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APSC 201 / ELEC 281 / CPEN 281 - Technical Communication

Guide to assist students with research for their technical reports.

Using Article Databases

While you can find articles by searching Summon, UBC Library subscribes to hundreds of subject specific article databases. 

Searching one database at a time can be more time consuming but is also more precise and comprehensive.   Advantages of searching within databases include 

  • limiting your search to a specific discipline (e.g. Engineering, Medicine), and therefore fewer, but more relevant results.
  • refining your search by discipline-specific elements, such as  engineering subject terms, chemical compound, geographical location of topic, research methodology, etc.
  • the ability to do more complex searches (See: Database Search Strategies below). 

Core Databases

Database Search Strategies

Google automatically finds synonyms and variations on the keywords you search for. Other databases don't always have the same capabilities. Here are a few tips which can make your database searches more effective:

Boolean operators: AND, OR, NOT

  • Most databases assume an AND - they search for documents matching all the keywords you search for.
  • OR can be very useful when you're not finding enough results - add in some synonyms to broaden your search. Use parentheses to gather these synonyms together and combine with another concept.
  • NOT is equivalent to the minus sign in Google - use it to exclude a word from your search. Use with caution.

Phrase searching: put quotes around your keywords to find the words together, in that order. Might limit your search too much; use carefully.

Truncation: in most databases, an asterisk at the end of a word will find all different endings.

  • Example: “life cycle” AND (analysis OR assess*)

Controlled vocabulary or subject headings: these are terms added to articles or books to help you find related topics. In some databases, you can click on these or add them to your search to help improve your results.

Understanding Peer Review

The Oxford English Dictionary defines peer review as:

"The process by which an academic journal passes a paper submitted for publication to independent experts for comments on its suitability and worth; refereeing" (Oxford English Dictionary, 2022). 

However, you can double check whether a journal is peer reviewed by searching the journal title in Ulrich's. This is helpful as Compendex Engineering Village does not have a filter for only peer reviewed articles. Within Ulrich's, search for the journal title. If the referee's jersey appears next to the title, then the journal has gone through the peer review process.

For a good overview of the components of an academic article, see Anatomy of a Scholarly Article.

image of peer review process