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Universiteitsbibliotheek – LibGuides

Training finding and handling scholarly information for GEO4-3633: 4C: reports

Research master human geography


  1. Have a short look at the tips on the right.
  2. Search for reports using Google; try out using filters for
    1. filetype (PDF),
    2. domain of an organisation (e.g.
    3. reading level

Reports: information from governments, think tanks, NGO's and more

The role of reports in science

Reports from governments, think tanks, pressure groups, NGO's and other stakeholders may be an important source of information in scientific research. Reports may contain:

  • aims of social organisations
  • policy assessments
  • efficiency reports
  • political and ethical interpretations of scientific progress
  • results from surveys
  • etc.

Sometimes we use the reports because the organisation publishing the report is the subject of our research, e.g. when you write on the UN system. In other cases information from reports is the reason why we start our research. And in yet other cases reports contain scientific analyses which, just like scientific journal articles, are used to strengthen the argument a a paper or thesis. Always be careful with using information in reports as they are often written with the objectives and interests of the publishing or financing organisation in mind.

Searching for reports

  • If you want to search by subject or browse by organisation, country etc: use dedicated search engines for policy documents, such as Overton and Policy Commons (the latter requires registration and has a maximum of 25 searches per month)
  • If you want to do a comprehensive search but relatively crude search on a topic: use web search engines Google or Bing and add a filter on PDF to your search terms: filetype:PDF
  • If you already know which organisation has published the report, first check out the website of the organisation
  • If you already know which organisation has published the report, but the website is not very well organised, use the web search engines and enter the domain of the organisation in question, for instance You can also filter by file format PDF.

searching report with WorldCatAnother option is to search Worldcat. Many important reports have been published "officially" and acquired by libraries. In this way they are included in these integrated national and worldwide catalogues. This is not straightforwaird hoewver as these catalogues do not offer options to filter out report. You have to use advanced search and combine search terms indicating your subject as 'keyword' with names of publishing organisations as 'author' as in the screenshot. N.B. Most recent reports will be available on the web so a targeted web search will often be more efficient.

OECD reports are a special case: Utrecht University subscribes to large parts of the OECD iLibrary with many thousands of reports on economics, regional development, science, industry and services, transport, and innovation and environment.

Searching for reports with Google or Bing: use filters!

Many organisations publish their own reports on their own website. These are often freely available and findable with web search engines such as Google and Bing.

  • Document type filter - Search Google or Bing and use the filter document/filetype to restrict to PDF (via the 'advanced search' options). This will decimate the number of results and limit it to more sustantial and relevant documents.
  • Site filter - If you know what organisation has importants reports you can search with a site filter, e.g. for the environmental organisation of the UN. NB. Bing has no menu option for this: you have to type it in manually.
  • Search terms indicating you are searching for reports - as a last options try adding terms such as report OR research OR investigation.

Filters gebruiken voor rapporten zoeken in Google

using filters in your search to find reports in Google