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FCOR 599 : Project Proposal Development and Proof of Concept

Finding Journal Articles & Grey Literature

You can search for your topic using Summon. You may wish to limit your search to Scholarly & Peer Review.

You can also search one of these specialized databases to find journal articles and grey literature (e.g. conference proceedings, government and NGO reports, theses & dissertations). They offer more functionality than Summon.

Steps to Finding Journal Articles

The Library has many resources to help you learn how to create your search strategy and find sources that will help you answer your research questions. 

Before you can start searching databases to find resources, you will need to take the following steps:

1) Write your research question. What are you trying to find out?

2) Identify the 2-4 key ideas from your research question that are most essential, distinct, and (hopefully) easy to search for (i.e. well defined, not ambiguous). What topics do your resources absolutely need to be about in order to answer your question? You can use PICO/PECO to break down your research question. This also helps identify if you have more than one question (that's a separate search) and whether you have a background question or a research question.

P= Population or Problem

I/E= Intervention or Exposure

C= Comparison or Control

O= Outcome

Add Context or Setting as needed (e.g. tropical)

3) Identify synonyms for each of your key ideas. For example, if your key idea is "climate change", a synonym could be "global warming". If the database you're searching has a thesaurus or list of subject headings, then identify relevant subject headings as well.

4) Combine your concepts with AND and your synonyms with OR. Example: ("climate change OR "global warming") AND "invasive plants".

5) Input your search string into appropriate databases. See recommendations in "Finding Journal Articles and Grey Literature" above.

Tips for Searching Databases

  • Search for a phrase using quotation marks, e.g. "light and detection and ranging"
  • Combine search terms with OR to expand a search, e.g. lidar OR "light and detection and ranging"
  • Combine search terms with AND to narrow a search, e.g. lidar AND forestry
  • Search variations of a word using truncation, e.g. forest* to search forest, forests, forestry
  • Put it altogether using search boxes or parentheses, e.g. forest* AND (lidar OR "light and detection and ranging")

Tips for Searching Google for Grey Literature

Google can be useful for searching the websites of government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community groups and companies to find press releases, reports, etc.

Here are a few commands to focus your search. You can also use the Google Advanced search if you can't remember the commands.

  • Phrase search using quotation marks: “community forestry”
  • Keyword search in the webpage title only: allintitle:“community forestry”
  • File Format search (e.g. pdf documents only): filetype:pdf
  • Restrict search to a specific website or domain (e.g. FAO):
  • Other useful domains are country codes (ca), org, edu, com