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Research guide for the geosciences.

Basic Research Tips (image of magnifying glass)

Search Tips

Unlike Google, databases don't understand an entire sentence. Instead,you'll need to use keywords to search!

Example topic: What is the impact of dumpsites on the quality of groundwater?


phrase what is the impact of dumpsites on the quality of groundwater? with glowing red boxes around dumpsites and groundwater

Most words have synonyms that mean the same, or very similar, things. For each keyword in your topic, try to come up with at least one synonym. Not all keywords will have synonyms, but many do!


Keyword: Dumpsites     Synonym: Landfill


Some authors use terms you might not be familiar with, or that might mean something pretty specific in that discipline. When searching, look for the terms or words that show up frequently. Try searching with those keywords to see if you find more relevant sources.

When searching the library's website and databases, look for the search tools provided (usually on the left handExample of left side "tweak my results" side). Try narrowing your search by:

Material Type: What type of resource are you looking for? Articles, Book Chapters, eBooks? These options can be found under material type.

Creation Date: If you need the most recently published resources, be sure to change the creation date to a more relevant time.

Subject: Think of subjects as hashtags, use them to find relevant resources by a specific subject within your search.

Advanced Search Tips

Use AND to find only sources that mention both keywords.venn diagram with dumpsites on the left, and in the middle, and groundwater on the right

Dumpsites AND Groundwater

This search will bring back fewer results than searching either keyword on its own.

Use the OR operator to expand your search with additional keywords.venn diagram with dumpsites on the left, or in the middle, and landfill on the right

Dumpsite OR Landfills

This will find sources that include either word, so you'll see more results than by searching for just one keyword.

Use the “QUOTES” strategy to search for several words in a phrase.

"Dumpsite OR Landfill"

This will bring back results that only use that exact phrase.