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Environment and Sustainability: Using Library Resources

Searching Using a Database

In this tutorial, the work of the last two tutorials comes together. After reviewing this material, you will be able to:

  • construct a search string by combining concepts, synonyms, and related terms using Boolean operators and the search tips from the previous tutorial
  • manipulate your search results to narrow down the list to more precise articles
  • find the full text of the article for your use

Searching is an Iterative Process

An important thing to note is that searching for articles in a database is rarely a linear activity. Instead, searching is an iterative process. You will start the search, look at some results, find some new terms, search again, look at some reference lists, find more new terms, search again. Even that looks linear, but it's more like this shape:

undefinedEven the search here looks quite linear but that is for example purposes. Contact your librarian if you need help with the search process.

First, let's look at our sample research topic again:

Examine sustainable forest management in Canada's boreal forest, focusing on Indigenous perspectives.


We are going to do this sample search using Web of Science Core Collection - a large, multi-disciplinary database. When you are searching any of the databases, you will need to be logged in to the Library with your NSID and password before being allowed to access the content off-campus. If you don't log in prior to searching, you will be prompted to do so.

Note: this is one way to construct your search. You will have different and multiple ways to construct a search using key concepts, synonyms, and related terms. As mentioned in tutorial 1, you do not have to use all your synonyms and related terms, but you do want to make sure you have covered your key concepts thoroughly.

Below is a video that takes you through a search in Web of Science using the example research topic.


As mentioned near the end of the video, if there is no full text available from the publisher, click on the yellow Find It button. This button goes into the rest of the library collection to see if we have the article elsewhere. More often than not, we do. However, if you come across a great-looking article that we don't have access to, you can request it from another library using interlibrary loan.

Below is a direct link to Web of Science so you can start searching.