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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: 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 are: 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.

Brainstorming 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.


United States


Food production


crop production

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

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 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, savve, 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.




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)

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