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Research Skills For Engineering Students

The goal of this tutorial is to improve your engineering information research skills.

Module 3 Introduction and Transcript

Welcome to Research Skills for Engineering Students module 3, Google and Google Scholar. In this section, you’ll learn about what you can find in Google and Google Scholar, with some tools and tips for searching them effectively.

Module 3 Video and Links

UBC Library provides access to many academic and scholarly resources, which will be covered in the next modules.

But Google is a great place to start when you’re familiarizing yourself with a topic. It can be helpful in finding freely available information, such as reports from governments, organizations, companies, and so on.

There are limitations to using Google:

  • It’s a “black box” of information.
    • It searches everything on the internet, providing no quality control - you don’t know where results are coming from
  • There is limited search functionality and refinement options
>Google Scholar limits your search to scholarly literature. However, there are limitations:
  • Some of the results aren’t actually scholarly
    • Check out this article for an example of one that looks scholarly at first glance, but isn’t a good source upon further inspection
  • It isn’t comprehensive
    • Some publishers don’t make their content available to Google Scholar
  • There is limited search functionality and refinement options
If you want to search Google Scholar, be sure to access it from UBC Library. To do this, click the Indexes & Databases tab on the UBC Library homepage, and search for Google Scholar. This way, you will access articles through your UBC credentials.
Let’s review our problem from module 1, looking at earthquake risks to engineering systems and structures in Richmond, B.C.

Google would be a good place to start, so let’s do a search for Richmond earthquake. Google automatically assumes you are looking for all the search terms. Because Google and Google Scholar search the entire internet, they can provide millions of results.

There are search operators that you can use to help narrow down the millions of results. These will help you find more relevant and useful sources of information.

Operators can be combined within searches. Here are some basic ones that you can use:
  • OR
    • Broadens your search by capturing synonyms or variant spellings of a concept
    • Example: earthquake OR seismic will find results that have either term present
  • Brackets/Parentheses ( )
    • Gather OR’d synonyms of a concept together, while combining them with another concept
    • Example: Richmond (earthquake OR seismic)
  • Quotation marks “ ”
    • Narrow your search by finding words together as a phrase, instead of separately
    • Example: Richmond (earthquake OR seismic) “British Columbia”

There are other Google-specific operators:
  • site: limits your search to results from a specific domain or website
    • This operator is helpful when searching government websites such as the BC government, which is
    • Example: Richmond earthquake
  • filetype: limits your search to results with a specific file extension
    • You could look for pdf's, Powerpoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, and so on
    • Example: Richmond earthquake filetype:pdf
  • The Search Tools button at the top of your Google results gives you a variety of other options, such as limiting your results by date

There are other operators and tools that you can use in Google and Google Scholar. Ask a librarian if you’re curious!

That concludes module 3, Google and Google Scholar. Remember that Google is but one search tool you can use for your research - it isn’t the only one! You also want to use the UBC Library to find high-quality scholarly resources. In the next module, you’ll learn about Summon, a similar search tool that finds library resources.