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FYS178: Energy, Environment, and Climate Change: Search Tips

Fall 2016, N. Fortune

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. 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 find statistics and articles about the kinds and amounts of energy use in France.

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

EXAMPLE: energy, France

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.


fossil fuel*



nuclear power





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



Add other terms to narrow topic further:

energy intensity        

annual per capita energy consumption /
annual per capita GDP 

annual per capita energy usage




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:

(fossil fuel OR oil OR gas) AND France 

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


Need Help?

Have questions?
Contact Rocco Piccinino, x2951,

Or use Ask a Librarian! during Reference Desk hours.