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Research Steps

Select and define your topic

Discuss subject ideas with your professor or teaching assistant.
Look over titles in specialized encyclopedias or handbooks that cover your topic.
State your topic as a question. Identify key words or main ideas in your question.

Search Statement Worksheet 

Use it when you are developing your search strategy and working on your research.

Find background information

Once you have identified your topic, begin library research by reading summaries of your topic. Subject encyclopedias and handbooks provide good information. Note relevant items in the bibliographies at the end of the articles. Additional information may be discovered in your textbook, lecture notes, or library reserve materials.

Use the Library catalogue to find books on your topic

Use Omni to search for books on your topic. Omni includes books, e-books, e-journals, databases and more.

Use Research and journal databases to find journal articles on your topic

Journal articles can provide in-depth and scholarly research on a topic, as well as the latest information or thought on the subject. To find journal articles on your topic select an appropriate research database.

Cite the sources in a standard format

Choose a citation style that is recommended by your professor or academic department.

Search Strategies

Boolean Searching Module

Learn about Boolean searching by completing this module.

Narrow your search (to retrieve fewer references) 

  • Use Boolean operators AND /Not. For example, glaciers AND climate change; invasive species Not purple loosestrife
  • Keep terms together by using quotation marks (e.g. “natural areas”)
  • Use limits – language; years of publications; publication type

Broaden your search (to retrieve more references)  

  • Use Boolean term OR e.g. rivers OR streams
  • Truncation. For example, forest* will retrieve forest, forestall, forests, forestation, forestry
  • Multi-character wildcard for finding alternate spellings. For example, behav*r will retrieve behavior or behaviour.

Refining your search (to find relevant results) 

  • Use NOT to exclude unwanted terms
  • Search specific fields (title, abstract, subject/descriptor, etc.)
  • Use AND instead of OR
  • Use other terms and phrases that keep occurring in the articles that you are reading