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Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service - News from research support services

To Google, or not to Google: Alternative search engines for research

It’s safe to say that Google has monopolised the online search engine industry, so much so that these days if we want to look something up on the internet, we say we are going to “Google” it. Along with Google Scholar, this dominance makes it easy to forget that there are alternatives to Google that might offer alternative and useful results. In this post, we will give you a brief overview of some of these engines to give a try.

Wolfram Alpha, My Calculus Savior


Wolfram|Alpha is a computational knowledge engine developed by Wolfram Research. It’s designed to answer factual queries directly by computing the answer from structured data rather than providing a list of web pages or documents that might contain the answer, which is how traditional search engines like Google operate. Wolfram Alpha can handle a wide range of queries across various domains, including mathematics, statistics, physics, engineering, astronomy, and many others. It’s particularly useful for computations, generating graphs, analyzing data, solving equations, and providing answers to complex factual questions.




Is DuckDuckGo Safe? 5 Things to Know About this Anonymous Browser


DuckDuckGo is a privacy-focused search engine that emphasises protecting users’ privacy and avoiding the filter bubble of personalised search results. Unlike many other search engines, DuckDuckGo does not track users’ search histories or personalise search results based on past behaviours. It offers a clean interface and aims to provide neutral, unbiased search results.

In addition to standard web search, DuckDuckGo also includes features like “Instant Answers,” which are derived from various sources such as Wikipedia, Wolfram Alpha, and other structured data repositories. These instant answers aim to provide quick, factual information directly on the search results page.

Overall, DuckDuckGo has gained popularity among users who prioritise privacy and transparency in their online searches. For research purposes, this can be especially useful as the results you received are objective and unfiltered.



The best academic search engines [Update 2024] - Paperpile

BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine)

The Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) is an open-access search engine that primarily indexes academic resources and provides free access to millions of scholarly documents, such as articles, theses, books, and conference papers. It’s operated by Bielefeld University Library in Germany.

BASE gathers content from various academic repositories, digital libraries, and publishers worldwide. It aims to facilitate access to scientific information by offering a centralized search platform that retrieves results from multiple sources. Users can search for academic content across disciplines, making it a valuable tool for researchers, students, and anyone interested in scholarly literature.

Key features of BASE include:

  1. Open Access Focus: It primarily indexes open-access content, ensuring that much of the scholarly material it searches is freely available to the public.
  2. Comprehensive Coverage: It includes a wide range of academic sources, covering various disciplines and types of scholarly output.
  3. Search and Discovery: BASE provides advanced search capabilities to help users find relevant academic resources efficiently.
  4. Integration with Libraries: It offers integration with library systems and other academic platforms, allowing users to access full-text documents where available.

Overall, BASE plays a significant role in the open-access movement by providing a powerful tool for discovering and accessing scholarly literature globally.



How Core gives you access to millions of free research papers - GetConnected

CORE (COnnecting REpositories)

CORE (COnnecting REpositories) provides a comprehensive bibliographic database of the world’s scholarly literature, collecting and indexing research from repositories and journals. It is considered the world’s largest collection of full text open access research papers. CORE is a not-for-profit service dedicated to the open access mission and one of the signatories of the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructures POSI.


So, in conclusion, remember that there are alternatives to Google and Google Scholar that can enrich the information you retrieve from the World Wide Web!


Note: ChatGPT was used to generate some, but not all, of this article’s content.

Our guide to the research process

As a postgraduate student or researcher, you are probably following some pre-defined process in conducting your research. At the library, we have a library guide that focuses specifically on the research process and its various steps.

Our guide is built on the above research life cycle, starting at the plan and design phase, moving to collecting and capturing data, then analysis, collaboration and creating visual accompaniments to your research , managing, storing and preserving your research, how to share and publish it and finally how to monitor and evaluate the impact and spread of your research. Each of these phases is comprehensively covered in the Research Process library guide. Some of the sections will redirect you to other helpful library guides that we have set up to assist you in your research journey and there are dedicated librarians who can assist you in all the different steps in the process.

For the planning and designing of your research, you can always reach out to your faculty librarian who is there to help you get started and to assist you along the way. You can find out who your faculty librarian is by consulting your discipline’s library guide here.

