Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Library Research

Finding Books and Articles for Your Paper

Identify the main concepts

The first step in developing a search strategy is to pull out the main concepts in your research question. Most of the time, this involves identifying the nouns.

Consider the following research question:

How much do television ads for medication impact patient prescription requests?

The key concepts are highlighted in blue: television ads, medication, and patient prescription requests. It's not necessary to use impact, because it's not a core concept.

Here is another example:

How has the introduction of genetically modified crops in North America affected food production?

These key concepts highlighted in blue: genetically modified crops, North America, food production. North America is a geographical limiter that confines the question to a specific region.

Once you have identified the key concepts, the next step is to brainstorm additional keywords.

How have the introduction of genetically modified crops in North America affected food production?

For the research question above, the key concepts are bolded: genetically modified crops, North America, and Food production.

Because there are many words that describe the same concept, it's a good idea to come up with as many synonyms - or words that mean the same thing - so you can make sure your search is as comprehensive as possible.

Examples of additional synonyms:

Genetically modified crops

Genetically modified organisms

transgenic organisms

North America - because North America is made up of three countries, you can include any of them as part of your search.

Canada

United States

Mexico

Food production

farming

crop production

Now that you have some synonyms, you can start building your search...

Boolean searching uses operators to combine search terms to define very specific search parameters

The basic boolean operators are: AND, OR, NOT

Let's illustrate the concepts using the following research question:

Are ducks or eagles faster at flying?


AND Operator

AND requires both search terms to be present to return a result.

So if you were to search for both ducks AND eagles you would get results that discuss both of them.

 

OR Operator

Searching for ducks OR eagles will produce results with either term.

NOT operator

NOT excludes certain terms. If you are looking for ducks OR eagles, but don't want any results that have to do with the Anaheim ducks hockey team, you can use NOT.

Complex Boolean searches

Let's go back to the research question that we brainstormed keywords for:

How have the introduction of genetically modified crops in North America affected food production?

Genetically modified crops / Genetically modified organisms / Transgenic Organisms

North America / Canada / United States / Mexico

Food production / Farming / Crop Production

A general way to think about it:

Synonyms can be connected with OR

Different concepts can be connected with AND

Brackets can be used, much like mathematics, to group terms and operators

For example:

(Genetically Modified Crops OR Transgenic Organisms) AND (Farming OR Crop Production)

This boolean search is effectively conducting four searches:

Genetically Modified Crops AND Farming

Genetically Modified Crops AND Crop Production

Transgenic Organisms AND Farming

Transgenic Organisms AND Crop Production

Finding Books

You can do a simple search for books directly from the library homepage using the search box or you can click on Advanced Search to do an advanced search. Keep in mind that the library collection is small so you should only use one or two general terms to search for books.

If you want to write a paper on melting sea ice in the arctic, you could look for a book on climate change.

To find that book you would type Climate Change into the search box and click Search

Search Results

You will end up with search results that contain both articles and books. To restrict your results to books, click All Filters underneath your search box. Click on Source Type and choose books. You may not see books under the initial source types but click more at the bottom. Click apply filters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You will find this initial filter will result in books that are both online and in print. To filter your results solely to books physically located in the library click All Filters again and then filter by location and click General. Click Apply Filters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The green box below shows you where the information you need to find the book on the shelf is located. and Status tells you which section of the library it's in and whether or not it's checked out. Location tells you which library has it, Call number tells you where it is on the shelf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to use a call number

Once you have the call number for the book you want for your research, you have all the information you need to find the book on the shelf.

Let's say you want to find this book on climate change:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This call number for this book is WB 700 R66 2016.

WB helps to locate the shelf that it's on.

These signs on the end of the row of shelves tell you the range of 2-letter call numbers that are found on this row. In this case, WB is found between UA and WS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The numbers after the 2-letter call number tell you where on the shelf the book is located. Notice that the Call number we are looking for (WB 700 R66 2016) is found with other books in the WB 700 range. R66 comes after E67 and before S73. 2016 is the year the book was published.

