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Library Researcher Series: Tips & Tricks

A drop-in workshop series offered by the University Library in Fall and Winter terms.

Session Description: Library Research Tips & Tricks

Techniques for evaluating information sources. This session was offered during the 2012/2013 academic year.

Liaison Librarians

Did you know that liaison librarians can asist you with your teaching and research?

  • Instruction: We can visit your classroom to teach students about library resources and how to find high quality sources of information for their assignments.
  • Collections: Liaisons can purchase materials for library collections that will support your teaching and research.
  • Research Assistance: Are you having trouble locating information for your research or teaching? We can help! You can also check the Subject Pages for suggested resources in your discipline.

Reference Materials

Each library branch has its own reference collection. Reference materials generally are not available for borrowing, but you are welcome to use the item in the library for as long as you like.

Browse the collection for handbooks, guides, encyclopedias and other useful information for your subject.  Each subject area will also have an eBook collection that includes reference materials.  To find out which electronic collections are recommended for your subject area, use a link from the subject pages and then click on the Books tab.  eBooks are typically accessible through the catalogue, so you can try searching for a specific title there. 

General Reference Databases

It is sometimes impossible to see all of the available information on a subject or to even know where to start conducting your research.  The subject pages for each discipline are a useful place to start as they will list the best bets for discipline specific information.  This list of databases can be highly specialized, so you may wish to start with a broader search for materials or try a search using our USearch tool that will search across almost everything that the library owns in print or electronically. 

Controlled Vocabulary

Controlled vocabulary or a thesaurus are not found in every database, but when they are, they can be incredibly useful.  Locating a term in a thesaurus will provide you with details about that topic such as what that term is used for and what broader or narrower terms are available.  The relevancy of the items that you retrieved will increase as the controlled vocabulary term that you are searching for has to have been used by the original author and/or the individual who created the citation information for that work.  

Controlled vocabulary can also help you to learn how terms are used within your discipline.  For example; information on distributed learning may be found in distance education, or off-campus services.  The vocabulary can help you to quickly find the information that you require!


Common limiters within USearch include author, date, topic or subject areas, publication title or database where the information was found.  You can also limit your search to information that is available online if you have a pressing deadline the next day and the library is closed for the evening.  You can limit your results to material types such as: books, journals, newspapers, conference proceedings and you can even search for only scholarly or peer-reviewed content. 

Databases offer many of the same limiters, but also offer a plethora of discipline specific options like author affiliation. 

Make sure to use these limiters as they can help you to focus your results on items that are actually useful and relevant to your research.


Similar to using limiters, pay attention to where the information is coming from.  If you use Engineering Village as your main research portal, but find that all of the articles themselves are available in Springer Link, consider starting with Springer Link instead.  If you find that all of your results are found within a specific journal; perform your searches within that publication or browse the archive. 

Advanced Search Options

Advanced search options work like limiters, but instead of narrowing your search from the results page, you start off with very focused parametres.  Advanced search options can be particularly useful for searches that are not retrieving the desired results or where it is necessary to combine search fields such as: an author search with a title.  Think of the last name Smith for example, you may need to add some information to the title or subject field to find the "right" author.

Within a database, check out the advanced search options, search syntax and any other useful short cuts.  Check out the help screen if you are not sure how to use a more specialized option.  One of my favourites is the Boolean operator n/Near, which allows you to find search terms that are near to one another without being limited to an exact quote.


References & Citations

Use the list of references at the end of the article, book chapter or web site to find other useful materials.  The University of Saskatchewan utilizes a link resolver meaning that you can link directly to articles that served as references in the original article that you retrieved.  Scopus and Web of Science work very well for this type of lateral searching.  Some databases will also list how often an article has been cited by others; which is useful information when trying to find a seminal article on a particular topic. 

Pay attention to author affiliations and research partnerships as this information may provide an abundance of useful research.  This is especially true in the sciences.

Stay Alert!

When you discover a successful search string and/or you will be continually looking for information on that subject, consider setting up an alert.  Try an Email alerting services or a RSS feed.  You can also set up a feed for your your favourite journals enabling you to review the table of contents of the latest issue.  If you have published an article, you can set up an alert so that you will be notified if anyones cites your work!

We will be a hosting a session on this topic on November 5th if you would like more information!  Be sure to attend!


The University of Saskatchewan uses the Library of Congress Classification system to assign call number to our physical collections.  It is useful to know the call number range for your discipline so that you can browse the stacks for materials.  For more information, please refer to:

Supporting Research

The Supporting Research page lists a number of resources and guides that will help you with your research and publishing activities such as:

  • Links to guides on Open Access, Research Metrics, and Copyright
  • Information on reference managment options
  • Documents and guides outlining the University Library's resources to support the Signature Research Areas

Ask for help

We are here to help!  Count on your liaison librarian to assist you with your research needs.  You are also welcome to come into any library and seek assistance from the staff OR send an email or connect with reference staff through chat or instant messaging

APEGS Presentation