BIOL 4140 Ornithology Research Guide

If you require assistance finding resources for your research in this course, please don't hesitate to contact the Biology Learning & Liaison Librarian, Ellen Olsen-Lynch.

Journal Article Databases

Reference Books (Print & Online)

This list is only a sample of books available online through the library. Please search Omni for a comprehensive search of our holdings. 

Article Searching Tips

"Have you heard? 'Bird' is the word...", but not always. It could be 'avian' or 'prothonotory warbler' or 'Passerculus sandwichensis'.  There is no one right way to search.  You often need to be creative and persistent.  Below you'll find tips on how to brainstorm keywords and develop search strategies. You will find more tips in the Library Skills Tutorials.

In addition to the library's main academic search tool, Omni, there are subject specific indexes that can be used to find scholarly articles.  If you need to do a more controlled and focused search, try one of these (e.g. Web of Science, Medline, etc.). Knowledge of keyword searching strategies is useful for these databases.

Keyword searching - With a keyword search you look for a word, no matter where that word appears. If you like, you can specify that the word be in a particular field (e.g. the title, author, or subject), but it can be in any position (beginning, middle, or end).

  • Think of other words which express the same concepts as those you're looking for.  Keep in mind that the system searches for the exact letters you type, and not the general ideas they express. The system doesn't think. So you have to plan for single and plural, more specific and more general terms, nouns, adjectives, and verbs, etc.
  • Background reading on your topic will also help you identify important words.  Try a reference source like Birds of The World to learn about your species and related terms.

    For example, for the topic - Songs of Savannah Sparrows in Soutwestern Ontario - keywords to consider may include:

          Concept 1:  Song OR vocalization OR call OR sound OR dialect


          Concept 2: Savannah Sparrow OR Passerculus sandwichensis OR Ipswich Sparrow (subspecies) OR
                            Passerculus sandwichenesis princeps (subspecies)
OR Emerizidae (family)


          Concept 3: Southwestern Ontario OR London OR Ontario OR Canada or Canadian OR North America(n)


  • To search for a phrase many databases require quotations marks around the words. Otherwise, the database assumes an AND between the words and will search for them separately. Keep in mind every database is different so you should check the HELP section to see how that database searches phrases.

    Eg. "Savannah Sparrow"
  • Truncation and wildcards are used to find variations of words.

    Truncation will find any ending for the root of a word. The truncation symbol in most journal databases is the asterisk *.

    E.g. vocal* will find vocal or vocals or vocalize or vocalization or vocalizations

    Wildcards are used within a word, to represent any letter.

    E.g. colo$r will find colour or color

Combining Keywords

  • When you use AND, you are specifying that both terms must be found in every item found

    E.g. song* and "savannah sparrow" AND ontario
  • When you use OR, you are specifying that items have either of the terms, but not necessarily both. Use an OR between synonymous or similar terms for a concept.

    E.g. song* OR  vocalization* OR call*
  • Some databases provide search forms (usually in an Advanced search screen) so that you don't need to type in AND or OR. For those that don't, you need to place parentheses around those terms that have OR between them.

    E.g. (song* OR vocalization* OR call*) AND ("savannah sparrow" OR "passerculus sandwichensis") AND canad*
  • This is what a search could look like in the Web of Science:
    Web of Science Search Screenshot

Refining your results

  • In the Web of Science change the Sort By option  to Relevance.
  • Check the database for ways to limit your results to:
    • Language – e.g. English
    • Publication Type e.g. Review, Empirical study, case study
    • Scholarly articles/Peer Reviewed articles (Note: every journal indexed in the Web of Science is peer reviewed and scholarly)
    • Date range
  • Check the record where your search terms matched. The best matches for topics are in fields like Subject or Title. Search specific fields if there is an Advanced or Expert search option.
  • Use Subject Headings or Descriptors if available to increase the relevancy of your results
  • Add another concept to your search using the Boolean operator “AND”
  • To find more articles, don't forget to look at the reference and citing articles lists.

Getting the Full-Text

When using the default search in Omni, most everything you find will be available online.  There will be a link "Available Online" below the citation in the results.

When using a more specific database to which we subscribe (e.g. Web of Science), not everything will be available full-text, online. Unlike Omni, these databases are not unique to Trent.

If you do not see a Full-Text link, this does not always mean we don't have the article. It may be available from another source. In this case, to determine if Trent has the full-text of an article, click on the Omni icon. This icon can be seen near each citation in a database.

If an article is not available, you can request it through our Resource Sharing service (i.e., InterLibrary Loan) using Omni.  Keep in mind articles via Resource Sharing are not available overnight, so this service is only useful if you have enough time to receive the article before your project is due. We recommend that you allow 5-10 days. For more information please go to the Resource Sharing web site.


Bird Recordings

Birding 101

A little bird told me...

 The following sites provide current news updates:

Watch this CBC news clip (if video does not appear, click on title):

How a pizza pan saved a family of endangered birds (August 30, 2017)