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HE263 Pantages

A course guide to support HE263: Marijuana & the Body, winter term 2020. Instructor: Tim Pantages.

Refine your topic

It can be helpful to ask yourself some questions about your topic in order to make it easier to research. Here are some examples:
  • What do you want more information about?
  • Is there anything that you are confused about or need to know more about before continuing your research?
  • What about the topic interests you the most?
  • Are you interested in a specific population (such as college students, millennials, or people experiencing homelessness)?
  • Are you interested in a specific location (such as Portland, China, forests, or community colleges)?
  • Are you interested in a specific time frame or era (such as the 1980s, the 21st century, or the stone age)?
  • Is there anything you are specifically NOT interested in learning about that is related to your topic (such as The Rock, but not rocks)?

You can also try re-phrasing your topic to explain it to a friend or someone who doesn't know as much as you do about it.

If you haven't picked a topic, visit the "Choose a Topic" page on the Research Help Guide.

Brainstorm keywords

Any search is only as good as the words that you use. Spend some time before you start searching brainstorming keywords and related terms.

Good keywords are usually nouns and short phrases. For example, if my research question is "How do renewable plastics impact climate change ?" I might pick renewable, plastic, and climate change.

KEYWORDS: Renewable Plastic Climate Change
Similar related terms: Green; Sustainable; Recyclable; Natural Bags; Bottles; Containers Global warming; Temperature Rise
Opposite related terms One-time use; Non-recylable; Garbage    

If you are having trouble finding keywords try an online thesaurus such as

Find background information

Sometimes it can help to get more background information on your topic, especially if you don't know much about it. Often in academic papers we aren't allowed to use Wikipedia as a source. Here are some reliable encyclopedias you can try instead:

Search strategy overview - databases

Use these tipsWork smarter, not harder. when you search in CCC Library databases. Your search results will be more focused and relevant to your topic!

  1. Use quotation marks around phrases and search terms to search for the words in the exact order you would like, instead of separately.
    Basic search, "emotional support animals"
  2. Use different search boxes for each different idea that makes up your overall topic.
    Advanced search


Too Many Results? Too Few Results?
  1. Add in additional search terms.
  2. Limit to peer-reviewed journals.
  3. Limit by date.
  4. Limit by subject.
  5. Limit to items with full-text availability.
  6. Change the search box dropdown menu to "Abstract" or "Subject."
  1. Verify that you spelled everything correctly.
  2. Erase unnecessary search terms.
  3. Try different search terms.
  4. Use the Boolean operator OR between search terms.
  5. Remove any limits you may have added to an earlier search.
  6. Change the search box dropdown menu to "All Text" or "Entire Document."

Need help with too many or too few results? Call, email, chat with, or stop by and see a librarian!

Google like a librarian

We all use it - now let's learn to use it better! Improving your Googling skills will save you time and make it easier to identify better sources of information. Tips and tricks are explained below.

  1. Use quotation marks around your search terms to search for the words in the exact order you would like, instead of separately.

Google - "quotation marks"

  1. Use intitle: to retrieve webpages with your keywords in the title of the webpage

Google - intitle: search

  1. Use site:. to retrieve webpages from URLs in the domain (.gov, .edu, .org) you specify.  

Google - site:. search

  1. Use - (a hyphen or minus sign) in front of words to exclude them from your search results.

Google - NOT

  1. Use OR in between words to have either or both of the words included in your search results. OR must be capitalized. This is a good way to search for synonyms.

Google - OR
In the above example, Google will find results that include (election AND fraud) and (voter AND fraud).

  1. Use filetype: to retrieve specific types of files (instead of html webpages). Works for finding most file types.

filetype: search

  1. Use several strategies at once for very specific results.

Google - all of the above search strategies!

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