We also have dedicated librarians who can assist you in the following aspects. You will find their contact details and other useful information on the below guides:

Also, if you need any guidance on the research process, who to reach out to, technical formatting of your thesis/dissertation and/or referencing and reference management, you can reach out to the Research Commons staff, Kirchner van Deventer or Letlao Seloma.

During July the new semester begins and we are kicking off our second round of #SmartResearcher workshops. So if you missed any during the first semester, here they are again!

These workshops are aimed at postgraduate students, emerging researchers and academic staff and the focus will be on the research process. The sessions vary in length depending on the subject matter, but cover a wide range of subjects related to the postgraduate research journey.
EndNote for reference management

EndNote 21 offers various services, including reference management, organising and annotation of PDF documents and collaboration. In this session, we will show you how to download and install EndNote and how to set up your account.

Kindly note that a separate workshop is available for users who need assistance in migrating from Mendeley/Zotero to EndNote.

Date: 25 July

Time: 11:00 – 13:00

Register Here

How to conduct a literature review

In this webinar, participants will learn what a literature review is and the different types of literature reviews. They will learn best practices for conducting a literature review by working with their topic, structuring the literature review and how to critically analyse literature.

Date: 30 July

Time: 11:00 – 13:00

Register Here

Tips on how to format your thesis (MS Word)

This workshop will help you work around some of the common formatting glitches most postgraduate students experience, whilst getting their document ready for submission.

Date: 1 August

Time: 11:00 – 13:00

Register Here

Library induction for postgraduate students and academic staff

In this introductory session, participants will be provided with an overview of the core services on offer by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service. Topics include navigating the Library Website, how to find their way around the Stellenbosch University Library, how to find information through the Library’s numerous databases, what advanced research support services are available and many others.

Date: 6 August

Time: 10:00 – 13:00

Register Here

Systematic Reviews

Thinking about doing a systematic review? Having its origins in health sciences, a systematic review can be a daunting challenge. Let us help you demystify it and get started with a high-level introduction to the systematic review process.

Date: 7 August

Time: 14:00 – 16:00

Register Here

Introduction to Special Collections: Dealing with
primary collections

This workshop focuses on Special Collection material in the library. The session will guide the participant to understand and explore the secondary and primary resources accessible to researchers. The aim is to encourage staff, students, and researchers to optimise the use of primary collections and data for research projects.

Date: 13 August

Time: 14:00 – 15:00

Register Here

Data Management Planning

This session introduces researchers to Data Management Planning. It is comprised of a presentation and practical demonstration. The presentation covers the following areas: the fundamental aspects of Data Management Planning, the structure of Data Management Plans, the regulation of Data Management Plans at Stellenbosch University as well as the resources that researchers can use in relation Data Management Planning. The presentation is followed by a practical demonstration on how researchers use Data Management Planning software to create Data Management Plans.

Date: 14 August

Time: 14:00 – 15:00

Register Here

Makerspace for Research and Innovation – 3D Printing, Rapid Prototyping and More In-Person / Online

Join us for an engaging workshop that delves into innovative research possibilities, essential project support resources, and highlights successful projects previously undertaken in the Makerspace. In this session, we will empower postgraduate students with insights into valuable tools and resources that can elevate their research endeavours. Our primary objective is to inspire postgraduate students to fully leverage these resources and the workspace to enhance the quality of their research outputs.

Date: 15 August

Time: 14:00 – 15:00

Register Here

Tools and applications for research

This workshop will offer a look at some of the top tools and applications for students, academic staff, and researchers. It will cover a variety of mobile apps for research, productivity, reading, writing, presenting, note-taking, file sharing and other essential tools for studying and publishing on the go.

Date: 20 August

Time: 14:00 – 16:00

Register Here

Finding Government Statistics

This workshop focuses on the database Statistics SA which is available by means of the Library website. The session includes a demonstration on how to access publications on the database, do cross-tabulation and access time series data with variables over time.

Date: 21 August

Time: 14:00 – 16:00

Register Here

EndNote for reference management

EndNote 21 offers various services, including reference management, organising and annotation of PDF documents and collaboration. In this session, we will show you how to download and install EndNote and how to set up your account.

Date: 27 August

Time: 14:00 – 16:00

Register Here

RDM tools, resources and training

The workshop will introduce participants to various available RDM tools, resources, and training. This will include introducing them to Information resources and technological solutions relating to data collection, sensitive data management, data storage, data sharing, data publication, game-based learning as well as researcher support.

