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Research Guides

INI102: Telling the Stories of the City: Writing Creative Non-Fiction

DON'T PAY for articles or eBooks

1) Search for the resource the library website

2) If using Google Scholar, set your web browser to recognize you as a UofT Student

3) Seek help if you still have access issues.

Tips for building your search - W&R

Choosing your Search Terms

Think of the language that will be the most effective for your search and keep track of search terms that produce the best results. Ask yourself: 

  • Will your topic be discussed in the news using scholarly terms or would other terminology be more effective?
  • Has the terminology changed over time or based on location? 

Designing your Search Strategies

Some databases allow you to enter search terms on separate lines (e.g., enter a keyword the top line and researcher or activist's last name below, so as to articulate your search request)

Using Boolean Operators (AND, OR, NOT, quotation marks, asterisk) allows you to widen or narrow the search for your keywords and target your research topic: 

Quotations marks (narrows your search)

Search for specific phrases or names or different spellings e.g., hyphens

  • "creative writing""literary non-fiction""short story" 

  • "social media" OR Instagram

  • "employee engagement" OR  "employee-engagement


Asterisk * (widens your search)

Be aware that this doesn't work in certain databases.

  • institut* = institutions, institution's, institutitional

  • Canad* = Canada, Canada's, Canadians, Canadian, Canadiana


AND (narrows your search)

  • "writing technique"  AND CanadAND poet

  • "university students"  AND "marketing strategy" 

  • "social media"  AND Canad


OR (widens your search)

Watch out for US vs Canadian Spelling, synonyms, acronyms

  • neighbourhood OR neighborhood  

  • (COVID-19 OR  COVID OR "Corona Virus") AND (questionnaire OR survey OR "focus groups" 

    • Use brackets to create separate groups of actions in your search.

  • snapchat OR "Instagram Stories" OR "Instagram Story"


NOT (narrows your search by excluding keyword)

Use only when you need to remove topics that overwhelm your search results

  • Stress NOT post-traumatic stress  

  • (writing OR authorship) NOT criticism


Brackets (instructs the database on targeting the keywords in your search phrase)

Use only when you need to remove topics that overwhelm your search results

  •  (Universit* OR College) AND "student life" NOT (academic OR faculty) 

Using Search Operators

Search operators are a set of commands that can be used in almost every search engine, database, or online catalogue.  The most popular  operators are AND, OR, and NOT. These must all be in capital letters to work. Other operators include parentheses, truncation, and phrases.

Use the following search operators to broaden or narrow your results.

AND Use this word between concepts to narrow your results.  e.g. sensory AND perception
OR Use this word between related concepts.  e.g. habitat OR ecosystem
NOT Use this word to exclude terms from your search. e.g. virus NOT corona
Quotations Use quotes to search for a multi-word concept. e.g. "International Year of Indigenous Languages"
* Use the asterisk symbol to include alternate word endings. e.g. cultur* will search for culture, cultural, and culturally
? Use a question mark to include variations in spelling in your search. e.g. wom?n will search for woman, women
(  ) Use brackets to create separate groups of actions in your search. e.g. "climate change" AND (ecosystem* OR habitat*) AND Ontario

Pictured below is an example of how all of the above search operators can be combined to refine a search that will help locate sources describing the experience of women participating in the Black Lives Matter movement in Canada.

Advanced search using brackets, quotations, an asterisk, and the AND, OR, and NOT commands.