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Let's start with a couple of definitions. 

"Information sources" means the thing or things that contains whatever information you need.  Some of the formats include:

  • Journals and journal articles
  • Books and ebooks (including textbooks, dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias, handbooks, etc.)
  • Websites
  • Collections of data

"Search tools" are the things that you use to find the information sources.  Some examples:

  • Databases
  • Library catalogues
  • Search engines like Google, Google Scholar, and Duck Duck Go!
  • Librarians and other library staff

Select a search tool

When selecting a search tool you need to consider both the search tool and what information you need.  The major things you need to consider are:

  • What subject area(s) do I want results in?
  • What level of information do I need?  Academic?  Undergraduate?  Things aimed at the general public?
  • Do I have access to the tool?
  • Does the tool include the type of information sources I am looking for?
  • How well can the tool narrow or broaden a search?  How well do I need to narrow or broaden a search?

Lets consider two example searches.

  1. Finding the contact information of an instructor.

    For the contact information of an instructor you need a tool that: includes contact information, is aimed at either the University or the general public, and you may want to be able to narrow down you search.  Possible search tools would be Google (their office number may be posted on a personal website), or you could look at a University or departmental directory.  UTSC has a directory (the link is on the homepage at the top right near the search box), and in this directory you can narrow down your search.  If you knew that your instructor had the last name of Smith and worked for DPES then you could narrow down you search after you realized that there are several Smiths that work for UTSC.
  2. Finding scholarly work on an interdisciplinary topic for a paper you are writing.  You have been instructed to discuss the history of the topic back to at least the 1920s as well as current developments

    For this topic you will need to find information that varies in format.  With such a broad topic you will likely want to consider two different search tools.  For the historical content you will likely want to look at books, ebooks, encyclopedias, etc.  The best source for these type of information sources is the Library Catalogue.  For more recent work you should consider an interdisciplinary database that covers science journals and articles.


Databases of interest

For these two courses the following types of databases may interest you:

Interdisciplinary Databases (cover a broad range of different scientific disciplines)

Environmental Sciences Databases

Biology Databases

Interdisciplinary Databases

Environmental Sciences Databases

Biology Databases