Finding eBooks is much the same as finding print books

Finding eBooks

You can do a simple search for ebooks directly from the library homepage using the search box or you can click on Advanced Search to do an advanced search. Keep in mind that the library collection is fairly limited so you should only use one or two general terms to search for ebooks.

If you want to write a paper on melting sea ice in the arctic, you could look for an ebook on climate change.

To find that book you would type Climate Change into the search box and click Search

 

 

 

 

 

 

Search Results

You will end up with search results that contain both articles and books. To restrict your results to ebooks, first click on All Filters (circled in red below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, click on Source Type and select eBooks.Click Apply filters at the bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Access eBooks

Click on the title of an eBook that you wish to access from you results list. Click Access Now. Alternatively, from your results list you can simply click Access Now within a book title you're interested in.

Some eBooks will have EPUB access only and some will have EPUB and PDF access. If the eBook says Access Now eBook you'll have the choice of EPUB or PDF. If the eBook says access now you will only have PDF as an option and it will immediately open the PDF.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding articles in Discovery

Discovery will search most of the research databases that the library subscribes to at once, so it's a great place to begin your search for journal articles. You can do a simple search from the search box on the library homepage, but we are going to click on Advanced Search to give us more search options.

 

Conducting a search

The advanced search page let's you search for multiple keywords or phrases and by default it connects them with AND, which means that it searches for items that include all of the keywords. It's best practice to search for each concept in a separate search bar. Putting too many keywords in one search bar can cause the search results to miss relevant articles. From the library home page under the search box click on Advanced Search. On the next page click Advanced Search once more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After you click Search, you will get a page of search results. If you want to restrict your search to peer-reviewed articles, you can click the box under your search terms Academic (Peer-reviewed) Articles (Red circle in image above). If you want to read the abstract of an article you can click on the title to go to the article's record.

 

Anatomy of an article record

After you've clicked on the title of an article, you will see the record for that article which contains additional information including publication information for a complete citation, the abstract, and any assigned subject headings.  To access the article itself click on Access Now which will allow you to read the complete article, or download it onto your computer. The green box highlights multiple tools you can use to share, save, and cite the article. The citation tool is a good time saver, but it is not perfect so it is very important that you check the citation formatting carefully using a citation guide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limiting your search results

Search results can be limited by using the Filters (red circle) or by date (green box).

 

 

 

 

 

 

To limit your search results via other means click on All filters where you'll see a number of different options to limit results. For example if you want to limit your search results to articles focusing on a specific country use the Geography filter. You can also use the filters to limit to Academic (Peer Reviewed) articles and to limit by date range.

 

 

Some research databases, like JSTOR and CBCA are not searched effectively using Discovery, so they have to be searched individually. JSTOR is most useful for those doing research in the humanities, and CBCA indexes Canadian newspapers, magazines, and university presses.

 

 

Finding the research databases

From the library homepage, click on Databases .

JSTOR

JSTOR indexes articles on many subjects, but is particularly useful for the humanities. Each keyword can be entered in a separate search box (red arrow), and the results can be narrowed by item type (green box) and date range (blue box). 

Canadian Business and Current Affairs (CBCA)

CBCA indexes Canadian newpapers, magazines, and university presses. Search results can be narrowed by peer-reviewed articles or full-text (red arrow), as well as by date range (blue box).

Additional methods to help you search the databases efficiently:

Use quotations to indicate a phrase.

If Food Production is one of your search terms the database will return results with both terms, but not necessarily next to each other or in the same order. 

"Food production" will tell the database to look for those two words in that order.

Use a * to search for multiple terms with the same root.

Searching for child*

will tell the database to return results including: child, children, childcare, childhood...

Summary

Developing a search strategy makes finding relevant articles for your research assignment more efficient.

  • Identify the key concepts from your research question
  • Brainstorm synonyms for each concept to generate additional keywords
  • Think about how you want to connect your keywords using AND/OR boolean operators

(Farming AND Genetically Modified Crops)
(Genetically Modified Crops OR Transgenic Organisms)

Selkirk Logo Selkirk Email Current Students Staff Directory MySelkirk for Staff ITS Helpdesk