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Library Research Step-By-Step Guide: CHEM 270: Step 2: Run Your Search(es)

A step-by-step guide to online research for Chemistry 270 (Matsumoto).

Scholarly Searching is a Skill

As has hopefully been emphasized already, searching for scholarly materials is not as simple as doing a Google search. This is true even if you are searching Google Scholar. This page will introduce you to specific skills you can use to get the most out of a database search, saving you time and a stress headache.

Complete the interactive database tutorial below!

Where Should I Search?

In Step 1, you established how many and what kinds of sources you need to complete your assignment. But where should you search for them? There is no single place where you can find everything you need. Different types of sources are found in different databases, so plan to do at least 2-3 separate searches to cover your bases.

Keep in mind that during the current COVID-19 crisis, you'll need to rely exclusively on online resources. 

Foley Library subscribes to more than 350 databases! They come in many forms, and have all sorts of content in them, but in general they can all be searched using the same basic skills. Follow the "general to specific" rule here:

  1. Start with a large, multidisciplinary database like Academic Search Complete, Web of Science, or ProQuest Research Library. This will give you a large initial pool of results, especially if your work draws on multiple areas of study. 
  2. Next, select subject-specific databases by referring to the library's subject guides for expert recommendations. Subject databases are usually smaller, but provide more focused results, and may include subject-specific search tools as well. For this class, we might look at databases in the Chemistry & Biochemistry guide.

Subject Headings

Subject headings are used to some degree in all databases to describe and categorize sources. Each source that is included in a database has been tagged by humans with controlled subject terms that describe the basic topic(s) of the source. This means that experts got together and chose specific terms to describe concepts (for example, sources referring to soda, pop, cola, etc are all found under the heading CARBONATED beverage in Academic Search Complete).

The quickest way to find subject headings is to do a keyword search and check the subject headings on any article that seems relevant. Clicking on the subject term will take you to the full list of sources tagged with that subject heading.

Essential Searching Strategies, Skills, and Tools

Strategy 1: upgrade your keyword searching. Pick out 2-3 specific words or phrases. Get rid of any filler words. Databases do their search using only the information you give them; they can't guess synonyms, and they don't understand which words are important and which aren't.

  • DON'T"how do deep-sea hydrothermal vents support chemosynthetic life?" This is a good research question, but not a good search query.
  • INSTEAD, TRYhydrothermal vent AND chemosynthesis. By boiling our topic down to just a few key words, we're able to get a more focused pool of results.

Strategy 2: enhance your keyword searching using Boolean operators and other advanced tools. Boolean operators, originally from logic and math, are words we can use to "glue" our keywords together in different ways.

visual demonstration of boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT, and quote searching and wildcard tools.

  • AND is the most common operator, used to narrow a search. When we searched hydrothermal vent AND chemosynthesis above, we told the database we only wanted results that include both of our keywords. AND is usually the default if no other operators are used.
  • OR is used to broaden a search. OR is great when we have a concept that's described in multiple ways. For example: hydrothermal vent OR deep sea vent
  • NOT is used in specific situations where a particular term that we don't want is junking up our search. For example, if we wanted to know about chemosynthesis that's not associated with hydrothermal vents, we might try: chemosynthesis NOT hydrothermal.
  • "Quote search." Sometimes we need to find a particular phrase or title. The quickest way to return that exact phrase or title is to search it in quotes. The quotes force the database to search only for the exact string of characters inside the quotation marks. This means you need to check spelling and grammar before searching!
  • Wildcard*. This clever tool helps us search for multiple tenses of a word at once. Databases don't always understand that when we type in a word like biochemistry, we also mean biochemical, biochemicals etc. We can get around that problem with the wildcard: biochem*.

Helpful Practicalities

How to Get the Full Text of an Article (when it isn’t in the database)

Very few databases will have the full text of every article. Sometimes, a database only provides the citation and abstract. This is useful for evaluating the relevance of the article to your research, but not so great, if you decide that you want to read the entire article.
Fortunately, Foley has a tool that will search for an article in all of our online databases and connect you to the full text of that article if it is available in any of those databases. 

Check for full text link

Look for a “full text options” link in your results list. In EBSCO databases, it looks like this ------>





The link takes you to Periodicals@Foley, the library’s list of periodicals (journals, newspapers, and magazines) to which we have access, whether electronic or in print.
It automatically searches for that specific article and connects you to the full-text if it's available.
In this case, the article is available in a couple of different databases.
Click on a link to see that database's entry for the article, along with the attached full text.






If you still can’t get full-text, don’t give up! Instead, look for the Interlibrary Loan link and submit a request for the article. See the section of this guide on interlibrary loan for more info.
See the section of this guide on interlibrary loan for more info.

If you are searching for a specific article or journal (for instance, if you are following the research trail back by looking at an article's citations), it would take forever to search every single database. Thankfully, you can use Periodicals@Foley to see if the library has a specific journal, and if so, which database it is in. Here's how:

When an article you want isn't available from one of Foley Library's resources, or, say, when you find an article in a web search but the publisher wants you to pay $35 to download it, the library's Interlibrary Loan department comes to the rescue!

