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Subject guide

Korean Studies: General Subject Guide

This Subject Guide is designed to support students of Korean studies at Leiden University in their research process. For every step of the research process, this guide introduces a number of tips and recommended resources. You can find several sub-guides and contacts in the 'quick links' in the tab on the right.

A. Explanation on research process

As a student you will have to do research assignments, write papers and hand in your final thesis before graduation. A good understanding of the research process is essential in order for you to have a clear idea of (1) what it is you have to do, (2) how to do it best, (3) how to get it done on time, and (4) what to do if you are stuck. During the process you will follow a number of steps in which you locate the information you need to write your paper, evaluate it, process it, and cite your sources as you write. This guide helps you to easily locate sources, guides and tutorials that can help you to complete a step.

B. Your Research Topic, question, and planning

You should always take the assignment criteria as a starting point. What is expected from you (literature review, short paper, thesis), what type of information do you need to include (for example, primary sources in Korean), what are your limitations (word count, number of pages), and when does it need to be finished? After looking at the assignment criteria, you need to think about choosing a good topic, formulating a researchable question, and making a realistic and achievable planning for your research steps in order to meet the requirements of your assignment and your first deadline! Read about the “Philosophy of Research”.

Tips on how to choose a topic

  • Get inspired: Take inspiration from your required readings for a course you like, browse the books in the Asian Library reading room, explore news topics in the media and magazines, or have a look at other theses by former students. You cannot access them, but you get a sense of what they wrote about by reading the abstract. Ask yourself: which question has not yet been answered? What information seems to be missing? What can you add to the discussion?
  • Brainstorm:Write down possible topic that comes to mind. These tutorials can help you with your brainstorm.
  • Pick something you like: If you have little influence over your thesis topic, try and steer your assigned topic in the direction you would like to take it to. This can be a specific discipline (sociology, anthropology, politics, linguistics) era (historical approach) or method (surveys, data sets, newspapers, personal stories etc).
  • Make sure you can make it into an academic treatise: A good number of students choose a thesis topic that aligns with their private interests, such as Kpop, the beauty industry, sports etc. For a student, however, it can be a challenge to turn such popular topics into an academic treatise, simply because you may not have enough (1) relevant (2) academic and (3) accessible sources about the topic you need to base your argument on. If you start searching for sources in an early stage you can quickly determine whether your topic is viable as a thesis topic or not.
  • Mind the size of your topic: it is important to narrow down your topic to a manageable size. Too few sources means you may want to expand your topic a bit. On the other hand, having too many sources on your topic means you need to narrow your topic down further. This is one of the reasons why starting to search for sources early is an important step in pinpointing a research topic that is just the right size for you.
  • Use the Sage Project Planner or other tutorials for defining a topic

Tips on how to formulate a good question

  • Avoid questions that can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’
  • Formulate a ‘problem’ that you need to answer: Think about the big questions, such as ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘when’, and ‘who’. This will give you an open-ended question through which you can explore your topic.
  • Have a voice: Ideally you already have a hypothesis, idea or point of view through which you can enter this topic. Often times you will adjust your view on the topic the more you learn about it.
  • Avoid ‘Compare A to B and see what happens’ scenarios: There needs to be a formulation of a ‘problem’ and a point of view.
  • Use these tutorials or the Sage project planner to develop a researchable question.

Tips on how to meet your deadline

  • Start with a general overview of the amount of time you have: When is your deadline? When can (and when should) you get started? How many hours can you realistically spend per week on this project?
  • Write down the steps you need to take from start to end: Go through this research guide to get an idea of how much time you need for your research. Don’t forget about things that might not be included here, such as spell checks, format checks, printing and binding etc.
  • Be realistic: A realistic planning will help you to set goals and avoid stress by impeding deadlines. Underestimating the amount of work needed to write a well-researched, well-written paper is the number one reason students experience a lot of overwhelm from the research process. Therefore, be realistic about the amount of work you can put in in a day.
  • Write down your daily top 3: Write down three achievable things you want to have finished by the time you are done for the day and start with the most important thing.
  • Don’t forget to take a break: It is important to put away what you wrote for a bit so you can revisit it later. Oftentimes you see little inconsistencies you overlooked or you have new insights.
  • Use these tutorials or the Sage project planner to make a planning.
  • Time Management Skills: Planning your research is about much more than just prioritizing and setting goals. It is also about how you deal with distractions, procrastination, and what to do if you fall behind. Time management skills are essential skills not only for now, but also for when you find employment. Read more about Time Management Skills: -setting goals, -how to prepare a schedule and -tips for time management.
  • Recommended Books:
    -Yvonne N. Bui - How to Write a Master’s Thesis
    -Umberto Eco - Hoe schrijf ik een scriptie
    -Umberto Eco - How to write a thesis (e-book)
    -Nel Verhoeven – Doing Research: the hows and whys of applied research.

