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Hot Topics: Find Sources

Find Sources


This page walks you through finding sources on your topic in a variety of formats:

  1. Brainstorm Keywords
  2. Use Keywords to Search
  3. Review Results
  4. Select Relevant Sources
  5. Refine Keywords and Search Again

1. Brainstorm Keywords

Now that you've picked your topic and done a little background research, it's time to brainstorm relevant keywords. Think of synonyms and words related to the main nouns in your topic. For example, if my topic is

ethics of genetic modification of humans

I might come up with some additional keywords I came across in my background reading:

ethics genetic modification humans
bioethics genetic engineering babies
regulation gene editing human embryos
CRISPR Chinese twins

2. Use Keywords to Search

Once you have your keywords, try combining them in different ways to search in different library resources.

  1. Combine synonyms using OR and parentheses: (ethics OR bioethics OR regulation)
  2. Combine the different ideas of your topic using AND: (ethics OR bioethics OR regulation) AND (genetic modification OR gene editing) AND (humans OR human embryos)
  3. Use your combined terms in different library resources.

The Discovery search is a good place to start. The following box is the same as the one on the library homepage:

Limit to: audio

You might also try any of the following databases:  

3. Review Results

Once you've gotten your search results from your combination of keywords, scroll through them to see how relevant they are to your topic. 

Tip! The most relevant results aren't always right at the top. Don't be afraid to scroll to the bottom or go to the next page of results.


My first search result is a book that I may not have time to read, or which is too broad in scope, but that doesn't mean there's not plenty of relevant news and journal articles further down!


Even all the way down at result #33, there's a promising looking and more recent article:

Didn't get many good search results? Jump down to step 5, Refine Keywords and Search Again.

4. Select Relevant Sources

As you scroll through your results, click into any that look like they might be relevant.

Tip! The title might not have all your keywords in it.exclamation point


Tip! When using the main library search box, try limiting your results using the Limit To box. Books can give an overview of a topic. Articles will provide news, magazine and academic journal items. You can use the refinement options on the left of the results page to focus in on the types of materials you want. News and magazine articles might be a good place to start since they are less technical than academic journal articles.



The following is the database record for my result #33, "Are we ready for genome editing in human embryos for clinical purposes?" 

  1. When you click on the Details link, more information about the item is displayed.
  2. The subjects are the main concepts the article is about. These can help you think of new keywords too, like "medical ethics."
  3. The abstract is a summary of the article to help you decide if you want to read the whole thing.
  4. Use the tools to help you save the source for later: email it to yourself, use cite to format the citation in MLA and other styles, or copy the permalink to come back to the record later.
  5. If there is a highlighted Full Text PDF, you can click on this to go directly to the article.
  6. If there is not a highlighted Full Text link, you can click on Find Full Text  to find the full text of the article online or through Interlibrary Loan.

5. Refine Keywords and Search Again

Whether or not you found some good results in your first search, it can always be worth it to search again--by changing around your keywords or searching in a different database.

  • If you didn't get many results the first time, try broadening your search by using fewer or less specific keywords.
  • If you got too many results the first time, try narrowing your search by using more or more specific keywords.
  • Try using new keywords from relevant results you did find, like medical ethics or moratorium from the example article above.
  • Try searching in a different database. Our different databases have different sources in them, so you might find different or more relevant sources in a different database.
  • Ask a librarian if you're not happy with what you're finding. We're here to help!

Found some promising sources?

Move on to the next step of evaluating bias.

Ask a Librarian!

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