Skip to main content

ENG119: The Overheating World: Search Tips

Spring 2017, N. Moreira


Scholarly encyclopedias will provide background information and references as well to other useful resources.

Wikipedia - Beware



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.

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 climate change and drought in California (Los Angeles).  


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

EXAMPLE: drought, water scarcity, California (Los Angeles)


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.

climate change

global warming






water scarcity

water conserv*


*Indicates variation after the "v"




Los Angeles





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:

(climate change or global warming) AND (drought or water scarcity) AND (California or Los Angeles) 

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

Need Help?

Profile Image

Rocco Piccinino


Young Science Library
(413) 585-2951