Most of us use Google to look up information every day. While this search engine can be a helpful tool when seeking general information (e.g. news coverage, weather forecasts, etc.) it’s not usually the best resource for doing academic research. Anyone can publish on the internet, making it difficult to know whether the information you find comes from a credible source. In addition, a lot of the information on Google is not scholarly, and if it is, it might be behind a paywall which prevents you from accessing the source you need. There are many library resources and tools that are better suited for academic information, such as the library search engine. You might also find it useful to consult one of the library's Subject Guides which include a number of key databases and other resources that are recommended for research within a particular discipline. Consult the chart below for more information about the advantages and disadvantages of using Google as a searching tool.
Many students and academics use Google Scholar for their research. Rather than broadly searching the internet, Google Scholar results focus more on websites that include academic publications. Although Google Scholar has some advantages, it it is not an adequate replacement for the specific databases you can search through the library.
Google was designed to find websites. Therefore, you may want to consult Google if an assignment asks you to incorporate non-scholarly sources. This search engine can be useful when you’re looking for topics such as news-related information or public information from governments and organizations. While you might find some academic books and articles by searching Google Scholar, it is not recommended that you search Google Scholar on its own. Paywalls, limited search functionality, and other challenges make it difficult to find the best resources. Alternatively, searching the library will save you time by allowing you to look for information within a relevant subject area or database. If you have questions about searching for information, you can always ask for help at any library service desk, or by contacting a librarian.
There is no single effective search strategy that will work perfectly every time, but... there are some things you can do to save time and find relevant books and articles more easily.
Searching is easier when you know the right words to search with. But what if you don't know much about your research topic? Chances are your first inclination is to "Google it" but there are some other ways to learn background information that are more reliable than websites or Wikipedia. Start by reviewing your textbook and course readings, making note of important concepts. Second, look at reference materials. Encyclopedias and dictionaries can give you the basic information you need to start with. Most encyclopedias and dictionaries are now online and many are available through the Libraries' website. When you search the library website you simply need to choose "Reference Entries" as your Resource Type to view a list of encyclopedia or dictionary entries related to your topic.
As you read more about your research topic it is a good idea to make a list of keywords and phrases that you think will make good search terms. The Academic Learning Centre has many handouts on note taking and concept mapping that can help you with this. Choosing the right search words is not always very intuitive so sometimes you will need to try different words and phrases get the best results. This is one of the reasons why looking through reference materials is a great way to start. The more familiar you are with subject vocabulary the easier searching becomes. If you are having difficulty a librarian can help you find the right search words.
You can use filters to quickly narrow your search down to a list of relevant sources. This is especially useful when your assignment requires you to use specific types of materials such as peer-reviewed journals, books, articles, or publications from a specific time frame, for instance, articles published in the past 10 years. Library search filters appear on the left side of the results page. The more common filters you will see include the following.
This refers to the format or publication type. You can choose to see only online or in-library items, open access items, or those that are peer-reviewed.
Subjects are categories that define what an item is about. This filter is helpful to use when you need to narrow your search or when searching for more than one item on the same topic.
Select a range of publication dates for the items in your results list.
Choose to see only books, articles or other types of publications.
Select the languages for publications in your search results.
Choose to narrow results by the library where they are located.
For everything you can access through the library there is a corresponding catalogue record that tells you what it is and how to get it. If you look for a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale, a novel by Margaret Atwood, you will find the record below in the search results. Hover over the record with your cursor to see what it tells you about this copy of the book. The record also gives you information that is need for writing citations, provides links to other works by Margaret Atwood and links to other fiction on the subject of misogyny, women, and relationships.
The library also has an advanced feature that allows you to have more control over your search. This feature is not just for advanced researchers and it is actually quite easy to use. The main advantage to using the advanced search is that it makes it easy to combine search words and phrases. You can tell the search engine how you want to combine search terms by adding AND, OR, & NOT. You can also search with exact phrases using quotation marks and use a wildcard character called truncation to search with multiple word endings.
|Combining search words with AND, OR, & NOT||
Combine words with
|Adding Quotation Marks to Phrases||
Put words in quotation marks to get results that have the exact phrase. For example:
|Using Truncation for Multiple Word Endings||
Add an asterisk to the end of a word to get results that include the root word as well as any possible endings. For example if you search with Child* results will include the words: