This section includes 4 short videos that explain the basic search process, from how to find a database related to your field to how to create more complex search queries. A written summary is given next to each video. If you need help with your research, don't hesitate to contact your liaison librarian, she is there to help!
This video will show you how to locate and access databases using McGill's catalogue, Databases A-Z and the subject guides.
1. Formulate a specific research question.
For example, "Which methods of biological control are effective on invasive ladybug species?"
2. Identify the main concepts.
In our question, the main concepts would be "biological control", "invasive" and "ladybug".
3. Brainstorm synonyms and related terms for each of your concepts. For "ladybug", we could have "coccinellidae", "ladybird" and "lady beetle".
It’s important to find related terms to obtain more relevant results. If we search only “ladybug”, we may miss articles that are relevant but that have used a different term instead, like “ladybird”.
Boolean operators are used to narrow or broaden your search.
AND: results include all keywords (used to narrow a search)
Example: bee AND neonicotinoids AND monsanto
Search results will contain all three terms.
OR: results include any or all keywords (used to broaden a search)
Example: ladybug OR ladybird
Search results will contain any of these terms.
NOT: results ignore a keyword (used to narrow a search)
Example: Turkey NOT Thanksgiving
Search results will exclude articles containing Thanksgiving.
Truncation (*): used to search variations on a word stem.
Search results will include Canada, Canadian, Canadians.
Be careful with truncation as it may yield results that contain unrelated words. Example: leg*
Search results will include leg, legs, legging, legal, legalized, etc.
Phrase searching (“”): used to search for an exact phrase or a concept containing more than one word.
Example: “climate change”
Search results will include the exact phrase, with the keywords next to each other and in the order they are typed.
Climate change (without quotation marks) will be searched as separate keywords.
Parentheses (): used to control the order in which Boolean operators are resolved. Operations within parentheses are resolved first followed by those outside the parentheses.