Date: 28 August

Time: 14:00 – 15:00

Register Here

Copyright issues in theses and dissertation writing

This presentation provides an overview of the copyright issues which students typically encounter while working on their theses or dissertations.

Date: 29 August

Time: 12:00 – 13:00

Register Here

The importance of well-populated ORCID records

The more well-populated ORCID records and integrated systems there are, the more value research communities will get from participating in ORCID. For the researcher, this might mean less administrative burden and time saved managing research outputs.

Here are a few tips for researchers to improve the content of their ORCID records:

  1. Add a biography to your record. 
    It is possible to add a brief biography to your ORCID record to provide a narrative description of you and your research career and interests. This might be helpful to distinguish yourself from other researchers with the same name. In this way it enables you to add more information about yourself than only your employment and publications.
  2. To make your data discoverable, set visibility to “Everyone”
    You are in complete control of the visibility of each section of data in your ORCID record. If it is important to you that your work is discoverable, check to see that your data is visible to Everyone.

  3. Create connections
    One way to allow your trusted organisations to link with and make updates to your record—so you can get credit for your work — is by including your iD when you submit to publishers, apply for grants, or in any other research workflows. Another way is to import data from integrated systems via any of the  Search & link tools integrated into the Works and Funding sections of My ORCID.

    screen grab of a single sign on
  4. Take advantage of auto-updates from Crossref
    Crossref is currently the only system that uses the ORCID Inbox to send auto-update requests. The request is sent to your ORCID Inbox after a publisher submits a new work to Crossref, as long as you have provided your ORCID iD to the publisher on submission. If you do not want to grant permission to update your record with the new work, simply ignore the notification from Crossref. Learn more about granting permissions to trusted parties from your ORCID inbox here. Learn more about Crossref auto-update here.
  5. Designate a Trusted individual
    Did you know you can grant permission to one or more trusted individuals to update your ORCID record? Some researchers may wish to delegate someone —a Trusted individual—to help them edit information on it or make connections with external systems. A trusted individual does not need to be another researcher, but must have their own ORCID iD. Find out more about Trusted individuals here.

Read more here.

Contact your faculty librarian or Marié Roux for assistance.



Re-examining the Democracy Exhibition in the Library

Re-examining the Democracy Exhibition: Addressing Historical Imbalance at Stellenbosch University

By Moegammad Tahier Kara

27 May 2024

The Democracy exhibition at Stellenbosch University draws heavily from the extensive collections housed in the university library. While these collections are rich in historical content, they predominantly reflect a more white-centric perspective of South Africa’s past. This inherent bias within the library’s archives poses a significant challenge to presenting a balanced and inclusive narrative. Despite efforts to curate a comprehensive exhibition, the reliance on these collections has inadvertently led to an imbalance. A more concerted effort is needed to incorporate diverse voices and perspectives to truly capture the multifaceted history of the nation’s democratic journey.

Stellenbosch University’s exhibition in the university library on Democracy aims to reflect South Africa’s complex political history. The exhibition includes documents and multimedia displays that chart the nation’s journey towards democracy. However, it predominantly focuses on the white history of South Africa, which I will argue overshadows the crucial contributions and experiences of marginalised communities during the apartheid era and beyond. Despite this, the exhibition endeavours to provide a comprehensive overview of the socio-political landscape, emphasising the importance of acknowledging all facets of the country’s past.

While the exhibition’s foundation might appear skewed due to its emphasis on white history, it is not entirely out of touch or wrong. It captures significant historical milestones and figures that played vital roles in South Africa’s democratic evolution. To address the imbalance, the exhibition curators could consider incorporating more narratives and perspectives from non-white communities, highlighting their resistance, resilience, and contributions to democracy. By doing so, the exhibition can offer a more balanced and inclusive portrayal of South Africa’s journey, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of the nation’s diverse heritage.

In the exhibition, there are some questionable choices in highlighting key figures in South Africa’s democratic journey. The exhibition points to seven individuals as crucial players, yet their contributions are far from significant by any stretch of the imagination. Alarmingly, four out of these seven individuals are white, which skews the representation of those who genuinely fought for and contributed to the nation’s democracy. This misrepresentation diminishes the roles of the many unsung heroes from marginalised communities who played pivotal roles during the apartheid era and in the struggle for democratic freedom.

