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Ranger School Quick Start Research Guide: Searching Tips


Keywords are significant words that describe or relate to your topic and can help you search for stuff.

How to Choose Keywords

1: Look at your Research Topic

Example: The effect of water quality on fish in the Adirondacks

2: Identify major concepts related to your topic

Example: water quality, Adirondacks, fish

3: Come up with words related to the major concepts


water quality = water quality, pollution 

Adirondacks = Adirondacks, New York State

fish = fish, animals

Find more keywords

As you search, look at the keywords and subjects listed for relevant articles. Keep track of any that you could use to expand or narrow your search.

Examples: aquatic organisms, water chemistry, aquatic vertebrates, water temperature, stream, lake, macroinvertebrates, pH

Advanced Search

Do you want to search

  • two or more concepts at the same time?
  • only the author?
  • only the title?
  • one keyword and exclude another?

The advanced search option is the way to go. Here are some success tips:

  • select specific fields to search
  • consider using Boolean operators (aka AND, OR, NOT)

Find the Full Text

Anytime you see this image , click on it to find out where you can get the full text. Once on the publisher's website look for links or buttons that say pdf, download, html, or full text.

Finding the Full Text from a Citation

  • If you have the title and/or author, you can try searching that information in OneSearch.
  • If you know the journal title, try searching the Publication Finder to see what databases contain full text access for the year you are looking for.
  • If you still can't find the full text, submit an interlibrary loan request and we'll get it for you.

Web Searching

Tips for searching the internet:

  • It's ok to use Google and Wikipedia as starting points to learn about a topic you are unfamiliar with but find other sources for your papers.
  • Google Scholar looks like Google but it searches academic articles whereas Google searches a wide range of sources.
  • Library databases have even more academic articles than Google Scholar.

Expand and Narrow your Search

To find even more resources for your topic or narrow down your search results, try using limiters. Common ones include:

  • date ranges
  • peer reviewed
  • publication or journal title
  • geography or location
  • source types (ie books, articles, magazines, videos, theses, etc.)


Do you want to search both Adirondack and Adirondacks? or fish, fisheries, fishes, etc.?

Use truncation!

In most databases, you can put a * or a ? at the end of a word to get those letters and everything beginning with those letters.


Adirondack* searches both Adirondack and Adirondack*

fish* searches fish, fisheries, fishes, fishy, etc.

employ* searches employ, employee, employer, employment, employed, etc.