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BIO154: Biodiversity, Ecology and Conservation: Search Tips

Fall 2012, L. Katz and S. Record

Help With Citation

Select a standard citation style and document sources correctly and consistently.

Search Tips

Whether you are searching for books in the Five College Library Catalog, or searching for scholarly articles in a library database, it pays to be organized as you start your search. Break down searching into a three step process.

Write down as much information about your topic as possible. (You can use encyclopedias and other reference books to help gather background information). Answer the following questions:

  • What is your topic?
  • What questions do you have?
  • What do you know? What don't you know?

Then, try to summarize what you are looking for in one or two sentences.

EXAMPLE: I would like to learn more about primates, specifically in regard to conservation.

Using the information in Step 1, list the main concepts of your topic.


Now create a list of synonyms of your key concepts. Think broadly, think narrowly! This step is helping you expand your search by expressing your query in a variety of ways. If you get too many results, then you can work on focussing your search.











You will use the word lists you developed in Step 3 to create search strategies. Use "OR" between synonyms and "AND" between concepts. For instance:

(primate OR ape) AND (conserv* OR ecolog*)

To access articles, use the SC Links button.  This will either connect you to PDF of article, allow you to look for article in print in library, or request article via Interlibrary Loan (ILL).  ILL is now automated so that the database search engine will dump relevant article information (populate the form) into the ILL form.  All you have to do is register for an ILL account.

To search for specific journals in Web of Science, select "publication name" from the drop-down menu after the search box.  Within the search box, type:

trends* OR review*

Download this worksheet (with bonus search tips!) to help you organize your search strategy.

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