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FYS158: Reading the Earth: Search Tips & Citation

Fall 2012, S. Seelig

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.

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 how global warming is impacting plants.

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

EXAMPLE: global warming, plants, impact

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 focusing your search.

Global warming

Climate change

Plant*
Vegetation
Forest*
Tree*
Flower*
Crop*
Agriculture


Food
Food Insecurity

Impact*

Effect*

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:

(global warming OR climate change) AND (plant* OR vegetation) AND (impact* OR effect*)

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

Need Help?

Have questions?  Contact Rocco Piccinino at x2591, rpiccini@smith.edu  or use Ask a Librarian  (live chat).