A. Why should I think about how I search?

Many students describe the act of gathering information for their research as if they took a trip to the supermarket; they expect to be able to find exactly what they need within a certain set amount of time. Unlike a supermarket trip, however, searching for scholarly information is difficult, and you do not always get the results you want. This is mostly due to the fact that students (1) overestimate the quality and availability of the sources they need, and (2) underestimate the amount of time and skill needed to find these sources amidst the millions of sources out there. 

In other words, many students expect to find ‘perfect sources’ for their thesis topic – meaning; academic sources that ‘tick all the right boxes’ of your thesis topic – fully downloadable, and found with little effort with just a few keywords and clicks. In reality, however, the ‘perfect source’ likely does not exist, many sources you need will not be available digitally, it will take quite some time and effort to find these sources, and you will have to pick up some new search skills along the way. This invariably causes students to experience the ‘search’ and ‘access’ phase as the most frustrating, unsatisfactory experience in the whole research experience.

Frustration, coupled with a lack of time, makes it tempting for students to turn to less trustworthy or relevant sources because they are more familiar (Google), or more easily available (full-text search only). This is why it is important for you to think about how you search; are your expectations realistic? What are your pitfalls when pressed for time or when something does not work out immediately? How can you avoid them? 

The good news is that you don’t need to find a ‘perfect source’, and here is why. Second, there are many ways the library can help you get access to difficult-to-obtain sources and teach you how to search. Third, if you make a project plan early and manage your time, you should have enough time to search for the sources you need, thus avoiding a lot of stress and frustration.

B. Searching information

Background search & Keywords

The best way to start your search is getting yourself more acquainted with the topic; you know some things about it, but there is a lot that you do not know. Background search can help you to identify important facts (dates, events, people, terminology) refine your topic (what aspect about this topic is it that truly interests you?), and give you additional information and tips on where to search (dictionaries, encyclopaedias, databases). For your background search you can use Google, Wikipedia, your textbooks, bibliographies and encyclopaedias.

When doing background research you can start with a couple of keywords. You can use keywords from titles or abstracts. Specific keywords can narrow or broaden the amount of information you will find. Try out different keywords/synonyms to see what kind of information you get and which terms are useful. Learn more in these tutorials about keywords.

Searching in the library catalogue

Try out different search terms when you start searching in the catalogue.The catalogue automatically searches for all of the entered search terms in one document unless you use OR. You can use NOT if you want specific words to be excluded. If you don´t know how to spell a word or it can be written in different ways, you can use the symbol # or ? (wom#n finds woman and women). When you have found a relevant item, you can also use the references or citations as new sources. It is not recommended to limit yourself to things only available in Leiden University by selecting ‘Leiden Collections’ instead of ‘All content’ in the search screen. See our catalogue tutorial.

You can narrow results in the catalogue down by:

  • Availability: here you can select for materials that are peer reviewed, online available items, physical items, or open access items.
  • Resource Type: you can select the kind of source you are looking for, such as (e)books, dissertations, articles, images, websites, audivisual and more.
  • Creation date: Narrow down your search results to a specific time period. Keep in mind to always check the age of your source. If you are writing on the current political climate in Korea, a source from the 1970’s is perhaps not the best place to start.
  • Language: Select ‘Korean’ for Korean-language only books.
  • Topic: narrow down your initial search results by proposed topics. Keep in mind that not all sources have been given a marker that makes them locatable by ‘topic’.

Other tips for the catalogue 

  • Find Databases: In the menu on the left, you can narrow down the list by going to specific disciplines.
  • Find E-journals: This is a quick way to check if Leiden has access to a specific journal. Be aware that you will not find paper journals through this option!

C. How to search for Korean sources

At this point you have a topic, question, keywords, and you have completed the general library catalogue tutorial. Now you can practice finding source material in Korean, or about Korea. This can be the title of a Korean book, or just a general search based on a few Korean keywords. One of the first hurdles in searching for Korean titles in any library catalogue, is how to properly Romanize a Korean title. Below you can find an overview of the most important systems, tools to help you Romanize Korean titles, and some information on locating Korean titles in the Leiden University catalogue.

Korean Romanization worldwide 

  • McCune-Reischauer: The vast majority of libraries in North America and Europe use this. Adopted in a slightly altered form by South Korea from 1984 to 2000. MR uses breves, apostrophes and diereses indicating orthographic syllable boundaries. Many variations of this system can be found worldwide. Leiden University also uses McCune-Reischauer and variations, up until 2014. 
  • ALA-LCC: A revised version of McCune-Reischauer which deviates from the former in manners such as word division, separating syllables of given names, and ignoring sound changes more often. Released by the Library of Congress in 2009, and adopted by Leiden University Libraries in 2014. 
  • Revised Romanization of Korean (국어의 로마자 표기법) is the romanization system released in 2000 in  South Korea, and adopted by a number of libraries outside of South-Korea as well. 
  • Romanization of Korean is the official Korean language romanization system in North Korea. It is a modified version of McCune-Reischauer, proclaimed in 1992 and last updated in 2002.

