Skip to Main Content

SPCOM 193: Locating sources

Locating Quality Sources

The following are some good places to start when you're looking for information:

Scopus: Scopus is a database that provides access to peer-reviewed literature from scientific journals, books and conference proceedings, covering the fields of science, technology, medicine, social sciences, and arts and humanities. (Primary Sources).

Springer eBooks: Here you can find ebooks, and book chapters from physical sciences, engineering, life sciences, health sciences, social sciences, humanities, business, and education (Secondary sources).

JoVE Science Education: This is a video library that covers Chemistry and Biology information (Tertiary 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. 

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.