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ESCI 301 - Environmental Science

A guide for ENSC 301 students researching environmental topics in the library

Introductory content

What I covered in class is just an introduction about how to conduct research. In 40 minutes I can only cover the highlights. This subject guide is a supplement to the library session and should give you some more hints about terms and resources that are available.

General Information:

As you work on your paper and presentation, keep the following tips in mind when searching library catalogs for books and research databases for journal, magazine, or newspaper articles:

  • Using more search terms will find fewer, more specific results. For example, "wolves" finds more articles than "wolves and moose", but not as many of the articles will be relevant to your topic is you want to know specifically how wolf predation affects moose populations.
  • Specific vs. general terms.

Books - you will tend to use more general terms

You might not find an entire book about your species. You might have to get more general by searching for the genus, family, or class to find a chapter, subchapter, or a few pages about your species.

Search for your species/genera/family/class along with "handbook", "guide", field guide", and "encyclopedia" as well as without those terms. Encyclopedias, field guides, guides, and handbooks are a great place to start!

Search for both singular and plural ("wolf" and "wolves", for example).

For some reason, the order in which you enter your terms sometimes matters. For example, searching for "birds and handbook" brings up a much different set of results than "handbook and birds".

Journal Articles

Be more specific. For example, don’t use the term “predators” if you really mean “gray wolf”, "peregrine falcon", or "northern pike".

Remember to search for both singular and plurals. This is especially important if you are searching for a family or class of organisms. For example, search for both "mushroom" and "mushrooms".

Use scientific as well as common names. Articles will always use scientific names because there are many regionalisms in common names.

  • If you are getting thousands of results, you may need to add more search terms, or use more specific terms.
  • If you are not getting enough results, you may need to use fewer search terms or broader search terms. Or, use an "asterisked term", such as "ecol*" to search variations of the term. For example, "ecolog*" will find "ecology", "ecologic", "ecological", "ecologically", and "ecologist".
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