Tools, tables and tutorials for Romanization

Tips for searching in the online catalogue using Romanized titles or hangul

Leiden University has been actively collecting books on Korea as early as the 1960s, but cataloguing and romanization practices have varied over the years. The inconsistencies and local variations on existing international transcription rules make the collection less accessible than we would like. A large part of Korean books processed before the early 2000’s have no Hangul entry, only Romanized titles. If you cannot find a book using Hangul, try searching the Romanized title instead using McCune-Reischauer.

As of 2014, all Korean-language books at Leiden University Libraries are catalogued using the revised McCune-Reischauer Romanization system and word division by the Library of Congress (ALA-LCC). Many libraries have (had) their own variations of McCune-Reischauer rules throughout the 20th century. Leiden University Libraries is no exception. If you are looking for a specific book title but you cannot find it using Hangul or a Romanized title, try using (1) the ISBN number of the book, (2) the ISSN number of a journal, or (3) the author name and then narrowing down the publication date. If you suspect the library owns a book in Korean but you cannot find it, please contact the subject librarian.

A. Where to find the Korea collections

  • The Korean collections are stored at the Library Location at the Witte Singel. See visitor information.
  • The Reference Collection (dictionaries, encyclopaedias, bibliographies etc.) can be found in the Asian Library on the 2nd floor. You are allowed to read and copy them anywhere in the building, but these books are not available for loan. Be aware that you need access rights on your LU card for entry into the Asian Library.
  • Large series of primary source material can be found in the open stacks on the S-UB underground reading room on the -1 floor. These materials are available for loan. The stairs to this area are located near the main desk and the book lockers on the ground floor.
  • The special collections of Korea ;can be accessed in the Reading Room Special Collections on the 2nd floor. These collections include old books published in Korean or about Korea, and material published in North Korea. You can request any item you wish to see for reference in the Reading Room Special Collections. Please be aware that you are not allowed to borrow the material.
  • All other physical Korean Materials, such as paper books, DVD’s and paper journals, are housed in the closed stacks. More information about borrowing.
  • E-books, E-journals, online articles and databases on Korean Studies can be found in the online catalogue. You can find an overview of the available databases in ‘Find Databases’ or below.

If you have any questions related to the Korean Collections, you can contact the subject librarian responsible for the Japanese & Korean Collection.

B. Recommended databases

General databases

Recommended Databases for Korean Studies (full overview);

  • DBPIA: is a Korean domestic journal archive service covering over 1900 academic journals full text searchable on topics such as economics and management, education, law, administration, social science, theology, literature, arts and physical education, medicine, humanities, and natural sciences. See how to use DBPIA in English.
  • Korean Information Service System (KISS) gives access to over 1.3 million full text articles from over 3,320 academic journals on topics such as linguistics, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, agriculture, marine sciences and the arts. These journals have been printed by 1330 academic societies and 700 institutions and companies worldwide. See theuser guide.
  • KRPIA is a Korean database covering 10 subject categories of Literature, History, Philosophy, Arts, Culture, Religion, Animals/Plants, Social Science, Korean Traditional Medicine, and References, including Koryosa, Parhaesa, Chungbo Munhon Pigo and others. KRPIA provides original texts, multimedia and full text search.
  • KSI E-book is a full-text database of more than 9,000 e-books on all disciplines.Guide to KSI E-Books in English.
  • National Digital Library of Korea – Partner Library Access: Students and staff of Korean, Japanese and Chinese studies, and the Leiden Asia Center, have access to the digital content for partner libraries of the National Library of Korea. This includes access to over 70,000 doctoral dissertations in humanities. You can find the access link when logging in under the start menu – UB – The National Library of Korea, or through your remote workplace.
  • RISS International: is a search engine from Korea Education and Research Information Service. RISS is the largest bibliographical search engine of Korea. In one query you can search through over 9 million bibliographical records from the catalogues of 663 academic libraries, over 2,9 million articles from 158,000 Korean journals (of which 11,000 in full text) and over 1,5 million Korean dissertations (913,000 in full text) and over 20,000 foreign dissertations on Korea. RISS can provide access to some articles that are not directly available to students. If you encounter an article you are interested in and which to access it please contact the subject librarian.

C. Find sources elsewhere

Though Leiden University provides access to vast collection of Korean Resources, many more can be found elsewhere. Whether you have found enough relevant sources within the library catalogue or not, it is recommended to search and see what else you can find on your topic of choice. After all, the most important part of the ‘search’ step is finding out that a source exists. This can often best be done with different search engines, particularly those who employ extensive subject headings for their non-Western sources. You can often click one or more of the markers to find sources on the same topic. Before you leave the catalogue and go browse the web, don’t forget to install the “UBL Get Access” extension bookmark. It will save you a lot of time in case you find something that we might have access to after all!

