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.

Arts 140: How to Win a Trade War: Locating articles

Locating Quality Sources

Step 1 – Identifying key terms

  • Start by listing keywords that best describe your topic. These may be single terms (example: media) or phrases (example: “social media”). Consider synonyms and out-dated terms as well. 
  • You will use these terms to craft your catalogue, database or search engine query in Step 3 

Topic: Impact of standing desks 

Research Question: Do standing desks reduce the occurrence of high blood pressure in adults?

Concept 1 (Population) Concept 2 (Intervention/Theory) Concept 3 (Comparison) Concept 4 (Outcomes/Effect/Phenomena)
Middle-aged adults who work at a desk Standing desk Sitting; stability ball; treadmill desk high blood pressure






Sit-stand desk

Standing workstation

Sit-stand workstation



Sit; Sitting; Seated

stability ball; Bosu Ball

treadmill desk



Low blood pressure

Blood pressure regulation

diastolic blood pressure

mean arterial pressure

Step 2 – Identifying what information is needed and where it is located

  • Identify the type of sources needed to gather research for your assignment.  This could include books, journals, data sets, newspaper articles, or other specialized sources.
  • Use a research guide or browse the Library’s list of research and journal databases list to identify where the information you need is likely to be found. 

Step 3 – Creating and refining your search

  • Search using the key terms you identified
    • Are you result relevant are to your research question?
    • Are there too few or too many results?
  • Refine your search.  Consider:
    • Using synonyms you identified earlier.
    • Enclosing phrases in quotation marks.
    • Connect multiple keywords with AND, OR, NOT (Boolean operators). 
    • Using truncation symbols such as * (asterisk) to retrieve all variations of a search term (example: statistic* - search will retrieve statistics and statistical).
    • Using search filters or the advanced search function.
    • Selecting a different database. 
  • Record useful searches for use later



Databases are organized and searchable collections of information such as articles, newspapers, reviews, and datasets.  Databases can be subject specific or multidisciplinary.   

To identify the top databases recommended for your discipline by Waterloo librarians, consult the Library's Research guides.

The Library’s Find an article page will help you learn to search for articles including accessing a database and downloading a full-text .pdf. 

Note that some databases are indexes. Indexes are a special type of database that contain only data about the article, not the article itself. You will usually be able to find the full-text version in another database.


Journals and articles can vary in quality.  See the Evaluating sources section for information on how to judge the quality of a source. 

Reference Works

Reference works, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias and handbooks, are great for giving you an overview of a topic. Many of them also include an extensive reference list for further reading.

In Economics, a major reference work is The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics.


Searching Google is an effective, and often the best, way of locating information and reports from government, quasi-government, think tanks, industry organizations, etc.

When using Google, remember that it is EXTREMELY important to evaluate the source. See the Evaluating sources tab for details.

Recommended Databases for this Course

There are a variety of databases for finding and accessing journal articles which could be helpful for your assignment.

Two which you should definitely check out are:

Both of these databases contain almost exclusively sources which are academic/scholarly and/or peer-reviewed. Therefore, much of the evaluation work regarding accuracy and authority is already done. However, you will still need to think about relevancy, date, and reason for writing..

Search Statement Worksheet