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EGR100 - Fall 2016: Search Tips & Background Information

Fall 2016, D. Guswa

The World Wide Web

Wikipedia - Beware

 

Wikipedia

BEWARE:  Can provide useful background information, but don't believe everything you read!  Evaluate and verify.

 

Contentious Science Topics on Wikipedia Subject to Editing Mishchief
by Meghan Rose, Science News [188;7, Oct. 3, 2015, p. 5.]

 

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 more about the water quality of drinking water in urban areas with specific focus on the Flint Michigan water crisis (and lead).

STEP 2

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

EXAMPLE: water, water pollution,  Flint (Michigan), cities, urban areas

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.

water pollution

lead

toxin*

bacteria


*=wildcard; will find variations in a word. In this case, those after the letter "n."

cities

urban

"Flint, Michigan"

Quotes around a term will search for the exact term.


 

treatment

remediation

policy

regulations

 

whistleblower*

 

 

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:

(water pollution OR lead) AND (city OR urban OR flint michigan) AND (treatment) 

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

Watch video (3 minutes):  Crafting a Savvy Search Strategy (UCLA Library)

Science and Engineering Research Help

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Rocco Piccinino
Contact:
413-585-2951
rpiccini@smith.edu
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