Recommended Library Catalogues

  • CrossAsia is a central access point for over 90 million bibliographic records of scientific information on Asian studies and offers access to research information for humanities and social sciences from Asian countries and about Asia. Academic fields covered by the service range from philology, history, political science and economics to ethnology and regional studies.
  • HOLLIS: The catalogue of Harvard University Libraries. The Harvard-Yenching Library holds an extensive Korean collection. The search engine is very similar to that of Leiden University Libraries.
  • Korean Collections Consortium of North America (KCCNA): Member libraries of KCCNA select, organize, and make Korean Studies scholarly resources available, and provide library services to optimize access and use of the Korean Studies collections developed through the Korean Collection Consortium of North America. Each member University specialises in collecting on certain specific areas within Korean Studies.In this overview you can find the library that is most likely to collect items within the area or topic you are interested in.
  • Library of Congress – Korean Collection is the largest and most comprehensive outside of East Asia. It has approximately 303,100 volumes of monographs and over 7,600 periodical titles as of 2016. The current serial titles cover major magazines, government reports, and academic journals from both North and South Korea. Also, the Korean collection has 3,274 reels of microfilms and 250 different newspapers dating back to the 1897. The collection covers a broad range of topics, from the classics, history, literature and arts to social and natural sciences; some of them are Korean diaspora publications. See the catalogue.
  • National Library of Australia: has the largest and most significant Korean collection in Australia. The strengths of the collection lie in the subject fields of the social sciences and humanities, especially economics, statistics, politics and government including government publications, foreign relations and law; Korean history, biography and archaeology; language and literature; philosophy, religion and fine arts. It comprises monographs, journals, newspapers and some DVDs and ephemera. Aside from Inter Library Loan, the National Library of Australia has a Copies Direct Service where students can request copies of articles or book chapters directly by themselves.
  • The National Digital Library’ bibliographic search engine enables the user to search through the holdings of the following nine libraries and portal services: The National Library, The National Assembly Library, The Digital Science Library, The Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KISTI), RISS, The Korean Agricultural Science Digital Library, the Korean Knowledge Portal, and the National Defense Digital Library.
  • The National Library of Korea. Though the search results are a part of the National Digital Library of Korea, the interface is available in English and has a multilingual keyboard.
  • Worldcat: is the biggest world-wide search engine for library holdings. You can use it to search information about books, but also to locate the nearest library that holds a copy. If any book or journal you found is unavailable in Leiden, you can either visit the holding library (which is often free for Dutch University Students) or request the item through Inter Library Loan.

Recommended online search engines

  • Korea Citation Index (KCI): A citation index covering over 665,000 articles published in Korea from over 8000 journals.
  • Naver Academic: Provides access to some articles, dissertations, government publications, statistics and more. The impact factor, research trends by categories and keywords, and citation database is included. You can see in the index on the right of your search results which sources you found are free, and for which you need to pay.
  • RISS for Higher Education: Korean dissertations and theses from Universities in South Korea. Some are available in PDF files for free.

Recommended LibGuides

  • Duke University Libraries – Korean Studies Guide: LibGuide with many suggestions for Korean Reference materials, an excellent overview of Primary sources, online E-resources per discipline, lists of films divided by subject and more. Updated frequently by librarian Miree Ku.
  • Cornell University Library – North Korea: LibGuide specifically on North Korea. Many examples of books, journals and articles per subject, ranging from the Kim’s biographies, history to economics, defectors, art, literature, women and statistics. Updated frequently by librarian Carole Atkinson.

Open Access

  • DOAJ: Directory of Open Access Journals. DOAJ is a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals
  • KOAJ: Korea Open Access Journals. A search engine to find Korean journals that are published in Open Access
  • DOAB: Directory of Open Access Books. The primary aim of DOAB is to increase discoverability of Open Access books.
  • OAPEN: Like DOAB, OAPEN is a portal for discovering Open Access Books.

Leiden University Libraries is dedicated to support Open Access publishing and encourages students to use Open Access sources. See the Open Access page of the Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS). For PhD students and scholars: if you are interested in publishing your articles and books in Open Access, get in touch with the CDS for information and support.

A. Reading and searching: two sides of the same coin

The most conventional method of discovering relevant authors and publications for your research is discovering them in the footnotes and endnotes of other publications. While you may not yet be adept at locating Korean language scholarly publications, you can already discover Korean books, articles and authors of relevance for your topic by reading English language scholarly publications written by authors with a good command of the Korean language. These scholars are, on the whole, very familiar with both the established and recent publications within Korea on their topic of expertise, and will include and dissect the Korean publications they deem of value and interest in their own work. We therefore recommend to make enough time to read your sources, and then do follow-up searches. When reading ask yourself: which authors are talking about my topic, what do they say, what books/articles did they write, which sources do they cite and how was the research conducted?

You may think that reading all the sources you find in order to do follow up search will take too long. However, in this part of the research process, you are only reading your sources to (1) confirm that they match your information need, (2) double-check that they are academic (3) not too old for your topic of choice, and (4) find references to other scholars and publication about your topic.