The inclusion of PW Botha as a significant figure in this exhibition is particularly egregious. Botha, as the Prime Minister and later the State President of South Africa during some of the darkest years of apartheid, was a staunch defender of the apartheid regime. His policies and actions were instrumental in perpetuating racial segregation and oppression, making his portrayal as a key player in democracy not only preposterous but also deeply offensive to those who suffered under his rule. Elevating such a figure in the context of an exhibition on democracy is a gross distortion of history and undermines the genuine sacrifices made by those who fought tirelessly for equality and justice.

The timeline presented in Stellenbosch University’s exhibition on Democracy also suffers from significant bias, reflecting a predominantly white-centric perspective over the past 30 years. Key dates and events that are emphasized tend to highlight the achievements and milestones associated with white political figures and institutions, often overlooking or underrepresenting the critical contributions and experiences of non-white communities. This skewed portrayal not only fails to accurately capture the breadth and depth of South Africa’s democratic evolution but also marginalises the voices and struggles of those who were at the forefront of the fight against apartheid and the push for genuine democratic reforms. A more balanced timeline should include the pivotal moments and actions led by activists, community leaders, and ordinary citizens from all backgrounds, ensuring a comprehensive and inclusive historical narrative.



SunDMP Wednesdays: Weekly webinars on research data management planning

Following its official release to the SU community on 13 May 2024, SunDMP, the Stellenbosch University (SU) Data Management Planning Software Tool, has been warmly received by researchers across various disciplines. Since then, about 48 researchers have been assisted in developing their DMPs using SunDMP.

SunDMP represents a significant step forward in facilitating efficient and effective data management planning for researchers at Stellenbosch University. By providing a user-friendly platform for generating comprehensive data management plans, DMPs, the tool also empowers researchers to easily navigate the complexities of research data management.

Building on the momentum of the launch, the Library is excited to announce weekly training sessions designed to help researchers in developing DMPs. The training sessions started on the 5th of June and will occur every Wednesday from 13:00 to 13:45. To register for upcoming training sessions visit the Library training calendar. Alternatively, researchers can register for our data management planning sessions during the #SmartResearcher workshops.

Whether you’re new to data management planning or seeking to enhance your existing skills, the SunDMP Wednesday sessions offer a valuable opportunity to harness the full potential of the tool. Topics covered will include:

  1. Introduction to SunDMP: An overview of the software’s capabilities and benefits.
  2. Creating Comprehensive DMPs: Best practices for developing robust data management plans tailored to your research needs.
  3. Navigating SunDMP: A step-by-step guide to utilising the platform’s tools and resources effectively.

We encourage all SU researchers to take advantage of these training sessions to streamline their research processes and ensure compliance with funder requirements and best practices in research data management. Your participation not only benefits your research but also contributes to advancing the culture of responsible and transparent data stewardship within our academic community.

For more information or any other training requests, please contact Xabiso Xesi or Sizwe Ngcobo, telephone numbers: 021 808 9489/9978


SUNDigital sources – The Hennie Aucamp collection

Hennie Aucamp (1934 – 2014) was a well-known contemporary Afrikaans poet, short story writer, cabaretist and recipient of various Afrikaans literary and theatre awards. He was also a lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch from 1964 to 1994 and received an Honorary Doctorate in Literature from the University in 1999.

Hennie Aucamp called himself an obsessive keeper of diaries as he started from the age of 14 and kept a diary till just before his death at 80 years old. He donated his valuable collection of documents in 2014 to the Special Collections division of the Library and Information Service. This collection (MS 147) spread over 13 meters of document material consisting of correspondence, cabaret material, manuscripts, photos, and newspaper clippings.  The documents include original manuscripts of his work and examples of different genres of Afrikaans literature. Some of the documents and the index to the material are available on SUNDigital : Finding aids.

This collection is often used for research, from questions about the title of a book, cabaret, song, and translations of his poems, to peer-reviewed articles, books, and masters and PhD studies.

For more information visit his collection and Special Collections library guide.

Author: Marieta Buys

Ask your Faculty Librarian: Systematic reviews

Suppose you are a researcher who has decided to embark on a review study. Be it a systematic or scoping review, umbrella, meta-analysis, or any other type of review,  the Library and Information Service offers in-depth support to assist researchers. Faculty Librarians can assist you in understanding the systematic review methodology, including the structured and reproducible approach used to identify, assess, and critically appraise relevant studies. They will guide you in creating a robust, well-documented protocol, emphasising best practices for search strategies and database selection. Whether helping with comprehensive literature searches or advising on inclusion and exclusion criteria, your faculty librarians will help ensure that systematic reviews are rigorous and evidence-based. Librarians offer training on literature searching techniques, database usage and the navigation of various information resources, helping to ensure that the review process is thorough and replicable.

