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Chemistry Undergraduate Research @ UTSC

Provides useful tips and resources for assignments in chemistry

Troubleshooting your search

  1. Check your spelling: Google your keywords to make sure you spelled them correctly.  Your search will not work if your keywords aren't spelled properly.
  2. Too many results?  Add keywords to focus your search results. For example, if you tried searcing the word pollutants, you might focus on a specific type (dioxins), industry (pulp & paper industry), and/or medium (water).  Check your course notes or look at your current search results for more ideas on focusing your search.
  3. Too few results?  Take keywords away to broaden your search.
  4. Try descriptors or subjects:  Using the database's own vocabulary (descriptors or subjects) can often vastly improve your search.  Ask for assistance at the library if you need some help. 

Search strategies

Task Why am I doing this? More help

Brainstorm keywords to use in your search. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my topic?
  • What are the key aspects of this topic?
  • What are alternate keywords for each aspect?

Developing an effective search strategy will assist in retrieving better quality results when searching the library catalogue, databases and the internet.

This can be tricky as the same idea can be expressed in many ways. To ensure best results when searching, brainstorm several keywords whenever possible.

Try using:

Boolean operators 

Phrase searching



Choose a relevant journal database to search for scienfitic articles on your topic.  Journal articles provide the most current information and searching a database is a great way of locating articles on a specific topic.

Types of journals

Finding Databases

Boolean operators...a funny name for a great tool!

Keyword searches: what are they and their potential problems?

Keyword searching is essentially taking your best guess at the terms which will appear in articles that are about your topic.  This can be a very effective way of searching.  However, you may get a number of irrelevant results because the keywords you chose may appear in irrelevant articles.  You also never know if you've found all the article on your topic. 

Tip: The next time you're using a library catalogue/database or looking at a book or article, take note of the author defined keywords or keywords and subject headings used then try using those terms in your next search.