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CEE 420, Professor Kinner, Fall 2020 (UNH Durham): Strategize

Support for successful stream source searches. And other things.


Searching with intention

For this, think about and define your information need.  Then you think about what sources are likely to get you to the information.

It is good practice to write down your information needs for a project and expect to re-define them as you discover more about your topic and the information that is available about it.  You may also change your methods, search strategy, and/or sources.

It is a good idea to get help if you search for more than 20 minutes without finding anything useful. 

If you log what you are doing in your information searches, just like a lab notebook, you will be able to go back over your notes to see where there may be gaps in your information and figure out how to address them.

As you find useful material, you need to preserve it in some form for yourself:  Save the citations with notes so that you know what was useful about that source. If you have downloaded material, save it with the citation.  You can use a free online program like Zotero if you have your own computer, to organize your own database, or for small projects you can create your own system of folders, named according to the topics or projects. .

Questions to ask yourself:

What is my topic? 

What do I know already?

What do I need to know?

How can I get it?

How should I save it for myself & co-workers?

    Background info (secondary & tertiary sources):

Typical:  textbooks, regular books,

          (as starting points, encyclopedias,Wikipedia, and sci-tech magazine articles can provide basic background and vocabulary, as can textbooks)

  -- Use the Library Catalog to search for broad subject areas, keywords, or book titles

Advanced:  state-of-the-art review articles in scholarly journals - these can be extremely helpful and often have lengthy bibliographies; they may be written at an advanced level

    Current info and novel background (primary or secondary sources)

    Types of info needed --

methods?  -- for established methods, use standard methods guides; for new methods, look for research journal articles

instrumentation? -- manuals, company websites

data -- for existing data, check research articles plus local, federal, and/or state government information sources (international as appropriate)

experimental or theoretical findings -- usually in research articles and preprints or conference articles



I need a method for evaluating bacteria in a water sample.  It should be a method that is recognized as standard practice, and it needs to be up-to-date.

If you are new to the field, you would need to check a few secondary sources (or with knowledgeable people in the field) to learn that the book Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater is the recognized source for this information.  It is published by three major organizations: American Public Health Association, American Water Works Association, and the Water Environment Federation.every few years, For coursework, you would want to use the latest copy available at the UNH Library.* 

How can you find this?  Go to the UNH Library website -- click on Advanced Search (by the central search box).  Choose Library Catalog,, change the "Anywhere" field to "Title" and put in Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater -- you can try using just the beginning of the title ("Standard Methods") which is what the book is commonly called, but there are other works with similar titles.

Click on the matching record (if there are multiple versions, click to see them all so you can choose). 

All of the modern editions of this book that the library has are listed together.  There are online links, but they are for older editions.  Scroll down to see the locations of the print copies, and click the funnel icon and then "desc" (description) to get a list of the volumes in all locations.  Scroll down to see the latest volumes and click on the one you want to see detail about where it is.  In this case, the 2020 edition is on order, and the 2017 edition is available at the EMCS Library, on reserve. 

Screenshot with funnel icon:

Screenshot of library catalog, highlighted funnel icon.


A catalog screenshot is a good way to save a screen you have a question about, to send email to me or show to library staff.  A better way for permanence is to mark records to export or email to yourself.  The "Permalink" in the record always goes back to that exact record. 

If you want to sign in, you can save records to your library account, see what you have checked out, save searches and alerts, and renew non-reserve items!   To sign in, just use your UNH id and password.


*Note: Because the UNH Library is a research library, older editions of many standards are kept for historical reference, but you do not necessarily want to use them for engineering methods or design projects unless approved by your instructor.