Tips on strategic reading

  • Scan: Quickly go through a text by reading just the titles of chapters, abstracts of papers, paragraph titles, or the first sentence of a new paragraph, and the conclusion. This will help you determine whether or not you want to read the source more in detail, and which parts you can easily skip.
  • Reading and Note making What are you supposed to learn from this assignment? What is the intended outcome? Use this as a guiding principle when reading making notes. Watch this videov about using your time more efficiently when you are reading and making notes or read up on the ‘what to avoid when taking notes’ list.
  • Don’t forget to write down where your information comes from! If you are not sure where the information comes from when you start writing, you are at risk of plagiarism. Tip: The quickest way to make a short note when you are reading is taking the last name of the author + page. For example: Hall, p. 31. If you use multiple sources by the same author, add the publication year. (Hall, 2005, p. 31)
  • For more information see theCritical Reading Techniques.

Rinse and Repeat

At this stage, you have found a good number of sources, read them, took notes, and likely found other publications authors and data that you have not found before. This marks the second round of searching for sources – look up that interesting looking book you found in a footnote, find out what else the author of that book wrote, see if you can get it through Leiden University or other means, and... read! By repeating this cycle of read-search-access-read two or three times, you are very likely to find (1) the majority of relevant publications on your topic of choice, (2) the majority of authors writing about your topic of choice, and (3) a good number of sources of relevance to your topic of choice. Only once you have followed this thorough and deliberate way of locating your sources are you ready to move forward.

B. Refine your topic

This is a good point in your research to revisit your topic and your research question. While reading you may have found that there is much more about your topic than you initially though – or not enough. You may have found that your research question has already been dealt with in length by other scholars, while at the same time, another question that is even more interesting may come to mind. Perhaps you would like to take your research into a whole different direction after doing some reading and follow up research?When you are refining your topic, allow yourself to be flexible. It is common to modify your topic during the research process.

Take some time to visit the checklist for your topic and research question again, and see if you need to make any chances. If you have already handed in your topic and research question to your supervisor, you should always inform them of any major changes you wish to make.Have a look at this overview of tips for refining your research topic.

A. Digital vs. Paper

Tips for accessing Digital sources

  • If you found any digital source in the catalogue that you wish to access from home you need to login using your ULCN credentials.
  • For the National Library of Korea access, you must login using Remote Workplace. You need to install Citrix Receiver for this.
  • E-books from the catalogue may require you to install software in order to read them in your browser or download them. Some E-book platforms only allow you to download E-books if you register on their platform. This is free and does not take much time.
  • If you perform a search that says ‘No Records Found’, you have the option to expand your search beyond Leiden University Libraries holdings. Be aware that you likely do not have access to this content directly. Search results that show up using this method are often marked as ‘No Online Access’. That does not mean you cannot get access to this content. Write down the bibliographical information of the source and proceed to step c.
  • If you come across a source in the catalogue that is listed as “Online Access” or “Open Access” but you cannot get access, click the ‘report a problem’ option within the record.

Tips for accessing Paper sources

  • You need a valid LU card for access in most buildings.
  • To see books from the Asian Library, you need special access on your LU card. If the card does not work to open the doors of the Asian Library, update the card through the small silver box near entrance 8, or on the ground floor at the reception.
  • The catalogue displays the location information (where can you find it?), item policy (available for loan or not), and current availability oncesigned in. If the item is located in the Reading Room, you must access it yourself.
  • Leiden University Libraries consists of several library locations. Depending on your research topic, you may need to access physical books from these different locations.

B. Special Collections

  • The Special Collections consists of old and rare books, maps and manuscripts. There are a number of interesting materials either in Korean or from Korea as well. In particular, all materials published in North Korea are only accessible in the reading room for Special Collections. Below follow some tips
  • The Reading Room for Special Collections have different opening hours, document delivery time and use rules. Please consult this page.
  • You can find the materials in the Special Collections through the online catalogue. Change search in ‘All content” to “Special Collections”.
  • You can request material that is not yet in the online catalogue here.
  • You can order Digital Images of items from the special collection here.

C. Not available in Leiden?

At this point in your research you may have compiled a list of sources you found that are not available at Leiden University Libraries. No worries! There are a number of ways in which you can get access to materials that are not available at Leiden University Libraries.

How to get access to materials not available in Leiden

  • Look up the book or journal in Worldcat. If you enter your zip code, you can find the library nearest to you that has a copy. Many sources in Western languages are also collected by the Royal Library in the Hague or other University Libraries.
  • Go to the library location. The Royal Library in the Hague offers a 50% discount for students for a one-year membership. Leiden University Students can apply for a library card free of charge at all Dutch Universities. Don’t forget to bring your ID and student card!
  • Request the item through Inter Library Loan (ILL): If you wish to have the book send to Leiden, you can click the “Request through ILL” button within Worldcat and fill out the form.
  • Request the item through International ILL or Blauer Leihverkehr: For Korea studies in particular, often you will find that the item you need is not in a library in the Netherlands.
  • Ask Leiden University to acquire the item: You can file a request for the library to purchase a book, access to a journal or database. All requests are considered by the relevant subject librarian, and a decision is made depending on collection policy, available budget and price of the item. Please keep in mind that, in case an item is purchased, it can take several weeks for the item to be shipped and processed.
  • National Library of Australia Copies Direct Service. If you find a book chapter or article you need, you can check if the National Library of Australia has access to this item. If so, you can request up to 10% of the original or one chapter for personal research and study.
  • Buy the book yourself. Especially for older books, you can often find a cheap, second hand copy on websites suchas Amazon, Boekwinkeltjes, de Slegte or Abebooks.
  • Contact your subject librarian. If the above measures did not help, reach out to your subject librarian. It is possible that they know different means and methods within their field of expertise to obtain access to the materials you need.

