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ENV201/202: Researching Environmental Problems: Search Strategies & Tips

Fall 2019: D. Lello

The Deep Web

A vast majority of the web (90%!) cannot be accessed via search engines like Google. (2.26 minutes) From Mashable.

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. 

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

EXAMPLE: lead, drinking water, toxicity

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


*=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)

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

Mind Mapping Worksheet

Get help from Rocco Piccinino

Rocco Piccinino, Science Librarian

Contact:

413-585-2951
rpiccini@smith.edu
Young Library 106

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