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 130: Black and Free: Locating sources

A Library guide supporting Dr. Keleta-Mae's Arts130 section

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 another 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

Below you will find a collection of the core ways to access information sources.  


The library catalogue is where you should look to find books.  Books continue to be an integral part of communication within the humanities and social sciences. 

The library catalogue allows you to search:   

  • Print material
  • Books
    • Non-fiction, fiction (limited collection), textbooks, essay collections, dissertations, trade publications, reference material, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and more.
  • eBooks

The Library’s Find a Book page will help you learn to navigate the catalogue from identifying a relevant book to physically locating it in the book stacks.

You can also use the catalogue to search for Articles. However, the catalogue search does not include all library databases and does not cover all subject areas equally. For a comprehensive search, visit the Research & journal databases page. 

Inter-Library Loans

In the event the Library does not have something in its collection, you can see if any other universities have what you’re looking for and request an Inter Library Loan.  


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 Research guides by subject.

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, in the next section we will discuss how to judge the quality of a source. 

Google Scholar

You can find a number of sources through the use of Google and Google Scholar search engines.

While the search interface is natural and familiar to most users, the quality of results can be very poor.  Use this type of searching during your preliminary research. Make note of key terms and authors that you can use to improve your searches in more subject-specific databases. 

If using Google or Google Scholar be sure to connect your account to the University of Waterloo's resources, so that you can quickly identify sources that are in our collection. 

Search Statement Worksheet

Unified Catalogue Search

The unified search is located on the library's homepage.  A search in this will find books, databases, articles, library web pages and more. It is a good place to start your research, especially if you are not sure where the information you’re looking for would be found. Once you determine this, you should move to a more specific search in the Library catalogue or in a database.

Course Reserves

Your instructor uses course reserves to provide you with access to selected readings from print and electronic resources such as books, lecture notes, e-books, e-journal articles, and scanned excerpts. Your instructor may require you to incorporate course readings into your research.