This is the "Research Tips" page of the "Basic Research Tools" guide.
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Basic Research Tools   Tags: alerts, articles, blogs, books, e-book, internet, news, search engines  

Try these basic resources to begin any research project.
Last Updated: Dec 8, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Research Tips Print Page

Basic Tips



  • Take advantage of research done by others; consult secondary sources.

  • Be sure to consult footnotes and references in sources consulted for further references.

  • Browse books on the shelf. Online catalogs often do not list book chapter titles/authors in the cataloging record.

  • Many relevant books will not be retrieved with a specific search in an online catalog.

  • Keep track of your research. Record the source searched, the date, the searches performed, useful subject headings.

  • If you locate a useful website, write down or bookmark the URL (address).

  • Be aware of the scope of databases searched (dates of coverage, kind of materials included, whether full text or not).

  • Know the distinction between commercial databases and other materials posted on the Internet.

  • Every database has different searching rules. Learn and apply them for best results. Look at HELP screen for individual database to learn rules. At a minimum look for connectors, wildcard or truncation symbols, how to enter phrases.

  • Don’t give up after one or two searches in a database; try slight variations of your search to try to hit upon one that works and to gradually piece together the rules that apply.

  • When searching a database, look at the advanced search or expert search templates; often they are easier to use than the basic search template.

  • Use controlled vocabulary (subject headings) as well as keyword or free text searching.

  • Use field searching where relevant.

  • Adjust your search based on whether you are searching a full text or non-full-text (citations, abstracts) database. (e.g., use more specific terms in a full text database; use more general terms in a non-full text database).

  • Be creative when thinking up search terms. Try using alternative terms, broader terms, more specific terms, opposite terms, category terms. Think backwards: what terms might appear in the kind of document or material you are looking for?

                     See common misspellings

  • Remember research sources are interrelated. They often refer to or are linked to each other, though not necessarily directly.

  • Consult the SITEMAP and LINKS of any potentially useful website. They may lead you to other relevant materials.

  • Don’t ignore a source because it is in paper format.

  • Ask a reference librarian for help!




Slaw (a Canadian law blog) Research Tips:


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