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Doctoral students: Search techniques

Choosing a database

Databases often focus on a particular subject. In our list of e-resources, you can search databases by "field of study".  A few points to be mindful of when choosing a database:

  • the academic subjects covered
  • the types of materials included
  • the availability of full text of articles
  • date range of materials covered

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a good resource for finding research articles. It is a search engine, not a database, so make sure to practice good source evaluation since it defines "academic" in a broader way than most databases. You might run into school papers, pre-prints and other material that you would not come across in academic databases. undefined

Pearl Growing

Pearl growing (or snowballing) is a literature-searching strategy that builds on information that you already have. If you have found one useful piece of information, you can trace down many more by using that one as a starting point. From a relevant document, you might be able to find other keywords, descriptors and themes to use in a following search.

ScopusWeb of Science and Google Scholar all show with a clickable link how many times an item has been cited. If you have found one useful article, search for this specific article in one or more of these and you will most likely find more relevant articles. 

Tips on searching

The easiest way to search for information electronically is to enter a couple of keywords into the search box of the resource and see what type of results you get. This strategy, however, will often result in too few, too many, or irrelevant results. You may want to call in Boolean operators for your assistance! Boolean operators form the basis of mathematical sets and database logic. They connect your search words together to either narrow or broaden your set of results.

You can find many helpful videos online to navigate Boolean operators further