D. Getting Korean journal articles

For Korean resources in particular, the subject librarian can use RISS International Library Loan. RISS offers access to a wide variety of sources, but also has the option for Inter Library Loan. In the link you can see the step-by-step guide on how to request materials through RISS. Requests are free up to $200 dollar per institution per year and under 40 requests. Should your request exceed this limitation a fee will be charged.

A. Why do I need to evaluate scholarly publications – wasn´t that evaluated already?

It may come as a surprise that you are required to be critical of all your sources, including the ones you find in the library catalogue, academic databases, and those quoted in other scholarly publications. In today’s world, you can find more information than you can ever read with just a single search online. But not all information is created equal. Publishing and sharing information has become accessible to all, without any quality checks or factchecks.

Academic information, at least, has put up a number of hurdles to tackle misinformation and disinformation from spreading, such as peer review. However, aside from the fact that these measures are far from failsafe, journals, books and authors can certainly be biased or prejudiced while working within the academic framework. It is your job as a scholar to be critical of all sources you use – academic or not – and train yourself in recognizing sources that you had better avoid for your paper or thesis.

B. Popular & Scholarly

At the beginning of your student career at Leiden University, you may sometimes miss the difference between scholarly information and popular sources, and why this difference is even important. Things like Youtube videos, blog posts, or magazine articles can be very tempting material to use in a paper, simply because they (1) mainly focus on being entertaining instead of being informative, (2) use clear and easy to understand language instead of academic English and field-specific terminology, and (3) due to algorithms, are likely to confirm your pre-existing worldview and ideas instead of challenging them. It is especially tricky when opinions of the author are presented as ‘facts’ that seem correct due to being based on cherry-picked data. If you are not yet confident in discerning between scholarly and popular sources, we recommend you follow a couple of tutorials.

C. Evaluating information

It is important you ask yourself a number of questions while reading a source, such as: Who wrote the information, why did they publish it, is there an agenda and when/where was it published? All of this comes before you can think about the text itself. This follows a technique used by professional factcheckers, called;lateral reading, where you first consider the container of the text, before you look at the text itself.

The above is useful for information found both in print and online. For information found solely online there is an additional method, called the SIFT method. SIFT stands for Stop, Investigate the Source, Find trusted coverage, Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context. In many cases it will take about 30 seconds to quickly check whether for example a news report is true once you have trained yourself in the four moves of SIFT.

Take a look at these tutorials about evaluating information.

A. Organize & Cite

Which citationstyle should I use?

Depending on your field, the requirements as set out by your department, or your own personal preference, you can adopt one of the existing citation styles. The two most frequently used ones in humanities are: MLA(style is typically used for literature and humanities) and CMS (used in natural and social sciences as well as humanities documents. This is the most commonly used citation style in Korean Studies). The most important thing about using a citation style is consistency. Do not mix up the different styles and rules! If you are uncertain which style you should use for your paper or thesis, always consult with your supervisor. See these tutorials and books below that can help you get started with making your own citations below.

Recommended Books:

How do I cite Korean sources?

  • Yale University quick guide to Citation style for East Asian sources: A guide with an overview on how to cite Korean sources, including different examples for foot- and endnotes, books, journal articles, databases, DVD & films, book chapters, websites and so on.
  • Library Wiki: How to cite Asian-language sources: Wiki guides on citing Korean in APA, CMS and MLA. These give a good overview, but might not always be up to date. Always check the CMS Online when in doubt, and consult with your supervisor.
  • Citing sources published in a language using a different script can be challenging, and Korean is no exemption. If you are unsure of how you are supposed to cite Korean sources for your paper, ask your supervisor.

Reference Managers

Once you start collecting literature for your paper, it is a good idea to organise your sources clearly from the start. With the help of a reference manager you will be able to find what you have read easily and be able to cite it correctly. Learning how to work with a reference manager is a new skill, but it will save you time since many websites and databases have ‘export citation’ options (always select UTF-8 and check if all information is correctly). The easiest way to organise your sources is by using a reference manager such as EndNote or Mendeley.

  • EndNote is a very powerful reference manager, which is supported by the university ICT department and is available to use on all university work stations. However, if you want to install it on your own computer or want to use it once you leave the university you will have to buy the software yourself
  • Mendeley: A more affordable option, which the university ICT department also supports is Mendeley. You can learn more about these two programmes on our page about reference managers.
  • RefWorks: Web based reference manager. One of the more popular reference managers in Korea, given the fact that it handles East Asian scripts well and has a strong user support in many non-English languages, including Korean.
  • If you found out halfway through you’d prefer a different manager, read this guide.
  • Specific for East Asian Scripts: when exporting a record from any database or website, make sure you always select UTF-8. If possible, set this as default.

