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GEOL 360: Fundamentals of the Lithosphere: Search Strategies

Diving into the geologic literature

Some thoughts on library research

Just like field research, library research is not a linear process. It is a matter of trying, evaluating and learning from the results, trying again with your newly-gained knowledge, and exploring possibilities. Unlike field research, there's a lot less hitting things with rock hammers. Even so, it can be fun and exciting to find new information, explore new directions, and think about what all of that might mean for your topic. 

Approaching literature from a geologic perspective

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself as you approach the geologic literature. The answers can help you to narrow down the types of sources you look for and the places you search.

1.  Location: 

Do you need geographically specific information, or is the locale not important? For example, water quality data is location-specific, but articles about minerals containing europium need not be.

  • What are the names of your geographic area? This could be the geologic unit, city, county, state, or any other number of names.
  • You may get more results using the name of the county, region, or state rather than the name of a city or town.
  • Are there specific coordinates that define the area? Some of the searches can be done by latitude and longitude.
  • Pay attention to any codes for specific locations. This can include hydrology units, geologic units, watersheds, or even wells - basically any geographically-specific unit.

2.  Resource or material:

Are you looking for information on a specific resource or material, be it a specific type of rock, or mineral or even energy resource?

  • Are there other words or terms for that resource?

3. Process: 

Do you need information on a specific process or cycle?


4.  Time: 

Does your information need to be time-specific? Are you looking for information from a particular geologic time period?

  • What names has that time period had? Remember that the names of time periods can occasionally change or have different names depending on the location.
  • Take a look at the International Commission on Stratigraphy's site for a detailed chronostratigraphic chart and other related charts.

Starting and Expanding your search

Starting and Expanding your search

Once you've defined what you're looking for in a source, it's time to do the actual searching.

Background research:

If there are any aspects of your topic that you don't have a good handle on yet, it's going to be worth your time to do some quick background reading. Find a 1-2 page summary of the topic to give you some context, which will help you understand the research you find later on.  The "Finding Background Information" tab on this guide will give you some links to places to find background information.


Starting your search

I like to start my search in either LibrarySearch (for a broader search) or GeoRef (if I want to a narrower, geology-focused search).  I try a few of the key words or phrases I've identified above and look at the results.  Don't get too caught up in finding the perfect search terms, just try some things, see what you get, and be willing to try something else.  Pay attention to the ways that you can limit a search once it's done.  You can narrow results by source type (is it peer-reviewed? an article? a book?), or by date published, or subject.  These are easy ways to comb through results.

Use the tabs along the top of this guide to help you find different types of sources.


Expanding your search

Once you've found even just one good source, you can use that to find more sources.

Subject Searching

  • Take a look at the detailed record for your source in the database where you found it.  You can see how the source is indexed and click on any of the terms to find more with that same subject, or use Advanced Search to combine the terms.
  • In subject databases, use the Thesaurus to get specifics on what a term refers to and to find related terms.
  • Different databases will use different subject terms, so if you're using more than one database, make sure to pay attention to the subject headings in each one.

Keyword Searching

While skimming through a source, pay attention to the terms or phrases that the author is using to describe your topic.  Make note of any key phrases that you might add to your search.


Citation Searching

  • Pay attention to who the author is citing, and in what context.  Follow the relevant citation to the original source.
  • You can also search for more recent papers that have cited your paper in either Scopus or Google Scholar.

Other things to watch for:

Pay attention to things like author names and affiliations.  While it's not a problem to have a few sources written by the same author, you want to avoid having all your sources written by the same person or coming from the same lab.  You want to be sure you're bringing in multiple perspectives and voices.

Your Librarian

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Karen Brunner
NOTE: I work from home on Mondays. Email is the best way to reach me. I am happy to meet via Zoom. Phone messages are sent to my email.
Contact:
O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library
Room 115
651-962-5011