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HUMA 1780: Stories in Diverse Media  

Last Updated: May 27, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
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This page contains an overview of the library talk given in February 2012.

Keyword Searching

Keyword searching is the most common and effective method for finding information in any computerized database, whether it's the library catalogue, an online index or even an Internet search engine, like Google. Once you know the basics, you are capable of searching anywhere.

To conduct a keyword search:

  1. Write out your research topic as clearly as possible.
    • Power and leadership in The Odyssey and King Lear
  2. Choose the most appropriate terms to express your topic - words you would expect to find in every item of interest to you.
    • power, leadership, Odyssey, King Lear
  3. Combine your search terms using ANDs, ORs and parentheses.


The search will find...

leadership AND Odyssey

Items containing "leadership" and "Odyssey".

AND narrows a search, resulting in fewer hits.

power OR leadership

Items containing either "power" or "leadership"
or both.
OR broadens a search, resulting in more hits.

(power OR leadership)
(Odyssey OR "king lear")
Items containing either "power" or "leadership" (or both)
either Odyssey or King Lear (or both)
  1. Conduct your search and analyze your results.    
  2. Re-adjust your search terms accordingly and search again.

Finding Background Material

First of all, you may want to do a bit of background reading to make sure you understand the topic. Encyclopedias can help provide useful context for a topic and guide you on how you might search for additional material. The library provides many good sources for finding background information. A few places to start looking are:

  • Subject Research Guides (from the Library homepage, under RESEARCH )
    Select an appropriate subject area and look for links to Encyclopedias and Dictionaries and Web Guides at the top of the page. 
  • Library catalogue, which will help you find encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc. for your general subject area. You may not find helpful encyclopedias and dictionaries listed in the Subject Research Guidesnoted above. To find these resources, try a search in the catalogue like
    • literature AND encyclopedias

These resources can be excellent places to get basic information on your topic area. Most encyclopedia entries contain Bibliographies, which provide links to other sources you might want to consult.

Once you have some idea of what your topic is all about, you can begin searching for books and articles.

Finding Books

Follow these simple steps to find books, government documents, reference works, and other materials in the Library Catalogue.

1. Follow the Keyword Searching steps (above) to build your search. Type your search terms in the box found on the Library Homepage


OR, use the Advanced Search interface for more control over your search terms. 

2. You can sort your search results by either Date or Relevance. Using Relevance often brings useful items to the top of the list. If you find an item that looks useful, click on its title to view the complete record. 


3. The complete record for each item will identify its Location, Availability, and Call Number. The complete record will also list the Subject Headings for the item. These can provide you with other useful search terms for the same topic.

Finding journal articles

Please consult our online tutorial "Finding Journal Articles" for general instruction. The following section provides more details on one aspect -- distinguishing between scholarly publications and popular publications, either books or magazines.

Scholarly or Academic Publications v. Popular Publications

For many assignments, like the one you are working on, it is important to focus your research on scholarly sources, instead of popular ones (e.g. magazines or newspapers). The library catalogue and Internet provide access to both; your task is to be able to distinguish between these two types of sources.





will contain selective advertising

will contain extensive advertising


written by and for academics and researchers

written by staff or freelance writers for a broad-based audience


may include graphs and charts; seldom contains glossy pages or pictures

slick and glossy with an attractive format; will contain photographs, illustrations, and/or drawings


often contains jargon and language specific to the discipline discussed

plain language used to talk to a broad-based audience


generally published by a professional organization

published for profit


to inform, report or make available original research to the scholarly world

to entertain, provide hobby information, or persuade


footnotes and/or bibliographies

rarely cite any source

*criteria to use for evaluating electronic publications and full-text articles online.

Use Ulrich's Periodicals Directory to determine whether specific journal titles are refereed.

Remember, only journals are listed in the library catalogue, not individual articles.

Doing research on the Web

  • Web Research Tutorial -- helps you to learn more about how to use publicly-accessible web sites for research, from understanding what kind of information is freely available on the web to what kinds of search tools and techniques will help you get useful results, and how to critically evaluate and properly document what you find.

Citing your sources

  • Refworks is an online citation management service that can take citation data directly from a database and format it using the style of your choice
  • Links to style guide information, both online and in print

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

Responsible research and writing implies that we respect the intellectual property rights of others: this is the essence of academic integrity. The link below will take you to information on how to avoid plagiarism (i.e. the presenting of others' words or ideas as your own) in your writing, and how you can responsibly copy and properly cite your research sources whether these are in print or online. If you have questions about these issues, please ask a librarian, who will be pleased to offer assistance.

Getting Help

  • In-person research help is available at the research or reference desks in all the libraries during reference hours.
  • The Ask a Librarian chat reference service allows you to chat with a librarian in real time to get help with your research. You'll also be able to watch as the librarian shows you how to find resources on your topic.
  • Email and telephone research help are available for quick answers to brief questions. Responses to email can be expected by 5 p.m. the next weekday, Monday through Thursday. Please note that due to staffing, questions submitted on Friday may not be answered until 5 p.m. on Monday. This is ideal for obtaining brief, factual information about a research topic.
  • Consult the appropriate subject research guide.

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