Korean sources and Reference Managers

While reference managers and automatic citation generators can save you a lot of time and stress, you should ALWAYS check if all information is entered correctly. This is especially true for Korean sources; if the record you are importing has both Korean script and romanization, chances are that the wrong fields will be imported while others are not, and your footnotes and endnotes will be incomplete. Often, you will have to manually input a Korean source to make sure all information is in the right fields.

Resources for problems when importing Korean resources:

B. Avoid Plagiarism

One of the reasons the use of reference managers is advisable is that it helps you format your references correctly in your paper. Citing your sources is an important part of avoiding plagiarism. In its most elementary definition, plagiarism is taking someone else’s work, words or ideas, and presenting it as your own. So, if you refer to or paraphrase someone else’s work, you need to cite them in your paper. The primary reasons for citing sources in a research paper are (1) to give credit to the authors whose work you have drawn upon and (2) to allow readers to track down your sources, should they wish to do so.

If you read the above paragraph avoiding plagiarism does not seem that complicated, but in practice it can be a little trickier. The main stumbling blocks, apart from how to cite, seem to be when to cite – or rather whether something might be considered common knowledge – and how to paraphrase properly. Not to worry! There are a number of sources that can help you avoid plagiarism and cite things right!

It is not without reason that much attention is given to citing correctly and avoiding plagiarism. As a student you are also bound by the principles of academic integrity, for example when writing a paper or thesis. There are strict rules concerning plagiarism and fraud stated in your study programme's Education and Examination Regulations. Plagiarms also includes, for example, Self-plagiarism (using something you wrote before for a different assignment without citing yourself properly) and not crediting the original texts when you use your own translation of this text.

C. Synthesize & Write

Once you have found, evaluated, and read all of your literature (for now) it is time to think about what you have read and to synthesize the literature. This means that you need to identify at least the following three points (1) common themes between sources, (2) places where the sources/authors (direct or indirect) disagree and (3) gaps in the literature (what is missing?). But that does not mean that you should just give a number of summaries of articles. Instead, it is important to compare and contrast, broaden the argument and give your own thoughts and conclusions. For a more detailed explanation, use one of the following sources:


After all this, it is time to actually write your paper. Outlining, structuring, and not panicking will all help here, as will knowing that you do not have to write it perfectly in the first draft. Take another look at the books we recommended before in 1B. If you are stuck or need more support have a look at the Sage project planner, A student’s guide to writing in East Asian Studies (Harvard) and these tips and links.

Still having trouble? Contact the Academic Writing Lab for hands-on help with your writing process. You can find them here.

General questions

For general questions about the library, the website, the catalogue and so on, there are few ways of reaching out: Ask a librarian, whatsapp, email or telephone.

Who do I contact about the Korean Collections?

If you have any questions related to the Korean Collections, you can contact the subject librarian responsible for the Japanese & Korean Collection, Ms. Nadia Kreeft. You can find her in room 240 in the Reading Room of the Asian Library on the second floor. This is the room directly across from the entrance numbered with a large ‘8’.=

There are no office hours, but students are encouraged to walk in if they have a question. If the subject librarian would like some more time to properly answer the question it is possible to schedule an appointment. Questions students often ask the subject librarian include, but are not limited to: finding/accessing/locating specific sources, purchase requests, organizing movie screenings and events in the library etc.

Library tutorials for Korean Studies

All students receive a library tutorial once per year, usually in the first semester. Tutorials range from simple case-based tutorials in the BA 1, to searching for Korean sources in Korean databases in the BA 3 and MA. The tutorials aim to make students familiar with the collections, teach them to effectively search for sources for their paper on their own, and introduce tools and tips for the thesis research process. All tutorials are organized as part of the curriculum of the Department of Korean Studies. Your instructor will inform you when and where the tutorials take place.

Help for Thesis students

When you are working on your BA or MA thesis and you feel you are struggling in finding the right sources, enough sources or access to the sources you found, you can make an appointment with the subject librarian for a paper clinic. This is a one-on-one session where the subject librarian will go through your thesis topic, question and preliminary bibliography, and see how she can help you further your research. If you are interested in a paper clinic, contact your subject librarian.

A. Romanization

B. Apps and browser extensions

  • Naver Korean Dictionary
  • Toktogi (똑똑이): A Korean-English pop-up dictionary.
  • Naver Papago: AI translator.
  • The Leiden search assistant makes it easy to search the UBL Library Catalogue, Google Scholar, PubMed and WorldCat at the same time from within any web page. Simply type in key words on the search bar or select words in a text on the web and right click. Available for Chrome and Firefox.
  • UBL get access extension for internet explorer, Chrome or Firefox. UBL Get Access is a browser extension that gives simple and quick access to academic articles, journals and databases licensed by the library when searching on the web.
  • Browzine, the app for quick access to your favourite academic e-journals on your tablet or PC with the free app BrowZine: full text, always up-to-date.

