First, try out a topic. Write it down a few times, using different words if you can, such as synonyms and words that are narrower or broader in scope. If you have a hypothesis, you have already selected some terms to express it. You can use basic starting points, such as a free or subscription online encyclopedia to get conceptual background and learn more vocabulary. The words you choose, especially nouns, will be the search terms to start with. You can adjust them as you go along to find out what works best. Examples for stream research might be: stream, river, water quality, runoff, ions, nutrients, chemistry, sediment, aquatic insects while examples for resource conservation might be: "carbon footprint", "renewable resources", "energy conservation", recycling, "water conservation", waste minimization", "sustainable living", etc.
In the examples above, what purpose might the "quotation marks" have? Could you use them in a search? Is it always a good idea?
What is confirmation bias?
Next, choose a database or try the central search box. The Library website offers a combined search box for basic discovery, a list of Databases for more specific subject areas, and the Library Catalog for broader-level searching. Most databases let you search in a more structured way than Google does, so that you can get more precise results. Most of them also search less material than Google: they are selective. Because of this, searches in different databases produce different sets of results. See below for more info.
An aside: if you want more background first, try books. The Library Catalog is a database but it does not search at the fine-grained level of article titles, or fulltext of anything, so searches usually return broader results, like information to get whole books, journals, and magazines at the source level (i.e. to go to Scientific American rather than individual articles in the magazine). You can also find the library's government publications, movies, music, and other material the library has in physical and/or online formats. Your results are based on the keywords, author names, subjects, and titles of sources that you searched.
Databases: You can look for databases by broad subject areas on the UNH Library Database page. You can also find them by title and type of information. In the subject lists, the most often-used databases are usually starred at the top of the list, and below that there are others to browse through, some more specialized, so take a look or check with me (your librarian) if you are not sure or having luck with the ones you have tried.
Whether you are searching the main search box, individual databases, or the library catalog, most of these tools do not understand the amazing ways that we naturally use language. To be successful, your search strategy needs to match the database.
For example, you might say in a topic sentence, "I'd like to know if stream organisms are affected by culverts." Most databases cannot interpret your meaning.
So, organize these concepts with logic (AND, OR; you can use NOT with care because it can eliminate good results) - Use synonyms (and sometimes antonyms) to express your topic more fully. Parentheses or using more boxes in Advanced Search will help you define your logic:
(stream OR river)
(organisms OR biota OR algae OR phytoplankton OR zooplankton OR insects OR fish) -- that's a lot of options, target what YOU want!
(culvert OR pipe)
Use "quotation marks" to set off a phrase ("nitrogen cycle")
Use an asterisk (*) to stand for any characters to get forms of a word with different endings (photosynth* will bring back hits on photosynthesis, photosynthesize, photosynthesizing, photosynthetic, etc.).
Please go on to the boxes below for more about Searching for Articles...
Journal titles can be searched in the UNH Catalog to determine what years are available at UNH, or you can browse the list of UNH fulltext online journals. In the following citation, which is the journal title? Hint: it's in italics. Some citation styles indicate the journal title in boldface.
Camenzuli, Danielle, AND Freidman, Benjamin. "On-site and in situ remediation technologies applicable to petroleum hydrocarbon contaminated sites in the Antarctic and Arctic" Polar Research [Online], Volume 34(7 September 2015)
To find out if a journal is "peer-reviewed", use Ulrichsweb, an international directory of periodicals. Look for the symbol next to the journal title. That indicates that the journal has peer-reviewed, also called "refereed", articles.
NOTE: Pieces in a peer-reviewed journal may not all be peer-reviewed! Editorials, for example, are not peer-reviewed. Peer-reviewed articles are normally scholarly. If you are not sure, check Ulrichsweb, and if the journal is peer-reviewed, check for a bibliography or reference list at the end of the article. No bibliography? Not scholarly! Thus, not peer-reviewed!
If there is a journal abbreviation you don't understand, ask a librarian or check the list of Science and Engineering Journal Abbreviations.
In the referee process (also called peer review):
This process provides quality control by peer review.
Try these techniques and click below to see what happens in the model search:
Sample database: ASFA: Aquatic Sciences & Fisheries Abstracts: this database has a thesaurus so you can check for the exact subject terms that are used in it. MODEL IN ACTION: CLICK to see this search
Sample databases: Greenfile and Environment Complete (Ebsco): MODEL IN ACTION: CLICK to see this search
5. After you search, save the citations and get the articles! If there is a "Full Text" or "Check For Full Text" button, use that to check for access through the UNH Library. If there is online access, you will see a button for the article. If there isn't, you can use the Title and ISSN searches on the page to automatically check the library's print collection! If the Library does not have it, use the InterLibrary Loan (ILL) link. It will put the article info into a form to request a scan of the article. The first time you do this, you'll be prompted to add contact info to your new ILL account. After that, you just log in with your UNH ID.
6. To capture the articles' citation info, save, export, or email citations from databases or from the article home page. You can use bibliographic management software to organize and to re-format your citations for papers you are writing into the desired citation style (see the "Save & Cite" tab).
If the location of a journal in the Library Catalog is Storage Per Request Item, that means the volume is not in a public area, but you can request it online. Here are the instructions. To get the original print journal volume, use the Request icon on the top toolbar of the catalog and the volume will be brought to Dimond Library for you; you'll get email when it is available.
If the UNH Library does not have the article you need, we can get it for you. There is no charge. The Check for Fulltext page provides a link to InterLibrary Loan so that you can order the article conveniently. The citation information goes into the form automatically, but check that it has transferred correctly and completely. Usually, the link to the scanned article is available within a couple of days, but do allow time for this.
If you have not used ILL before, log in with your UNH User ID and password (your Blackboard/MyCourses ID) and fill out the registration.