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ENV201/202 (Fall 2021): Researching Environmental Problems: Background and Search Strategies

Fall 2021

Crafting a Savvy Search Strategy (UCLA Library video)

Boolean & Wildcards

2 short videos introduce Boolean search techniques:

[How Library Stuff Works, McMaster Libraries]

Evaluating Sources

Always remember to evaluate the quality of the site you are viewing.  Don't believe everything you read unless the information comes from a reputable or reliable source.  

Consider authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and completeness as you evaluate whether to utilize the information found on a particular Web page.

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.

STEP 1
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 about the lead in drinking water and its toxic effects including the Flint Michigan water crisis. 

STEP 2
Using the information in Step 1, list the main concepts of your topic.

EXAMPLE: lead, drinking water, toxicity, Flint Michigan

STEP 3
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.

lead

 

 

 

 

water

drinking water
           

 

                      
 



toxic*
poison

health

pollution

child*

effects

Flint Michigan


*=Wildcard; can be used to search for variations

Ex.  pollut*

 

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:

(lead) AND (water OR drinking water) AND (health) AND (Flint Michigan)

Get help from Charlotte Knight

Top science majors at Smith College

Contact: Charlotte Knight, Science Librarian

 Use Ask Us to connect
 cknight38@smith.edu
 working remotely in 2021

 

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Mind Mapping Worksheet