C. Other useful websites

A. History of the Korean Collection

The first books concerning Korean language, dress, culture and habits were brought to the Netherlands by Philip Franz Von Siebold (1796-1866), but the first person to actively use them was most likely J.J. Hoffmann (1805-1878). He became the first professor of Chinese and Japanese in Leiden in 1855. Hoffmann learnt about Korea and its language through the books which Ph. F. von Siebold and his contemporaries had brought back from Japan. Considering his knowledge of Chinese he likely made use of Chinese sources in Leiden University as well for this purpose.

In 1957, Frits Vos (1918-2000) was appointed as the first professor of Japanese and Korean studies. He previously worked as an interpreter of Korean during the Korean War, and under his guidance and support a separate Centre for Japanese Studies and Korean was created with its own separate library in 1969. This library was later merged with the library for Chinese studies into the East Asian Library.

From the 1980’s onwards, Korean materials were collected alongside Japanese materials as part of a joined collection and joined budget. The span and scope of collection development for Korean materials was amplified by the appointment of the first professor of Korean Studies, Prof. Boudewijn Walraven, in 1994. Core disciplines represented in the collections for Korean studies in this early stage of collection development are philosophy, religion, history, linguistics, and anthropology.

The immense popularization of Korean culture since early 2000, with a particular boom in 2012, caused an expansion of the department both in terms of staff, students and the variety in the curriculum and research areas. This resulted in a strong shift of educational and research interest into newer areas such as popular culture, gender studies, racism and minorities, international relations, politics, slavery, and North Korean studies in general.

In 2017, the collections of the East Asian Library were moved to the main University Library. Together with collections from the KITLV, KIT and the Royal Tropical Institute they now form the Asian Collections of Leiden University Libraries, with a joint reference collection in the newly established Asian Library reading room on the second floor, and a large selection of primary source materials in open stacks on the -1 floor.

The Asian Library was formally opened on the 14th of September 2017 by her Majesty Queen Maxima.

B. Collection Highlights

The Korean collection is a relatively young collection amongst the Asian collections. Nevertheless, there are two distinct areas where the collection distinguishes itself from similar collections in Europe.

Korean Cinema

The Asian Library houses a collection of Korean Cinema, which offers a wide range of DVD’s of North and South Korean Films, including mainstream films, independent products, popular genres, fiction, documentary and experimental work. The library also offers access to books, journals and digital resources related to the study of Korean Cinema. For more information, check out the section for ‘Korean Cinema’ in this subject guide.

North Korean materials

Leiden University Libraries houses a significant collection of North Korean books, journals and DVD’s, which can be located in the online catalogue.  These materials can be consulted in the Reading Room Special Collections due to the relatively poor quality of the material, as well as its irreplaceability. There are further restrictions or requirements for those who wish to consult these sources. For more information, check out the section ‘North Korean Studies’.

Of particular fame is the annotated digital archive of over 1,000 North Korean printed posters from the private collection of Willem van der Bijl. Purchased in North Korea over nearly a decade, this collection has posters spanning nearly the entire history of the DPRK, with the oldest posters dating back to the final year of the Korean War (1950-53). The posters chart a visual history of North Korea as a political project. Driven by slogans handed down through party or state organs, posters are an important part of the country’s propaganda and agitation apparatus. This poster collection is a unique tool for scholars interested in the political, economic, social, and/or cultural history of North Korea.

C. Cataloguing history of the Korean Collections. 

Historically, the Korean materials were collected as part of the Japanese collections. Materials were given a shelf mark and subject code according to the Harvard-Yenching Classification. Since Harvard-Yenching was mainly invented for Chinese materials, it did not accommodate the specific classification needs of Korean materials. Subject codes assigned to Korean books are based on the subject guides for similar topics in Chinese studies.

For placement of materials purchased or acquired from before 2016, you can find the following types of Shelf marks:

JAPAN.K = South Korean materials acquired up to circa 2012

JAPAN.NK = North Korean materials acquired up to circa 2012

D.  Donations and Support 

In addition to the library budget, the Korean collections are actively supported by donations from the following partners, in no particular order:

  • The Korea Foundation

  • National Library of Korea

  • National Diet Library of Korea

  • National Assembly Library of Korea

  • Literature Translation Institute of Korea

  • Academy of Korean Studies Library

  • Institute of the translation of Korean classics

  • Northeast Asia History Foundation

  • Support the Korean Collections at Leiden University Libraries

  • You can become a Friend of Leiden University Libraries (UBL) to support the purchase of special books, manuscripts and maps for the benefit of research and teaching at Leiden University.

You can support the Korean collections at Leiden University Libraries by donating your books or making a financial contribution.

You can also become a Friend of Leiden University Libraries! This will not only help us carry out many of our activities within the library, but also has many benefits for you as a new member.

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