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PHYB10 Library Guide

This guide will help you find, read and summarize journal articles.

Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT

*Created by McMaster Libraries

Keyword searching VS descriptor searching

Keyword Searching:  Essentially taking your best guess at the terms which will appear in articles on your topic. This can be an effective search strategy, however, you may get a number of irrelevant results if the keywords you chose appear in irrelevant articles. You also never know if you've found all the article on your topic. 

Descriptor Searching:  Descriptors are the controlled vocabulary (or tags) used within a database to organize material.  If you can find the right descriptors for your topic, you can focus your search on relevant articles and be sure that you've found everything on your topic.

Search Strategies


Task Why am I doing this? More help

Choose keywords from your topic to use as search terms.

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

Try using:

Boolean operators 

Phrase searching



Choose a relevant journal database to search for scientific articles on your topic. Visit the 'Find Physics Research' page in this guide to find databases that might contain 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.

Find Physics Research

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. 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:  Using the database's own vocabulary (descriptors or subject headings) can often vastly improve your search.  Ask your librarian for assistance if needed.