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Arts 130: Religion: the good and the bad: Locating sources

Identifying and searching sources - overview

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. 
  • Below is a search statement worksheet which may be helpful to organize your terms into a useful search strategy.

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 Databases 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.
    • Connecting 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.

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 from another source. Most databases will have a Get full text or Get It @ Waterloo link which will take you to the Library catalogue, Omni, to identify that source.

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

Search Statement Worksheet

Recommended Database for this Course

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

Two options to start with are Scopus and the Library catalogue, Omni.

Scopus contains 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.

If searching Omni, you will need to carefully consider the source as it contains articles from many different types of resources, including newspapers, magazines, trade journals, government documents, and more. Note that there is a peer-reviewed option available from the Results page. Below is a search box for Omni and a link to the Advanced search, which allows you to specify the type of resource (books, articles, etc.) and to use the search techniques mentioned above more easily.

Library catalogue

Search for books or articles


Advanced search