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FESNS First Year Survival Guide

Tools

There are a number of tools you can use to search the library resources, depending on the type of information you're looking for.
 

Catalogue: The catalogue allows you to search all the resources (books/e-books, streaming video, periodicals [both scholarly and popular], and audio-visual items) in the library's collection. Note that you can only search for the resources through the catalogue, you can't search what's inside each resource. Use the catalogue when you want to search for resources that are NOT articles. To find articles, you'll have to use a database.

Database: A database is a collection of materials relating to a specific subject. Their materials can be narrow in focus (just journal articles and conference proceedings), though they can also contain book chapters, theses/dissertations, magazine/newspaper articles, reports, and sometimes even videos and images. They allow you to search across format types simultaneously. Use databases if you need to search for materials in a specific subject area. You can find out what databases are best for your program by using the ones listed in the Research Guide for your program.

e-Book collections: An e-Book collection is similar to a database, with books being packaged according to their publisher (such as Springer) or their subject area (ENGnetBASE). Some collections may have books in a number of different subject areas and published by different companies. Use the e-book collections when you want to search across different books for  formulas, calculations, or background information.

Quick Search: The Quick Search function is the default search, that searches across the catalogue and across journals. Note that it does not index databases and that not all journals are included in it. Use Quick Search if you want to search across multiple formats for exploratory searching. If you are doing in-depth searching, use one or more of the databases.

Website: The library website is where you can find information about hours, news items, information about our services and resources, as well as where you can place holds or renew books. Use the website when you want to find general information about the library.

Boolean Logic

You can use Boolean logic (AND/OR) to make your searches more powerful and relevant as well as less time-consuming.

  • Use AND between search terms to search for resources that talk about all concepts
  • Will narrow results
  • Helpful to use if you get too many results
  • Ex. radiation AND Chernobyl AND effect

                                                       

  • Use OR between search terms to find resources that talk about any of the concepts
  • Will widen results
  • Helpful to use if you get too few results OR if you are searching for concepts that are similar (synonyms, examples, etc.)
  • Ex. photovoltaics OR "solar heating" OR "alternative energy"

                       

Search Strategies

Once you've mastered using Boolean logic, you might want to gain a little more control or flexibility over your searching. The following tips will help with this.

Quotation Marks

  • Use quotation marks around a phrase when you want to search for multiple words together and in that order
  • Will narrow results
  • Ex. "nuclear power" or "green energies"

Wildcard Symbols (*, ?, or sometimes $)

Note: the symbols for truncation and wildcard will vary depending on which database you use. In some databases, the truncation and wildcard functionality may not be available. Always make sure you check the help menu in the database (usually in the upper right hand side) to confirm.

  • Use the * or ? in the middle of a word to return results that match zero or more characters within that word
    • Will widen results
    • Ex. radi*ve will bring back results that talk about radioactive, radiative
  • Use the * or ? after the root word to return results that discuss variants of that word (called truncation)
    • Will widen results
    • Use with caution (truncating words sometimes return some strange results/some outside your area of study)
    • Ex. react* will bring back results that talk about reactor, reactors, reactions, reactionary

Parentheses

  • Use for grouping parts of a more complicated search string together so that search is executed in specific way
    • Will narrow results
    • Use once you have a good idea of how other search strategies work
    • Ex. (photovoltaics OR "solar energy") AND (cost OR expens*) combines the following searches:
      • photovoltaics AND cost
      • photovoltaics AND expense
      • photovoltaics AND expensive
      • photovoltaics AND expensiveness
      • "solar energy" AND cost
      • "solar energy" AND expense
      • "solar energy" AND expensive
      • "solar energy" AND expensiveness
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