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ESCI 997 - Graduate Seminar in Earth Sciences

Prof. John Hughes Clark

Searching Tips & Tricks

Searching for resources in the earth sciences can be tricky, especially when dealing with different geologic time periods and geographical areas with different place names. If you get frustrated, try a few of these tricks:

  • Less is more!  If you don't find enough results on "cycling of nitrates", instead try nitrogen AND cycle.
  • Most database interfaces accept Boolean logic, especially AND or OR. You can use these sequentially and together.
    • AND narrows a search: mesozoic AND San Joaquin
    • OR broadens the search: mesozoic OR paleozoic OR precambrian
    • If you use AND and OR search commands in the same search, put parentheses around the OR terms: try San Joaquin AND (mesozoic or paleozoic or precambrian)
    • Quotation marks define a phrase; this helps with precision:  "San Joaquin" AND (mesozoic or paleozoic or precambrian)
  • Expand time or geography. If you don't find enough results on Post-Eocene San Joaquin-Tulare Basins, instead try (mesozoic or paleozoic or precambrian) AND "San Joaquin".
  • Limit with caution. Certain limiting features may limit your retrieval in ways you don't expect. Some recommended limits are: Source, Date, and Limiting to “Peer reviewed” (in Basic and Advanced Search).
  • GeoRef search tip: GeoRef and many database interfaces (including the UNH Library Catalog use a asterisk (*) for truncation - most can only do right-hand truncation, so an asterisk will stand for any ending of a word.  GeoRef allows both left and right truncation so using the * on a word will look for ALL possible variations for that word:
    • environment* will search for environment, environmental, environments …
    • [*3]magnet* will search for magnetic, demagnetization, geomagnetic, geomagnetism …
  • Some databases use a question mark (?) as a wildcard for 1 or more (or zero or more) characters, for example: wom?n. 
  • Databases vary in the special fields you can use for searching.  Common ones are: authors, article title, journal title, words in the abstract, publication year, subject headings (if provided).  GeoRef includes many special fields, such as geographical coordinates. ASFA has geographical regions.  You only get the special fields when you search that specific database.  When searching multiple databases together, searching is usually on the most common fields. 
  • Thesaurus use:  a specific database may offer a Thesaurus (usually found at the top of the interface). Use this to figure out how to use the subject headings for a broad search with precise results.

More examples (in class):

Aviado  -- Library Catalog & Articles; GeoRef

Irrgang -- Web of Science