Using Discovery with JAWS

I can almost swear I’ve been where you are when it comes to assignment crises

Blind Student's Guide to using Discovery with JAWS

Perhaps you’re starting an assignment, perhaps you’re finishing it. You might be at the end of your tether and ready to throw your computer out the window to fall on the head of an innocent pedestrian, or you might be at that stage where you’re so insanely tired you just want to sit on the floor and bawl with frustration.

Whatever state you might be in, I can guarantee that this is the guide for you, partly because it’s fabulous and partly because I can almost swear I’ve been where you are when it comes to assignment crises. So pour yourself another cup of coffee or whatever restorative beverage you prefer (I often find a large glass of wine works for me), relax and get reading. The tips I offer in this body of work may seem obvious, but it’s hopefully not condescending and it might just help.


Whatever you do don’t use the “Using Discovery” link on the Library home page

Navigation tips

  • The easiest way to get to Discovery is go to use the Discovery guest search page. There are other ways to do it but this is quicker, less cluttered and works well.
  • On the Discovery search page you can use the input field to do a general search or click on the "Individual databases" link for an “A-Z List of Databases & E-Journals”.
  • Assuming you start with a general search, once you type in your keywords you will be taken to a log in page and once that process is completed, to a results page.
  • The results page can be easily navigated using the H key which will take you through the results from heading to heading.
  • Whatever you do don’t use the “Using Discovery” link on the Library home page. It takes you to a page that doesn’t work properly.

I’m almost certain that you, like me, have at some stage come across an academic article that looks brilliant...

Gathering sources from Results Page

  • On the results page you have the option of searching by keyword, title or author. There is also a menu which allows you to restrict the source types that you want to use, e.g. if you want books or magazines or only academic articles. Additionally, there is a check box that will limit your results to full text documents. I would strongly recommend checking this box, as it means less time foraging through hundreds of inaccessible documents and more time pursuing leisure activities. These menus can usually be found toward the bottom of the page.
  • I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you, but correct spelling is vital when typing in search terms. If you’re looking for a specific article, my advice is to find the exact name of it, do a quick copy and paste and search by title.
  • Another time saving strategy is to be very specific about what you need whilst typing in the search box, for fear of being overloaded with pointless information. It is often a good idea to read an assessment task or essay question carefully and start your initial search using words that jump out at you from that task/question.
  • I’m almost certain that you, like me, have at some stage come across an academic article that looks brilliant. Then, just as you begin to jump up and down with excitement (as we all do) you’re advised by the article information that only the reference details are provided. Do not despair! If it is a journal article or electronic document you can press enter on the “source it” link, which is usually available. On the following page, if you scroll forward a little, you will very likely come across a lovely link to a complete copy of the article, either in PDF or HTML. A good way to check if such a thing exists is to use the virtual find key command and type in the word “online.” If the resource is not there the horrid proclamation of “No online text available” will pop up.

Handy Tip

  • Upon clicking on a PDF document, patience is required while the document is processing. Internet explorer is not always the best browser during this process. If it’s taking a little while you can press the tab key a few times and see if that makes the document play nicely. It probably will.

Save yourself future heartache and read about half a page of each article

What to do when you find what you’ve been looking for

  • First things first, ensure that all the articles you have acquired, that are in PDF form, actually work. Some may be an image and others may be unreadable. There are some articles where most of the content is an image but the reference information is still readable, deceiving you into believing that you’ve downloaded a winner. There are also documents that only start being unreadable part way down the page due to bad scanning.
  • If you are feeling blissfully happy that at long last you’ve got all the sources you need, before you start patting yourself on the back, save yourself future heartache and read about half a page of each article. If by that stage the article is still good, you can probably start celebrating.
  • A handy hint for those who, like me, are not quite as comfortable with PDF as they are with Microsoft Word, is that it doesn’t alter the readability of the document if you copy and paste the content original PDF into a word document.
  • Finally, you may have noticed that not all the references you need for the dreaded bibliography can be found in the documents you have collected and often if they are there they are incomplete or hard to find. Before you burst in to hysterical shrieking like I once did, click on the title of the article in question where you will easily find a complete citation that will soon make everything seem possible.

Handy Tip

  • If you find an article that you need but cannot read, you can contact Student Equity and Disability Support who will assist you to obtain an accessible version of the document, for instance Braille, audio or electronic text.

Well that’s that! I hope if you didn’t enjoy it, you at least didn’t fall asleep. Good luck!

Contact Us

For assistance or to report accessibility problems please contact:

Andrew Normand
Web Accessibility Lead
Email: anormand@unimelb.edu.au
Phone: +61 3 9035 4867