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Hong Kong Baptist University Hong Kong Baptist University Library

Research Preparation for BSc in Math Final Year Project: Tips on literature searching

Support final year Math student in the progress of completing their Honours Project



When developing keywords for your topic, here are a few general rules to keep in mind: 

  1. Identify nouns and/or noun phrases only
  2. Get rid of noise words, e.g. of, the, an, on
  3. Use quotation marks for phrase search, e.g. "goodness of fit" "time series"
  4. Think of similar words/synonyms  

For example, for the topic: 

Are there any applications of time series model in the precipitation forecasting?

This is how you can apply the general rules: 

1. Keep the nouns and/or noun phrases: time series model, precipitation forecasting

2. Get rid of noise words: are, there, any, applications, of, in, the

3. Use quotation marks around a phrase: "time series"

4. Think of similar words/synonyms: precipitation forecasting  --> precipitation prediction, rainfall forecast 

Refine results

Refine your result list


The screenshot below shows the search limits/refinement options available in Web of Science, a major multidisciplinary database.

You should make good use of these options to narrow down your results, especially when you are searching very broad terms. Take the Web of Science as an example:

Getting familiar with these functions when searching in a particular database will definitely help save time!  


MSC Subject Headings

MSC Subject Headings

The Mathematics Subject Classification (MSC) is a hierarchical classification scheme collaboratively produced by staff of, and based on the coverage of, the two major mathematical reviewing databases, Mathematical Reviews and Zentralblatt MATH.

It is used by many mathematics journals, which ask authors of research papers and expository articles to list subject codes from the Mathematics Subject Classification in their papers. MSC Classification Scheme is updated every ten years and the current version is MSC2020.


If you want to search and/or browse subject headings within MathSciNet, you can use "Mathematics Subject Classification (MSC)" in the database interface.

Take MathSciNet (via the Ebscohost platform) for example:

Take MathSciNet (via the AMS platform) for example:

You can search relevant MSC2020 Classifications at this link. For example, search "Bergman" as keyword:

Then, pick the MSC subject(s) that you would like to search further. For example, search "32A36" in the MSC Subject Field in MathSciNet:

And then, you will be able to retrieve a list of papers which are classified as "Bergman Spaces" (32A36)


Manage references

 Online research managers

Organizing and citing your sources can be challenging, but fortunately there are several free online tools to help you. These allow you to:

  • Save copies of the sources that you have found, and back them up to the cloud
  • Make notes and highlights on PDF copies that you have saved
  • Automatically generate in-text citations and bibliographies

The Library recommends the following tools: