What is Research Online?

Skills Development Scotland's Research Online portal provides free online access to the most comprehensive collection of labour market intelligence.


Research Online contains abstracts of books, reports and journal articles which address labour market issues such as:

  • learning and skills
  • workforce development
  • apprenticeship
  • equal opportunities
  • business development
  • helping people into work.

Research Online focuses on labour market issues in Scotland, but also includes material that looks at relevant issues from a wider UK, European or international perspective. It was launched in 2003, though it includes a small amount of older material. It is updated at least twice every month. Where copyright allows, items are available for download directly from the site. Links are provided for documents downloadable from other websites. Research Online allows you to search for specific terms and also to browse by theme (subject).

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A Research Online account enables you to sign-up for a range of current awareness alerts that keep you up to date on a variety of labour market topics.

You can register for a free account using the online registration form.

Registered users can change their account details and preferences through the My Research Online area.

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Finding material

There are two ways to find material on Research Online: search and browse.

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The search facility allows you to search for words or phrases (enclose a phrase in "quotation marks"). The title and abstract of each record are searched along with keywords that are assigned to each document.

Wildcards can be used as part of your search term:

  • ? represents any one character (e.g. 'organi?ation' will find both 'organisation' and 'organization')
  • * represents any number of characters (including none) at the end of search term (e.g. train* will find 'train', 'trained', 'trains', 'training', 'trainer' and so forth). Note that the beginning of search terms cannot be truncated in this way.

In Standard searching mode, Research Online searches for records that contain all the search terms you enter. Common words like 'and' are ignored. If you select the Boolean searching option underneath the main search box then you can combine search terms with the operators 'and', 'or', 'not':

  • 'and' searches for all the terms in the same record
  • 'or' searches for any of the terms in each record
  • 'not' is used to exclude records with a particular term (for example 'parents not childcare' will return material about the labour market situation of parents that doesn't look at childcare issues).

You can narrow your search down (filter) by predefined categories - regions, sectors, social groups, Sector Skills Council publications. You can also choose in which field you want to search - title, author, source (publisher) or reference number. The reference number is assigned by the organisation responsible for adding content to Research Online. You can search for terms in more than one field at a time.

Date ranges can be entered manually or using the calendar pop-ups. Note that the earliest material on the portal dates back to 1999. An item's date refers to when it was added to the site rather than when it was originally published.

You can define how the results are sorted (ranked) using the Sort by drop-down box - either by relevance (most relevant at the top of the list) or by date (most recent at the top of the list). By default, Research Online presents details of 10 items on each page of search results. This can be changed to 20 or 50 using the Results per page drop-down box.

Archived material will be excluded from your search results unless you check the Show archived box next to the search button. Archived material consists mainly of old statistics, discussion pieces and superseded labour market profiles.

Once you have entered all your search terms and selected your options, click on the Search button to begin the search. The site will either list material that matches your search terms or display a message telling you why the search was unsuccessful. If you receive a message saying that no results have been found, try using fewer or broader search terms.

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How to understand and work with your search results

The search results are displayed in two stages.

A results page lists summarised details of the material that matches your search. The number of records retrieved is noted at the top of the list. Two icons indicate which documents are available for download from Research Online and which from other websites. Some items will be unavailable for download and so have no icons. To move through the search results, click on the navigation controls towards the bottom of the page (first, prev, next, last or the individual page numbers).

If your search has brought back too many results, you can search within search results for a particular term or phrase by clicking the link above the results.

To display the full record, click on the selected title from the results page. The full record will be displayed. Details provided include the title, author, pages, year, source (publisher), abstract and reference number. If the full text of a document is available to download, the icon Icon: Full text available will be displayed at the bottom of the record - to view the document click on this icon. The record may also include a hyperlink Icon: Hyperlink to download the document from another web site. Please note that Skills Development Scotland is not responsible for the content of any external website.

To move, one by one, through the full records retrieved by your search, click on previous or next buttons adjacent to the document's title. To return to the results page click on Back to results at the bottom of the screen. To return to the basic search page, click on Back to search page.

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Browse by Theme

The browse feature allows you to view the records according to a predefined subject structure. There are three subject levels. The first level consists of seven main themes:

  • Careers
  • Demographics
  • Employment
  • Labour demand
  • Learning and skills
  • Non-specific material
  • Unemployment and inactivity.

Click on any of these themes to display a list of documents on that general subject. The number of records retrieved is noted at the top of the list. When the browse by theme page first loads up, the demographic theme is automatically selected.

When one of the first (top) level themes is selected, you will see a second level of themes displayed underneath. These are more specific subjects that are related to the first level theme. For example under the top level theme of Employment, you will find the second level themes of:

  • Earnings
  • Equality
  • Industrial relations
  • Working arrangements

Click on any of these second level themes to display a list of documents on that specific subject.

In a similar manner, third level themes are even more specific. When a second level theme is selected, a third level of themes may be displayed underneath - though not all second level themes are broken down into more specific subjects. For example, under the second level theme of Migration, you will find the third level themes of:

  • Emigration
  • Immigration
  • Mobility

You can search within a particular theme by clicking on the Search within... link underneath the themes. You will be taken to the main search page but the system will search only those documents relevant to the theme you have selected (click Reset to go back to searching the whole system).

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Reading List

You can build up a reading list which can then be saved, printed, or emailed out to you. Documents can be added to the reading list by clicking the Add to reading list icon Icon: Add to reading list . This icon is visible from within the full document details (above the title), on the search results page and on the browse by theme results page (immediately to the left of the title). When you click on this icon, the document will be added to the reading list. You can add documents from more than one search or theme.

To view the reading list, click on the My reading list link towards the top of the page. From here you can save the list in text format to your computer, print out the list, email the list to yourself and to others, or clear the list of all documents. Individual documents can be removed by clicking on the red icon Icon: Remove from reading list to the left of its title, or by clicking on Remove from reading list within the full document details.

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