There are two ways to order an article using Interlibrary Loan. The first is to click on the link to Check Gonzaga Libraries for Full Text Options that accompanies a citation in a database:

If we don't have the article in any other database, you'll see a link to request the article via interlibrary loan:

Click there to get to the sign-in page for Interlibrary Loan. Once you sign in, the system pre-fills a form with all the information needed to order the article.

Select your Needed Before date and your Department (Organizational Leadership, Religion, etc.) and Status (Graduate, Undergrad, etc.), then Submit the request.

What happens next? Our interlibrary loan department identifies a library that owns the journal and sends the request to them. That library scans the article into a PDF and, once it's uploaded to your ILL account, you get an email that the article is available.  An uploaded ILL document is only available for 30 days or five views, whichever comes first, so it's a good idea to download the PDF right away! Oh, and even though the name of the service is interlibrary loan, articles are yours to keep. Books, on the other hand, do need to be returned . . . but you knew that already.

The other way to order an article requires a bit more effort, but it works just as well.  Log in to ILL, click Create Request, and select the type of item you are requesting: Article, Book/Media, or Book Chapter. Fill in the form with as much information as you can and submit the request.

We can get almost any article requested through ILL. It is seamless, fast (but not instant), and free to you, so don't let that perfect article get away!

Google Scholar Search

Google Scholar searches for scholarly content across the internet. It's easy to use, but you won't want to rely on it as your only source.

Google Scholar Settings link and Library LinksConnect Google Scholar to Gonzaga's Library:

  1. Go to Google Scholar: 
  2. Sign in with your Gmail account, then go to Settings.    
  3. Go to Library links and search for Gonzaga
  4. Select University Foley Library – Full Text @ Gonzaga
  5. Save.

Log into your Gmail account when searching Google Scholar to use your settings.

Another Connection Option: Add this link**-  Reload in Foley Library Proxy Server - to your bookmark toolbar to access full text at Foley

  1. Find an article through Google Scholar, or other search method.
  2. Click the link in your bookmark toolbar.
  3. Login through the Proxy server with your Gonzaga credentials, if Foley subscribes to the resource, you will now have access to our subscribed content.

**How to add the link to your toolbar:

Firefox: Right click and save Reload in Foley Library Proxy Server to your bookmark toolbar 

Chrome and Safari: Click and drag Reload in Foley Library Proxy Server to your bookmark toolbar

PROS - Things Google Scholar is good for:

1. Google Scholar shows you how many times an article has been cited, and by whom. Just click "Cited by . . ." under the article abstract to see a list of every citation Google is able to retrieve.

NOTE: The "Cited by..." number counts only the citations visible to Google. See #1 below for more info.

Why is this useful? Well, you already know that looking at the list of references from a good article will help you find other useful articles on your topic. That's looking backward in time to articles and research that preceded the one you are reading. Looking at "Cited by..." in Google Scholar, allows you to look forward in time, to articles and research that followed the article and hopefully built upon it.

2. Google Scholar is great for getting a quick-n-dirty overview of a topic. We're all used to Google's keyword-heavy searching. Searching Google-style in Google Scholar is a great way to find relevant articles quickly, which can help you get a feel for the journals, terminology, and issues surrounding your subject of research. You can then use that knowledge to search more deeply in the library's subject-specific databases.

3. Google Scholar can find "gray literature," like conference proceedings or unpublished works, that are often not indexed in scholarly databases.

4. Google Scholar is good at helping you fill in missing information if all you have is a partial citation. Often Google's search algorithm can find the full citation for you. 

CONS - Things Google Scholar is poor at:

1. Google Scholar cannot retrieve anything that is not available or cited on the surface internet. The majority of scholarly work is not on the surface internet.  Anything behind a paywall — like a scholarly database — is invisible to Google.

2. Google Scholar has no subject headings and few ways to refine a search. This makes it more difficult to zoom in on just the right results.

3. Google Scholar has no way to search by discipline. Searching is almost entirely keyword based, and your keywords may apply to many disciplines.

3. Not everything Google Scholar finds is actually scholarly. Google's magic algorithm takes into account indicators like whether the article has been cited elsewhere, but at the end of the day it's just a guess.

4. Google Scholar isn't picky about the quality of the full-text it finds, so you need to be. One of our librarians found a great article using Google Scholar,  but the PDF provided was an early version of the article, complete with editors marks!

Follow these instructions to find eBooks in the library catalog that are available for you to read.

1. From the library home page, click "Advanced Search."

Screenshot: catalog search box on the library homepage. "Advanced Search" is circled in red.

2. On the Advanced Search Page, (1) select "Local Catalog" in Search Scope drop-down box, and (2) "Books" in the Material Type drop-down box. Next, (3) type in your keyword and (4) click Search.

Screencap: Advanced Search window of the library catalog. Search Scope: Local Catalog, and Material Type: Books are highlighted in red.

3. Once you've run your search, on the left-hand "Tweak my results" column under Availability, click on "Full Text Online" to see only eBooks the Library has immediate access to. You will be asked to log in with your GU credentials before you can get to full-text content.

Screenshot: catalog search for "fisheries" with parameters of Books and Local Catalog. "Availability: Full Text Online" is highlighted in red.

Another way to locate eBooks and Audiobooks is to search in specific databases, such as these ones (GU login required):