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BIOL 208 - Microbiology - Maple Woods

Search Tips

Follow these quick tips for better search results.

When using a database, you must use keywords or phrases instead of sentences/questions. Don't forget to use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to make your search more precise.

When using a search engine, every word matters. You get vastly different results when you search:

  • WHO (Is the World Health Organization)
  • The Who (Is a rock band from the 60's and 70's)
  • A Who (Is a Dr. Seuss character from Whoville)

Word order mattersSearch results are different if you search Sky Blue as opposed to Blue Sky. Using quotation marks will allow you to search for a specific phrase. Example: "sky blue" or "voter suppression."

Every letter matters:

  • Dial (can bring search results on a brand of soap)
  • Dials (are indicators of time, speed, etc or are movable control knobs)

Search Skills Videos

Need help finding sources online or in a library database? Try the search tips in the left-hand column, or watch some of the videos linked below. Remember, you can always ask a librarian for help.

Source Types

There are three types of publications that may appear in the search results of many social and behavioral sciences databases. These are:

  • Scholarly sources -- intended for use in support of conducting in-depth research, often containing specialized vocabulary and extensive references to sources. The content has been reviewed by academic peers to ensure the reliability of methods used and the validity of findings. Scholarly sources help answer the "So What?" question in academic writing and lay the foundation for discovering connections between variables, issues, or events.
  • Popular sources -- intended for a general audience of readers, they are written typically to entertain, inform, or persuade. Popular sources help you answer who, what, when, and where questions and are essential for finding information about current events or issues. Popular sources range from research-oriented [but lacking complete citations to sources] to special interest, agenda-driven publications.
  • Trade publications -- intended to share general news, trends, and opinions among practitioners in a certain industry or profession. Although generally written by experts, they are not considered scholarly because they are not peer-reviewed and do not focus on advancing new knowledge discovery or reporting research results. Trade journals, however, are an essential source of information in the field of business and specialized industries [e.g., tourism, environmental studies, agriculture, manufacturing, etc.

Adapted from text originally created by Holly Burt, Behavioral Sciences Librarian, USC Libraries, April 2018. Thank you, Holly!

What is Peer Review?

One of your assignments asks you to find a peer-reviewed scholarly journal article. Many of our databases allow you to filter your results so you only see peer-reviewed articles. Check the left side of the results page in most databases to find that option, or ask a librarian for help.

If you're wondering what peer review means, watch the video below.