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Environmental Science

Identify Main Concepts

Once you've written a research question, break that question down by identifying the main terms or concepts. 

An example of a research question. The research question is I am studying water quality in the Adirondacks in order to see its impact on loons.

Generate Synonyms

List synonyms for the keywords that you underlined in your research question. Often words that we think describe what we're searching for aren't what scholars use or have multiple meanings. For example: theater can refer to a surgical or operating theater or a military theater. 

Water Quality Adirondacks Loons
Mercury Adirondack Park Loon conservation
Acid precipitation Gavia immer
Acid deposition Common Loon

Create Search Strings

Unlike with Google, where you can type in full sentences or questions, when searching in any of the library resources (Primo, journals, or databases) you need to use the Boolean Operators AND, OR, and NOT to string together your search terms.


Other Search Tips

Truncate Root Words


Use multiple search terms and parentheses in your search strings

Using an * at the end of a word such as acid* will bring back everything with that root (acids, acidity, etc). 

Putting quotation marks around a phrase will tell Primo to keep those words together. For example: "common loon."

Common loon without quotes can bring back articles about people, who otherwise have nothing in common, taking a trip to see loons.

The words common and loon both appear, but without being linked together, it's not the bird the common loon that you are looking for.

(Acid Rain OR Acid Precipitation) AND Adirondacks AND loon

Using parentheses is a lot like the distributive property in math. The search inside the parentheses is done first. 

Be Aware:

Be careful about the words you truncate. For example: cell* will bring back everything from cellular phones to cellulitis, so you could quickly make your search results irrelevant.

Be Aware:

Stringing multiple search terms together using AND narrows your search. Therefore, sometimes stringing too many terms together with AND can make your search so narrow you receive few, or no, results.