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Natural Resources and the Environment Subject Guide — Searching Scholarly Databases

Description of databases, reference material, journals, books, etc. available for natural resources research.

Database Searching Techniques

Although you can find article citations in a database easily, finding useful and relevent articles is often difficult. Several search strategies will be useful.

Boolean logic uses and / or / not  to combine words or terms. 


bacteria or microorganisms          includes either term

microscopy and bioassay              includes both terms

turtles not migratory                        includes first term but not second term


Truncation symbol, usually the asterisk *; offers variant endings on words. 

Example: hypothe* retrieves hypothesis, hypotheses, hypothetical, etc.


Wildcard symbol, usually the question mark ?, replaces a letter or letters in the middle of a word or one letter at the end of a word. Not all databases allow wildcards.


genetic? Retrieves genetic or genetics

colo?rful Retrieves colorful or colourful


Phrase searching, to keep words together as a phrase, you usually use the quote marks around the phrase "words together"

Example:  "global warming"


Author Name - the same author may publish under versions of a name over a lifetime. Search for different combinations of the name OR with unusual last names try searching for last name, first initial with an asterisk, as in Buffo J*


Silander, John A.

Silander John Augustus

Silander J.A.

Silander J.


Proximity Searching  - linking words or phrases by their proximity to each other is a powerful search tool. Specify the number of extra words which can exist between the searched terms. Exact formatting differs between databases. To search for the word seasonal within 4 words of the word migration, here is the formatting for several popular databases:

Biosis and Zoological Record:  seasonal near/4 migration

Earth Atmospheric & Aquatic:  seasonal N/4 migration

Scopus:  seasonal W/4 migration

CAB:  seasonal N4 migration

PubMed: does not allow proximity searching

Agricola  seasonal N4 migration

Scholarly Articles

Features of scholarly articles:

  • Written for experts, not a general audience
  • Published in academic journals
  • Judged by fellow experts in the field through a process called “peer-review”

A peer-reviewed article has been reviewed by experts in the field before publication, to ensure that it meets the standards of the field.

Be aware: an item published in an academic journal will not always be peer-reviewed. Some Academic journals also publish items such as editorials or a note from the editor.

Find Review Articles