literature was a relevant and non-trivial skill.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Nov 26, 2014 at 14:24
  • Well, even back then, citations had journal, publication date, and so on. Tracking it down would probably have been harder since you needed a hard copy, but carrier pigeons were around back then, no?!
    – Compass
    Nov 26, 2014 at 14:54
  • @Compass That is not what a bibliography search is about. It is about finding the relevant literature without starting with a specific reference (in order to for example determine if something has already been done before). Nov 27, 2014 at 9:19

2 Answers 2


I would assume 'bibliographic search skills' means the ability to find appropriate literature 'from scratch' as @Tobias suggests. If that's the case, can I recommend a book that helped me with my literature searching, and can be read easily within a day:

Booth A, Papaioannou D & Sutton A (2012) Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review. Sage Publications Limited.

It's written from a health science perspective, but I found it useful in the social science to identify search terms, databases, perform searches, and filter results.


Adding to @Phil's answer, and per my "literature search" PhD course, that translates into knowing that:

  • Not everything is in Google.
  • Not everything academic is in Google Scholar (I have encountered cases!).
  • GScholar has some "crap" in it, ie., the filters are automatic and the database wide, so you get things that are not peer reviewed.
  • You can use other databases (pubmed, web of science, scopus, EDS... whatever applies to your field and your university has paid for).

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