The Library also offers specific workshops on conducting systematic reviews, literature searching techniques and the use of citation management tools like EndNote that can assist researchers with conducting systematic reviews. Consult the training calendar to register for these sessions. In addition to this support, the Library also has a library guide dedicated to assisting with conducting systematic reviews. Through the support offered in the preparation, retrieval, appraisal, and synthesis of information, the Library contributes to the successful completion and eventual publication of high-quality systematic reviews. So make sure to consult your librarian today!

Author: Elizabeth Moll-Willard

Think and check before you submit your article

Identify trusted publishers for your research • Think. Check. Submit.

One of the most frequent questions that academic librarians get is “Is this a predatory journal?” With the advent of the Information Age and the internet, the number of journals in which you can publish in has skyrocketed, with some estimates putting it well past 30 000. Many of these journals are driven purely by profit and does not have the researcher’s interest in mind at all. Known as predatory journals, or predatory publishing, their drive for profit means they focus on quantity over quality, are quick to accept articles without any peer review process, are deliberately evasive about the publishing fees, list fake editorial boards using academics without their permission and more. A more devious tactic that these publishers employ is to directly contact researchers and invite them to publish with them, often using boastful language about the quality and reach of their journal. Researchers who may have been rejected by other journals, or who are unsure where to publish, might be swayed by this flattering invitation. However, they may live to regret publishing in these journals, and their academic reputation and career may be ruined.

Therefore, it is critical that researchers choose the most suitable journals to publish their research. But, as mentioned above, with so many out there and many of them predatory, how do you choose? The best option, of course, is to ask your faculty librarian, but if they are unreachable or you would prefer to double-check yourself, then you should make use of Think, Check, Submit. “Think. Check. Submit.” is a collaborative initiative that provides a simple checklist researchers can use to assess the credentials of a journal or publisher.

The campaign’s checklist is structured around three key steps:

Think: Before submitting your manuscript, consider if the journal you’re looking at is the best fit for your research. Reflect on the journal’s scope, audience, and reputation within your field.

Check: Investigate the journal’s integrity and quality. This involves:

  • Verifying the journal’s peer-review process.
  • Checking if the journal is indexed in reputable databases.
  • Reviewing the editorial board for recognised experts.
  • Ensuring transparency about the publishing fees.
  • Confirming the journal’s publisher is a member of recognised industry organisations like COPE or DOAJ.

Submit: If the journal meets the necessary quality checks, you can confidently submit your manuscript.

If you would like to access a PDF copy of the full checklist, you can do so here.

For more information, also have a look a their video below:

Learn how to evaluate your research impact with SciVal

Since Stellenbosch University subscribed to Elsevier’s research evaluation tool, SciVal, in 2023, it has been used productively for evaluating research for the University as a whole, for departmental groups, and for individual researchers. The following training will take place in June to further enhance research administrators’ and researchers’ skills in using the tool to their advantage. Both training sessions will be hosted online.

 Introduction to SciVal for research evaluation

Thursday 20 June, 11:00-12:30, presented by Marié Roux

An overview of SciVal will be presented, including the following:

  • The underlying data of Scopus
  • Overview of the different modules and entities
  • An overview of all the different metrics and some example reports for individuals
  • Customised template for a researcher at Stellenbosch University
  • Measuring contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Benchmarking with colleagues internally and externally

Register here

 Introducing SciVal’s next-generation Topics

Tuesday 25 June, presented by Elsevier

This is a global webinar on Scival Topics. A SciVal Topic is a collection of publications with a common intellectual interest, as determined through citation patterns. They are used to enrich strategic planning through a portfolio analysis to see which research fields you and your peers are active in, which research fields appear to be fast-moving, and who are key contributors. In this webinar, Elsevier will look at the next-generation SciVal Topics, talk about the benefits, as well as the functionality made available to help you transition to the new-generation Topics, and answer any questions you may have.

There are two sessions to choose from in different time slots:

Enquiries: Marié Roux

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