Environmental and Resource Studies

Welcome to the GEOG-ERST 2510 Library Guide

On this page you'll find information about and links to library resources and tools that may help you in this course. Included is information about the Maps, Data & Government Information Centre, Data Analysis & Visualization tools, tips for keyword searching and finding qualitative research, tips for managing your searches and results, and links to library tutorials.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact the library: library@trentu.ca

Maps, Data & Government Information Centre (MaDGIC)

The Maps, Data and Government Information Centre (MaDGIC) is a major resource for all students. The unit serves as the campus centre for geospatial and statistical data, providing all disciplines with data sets from diverse government agencies and commercial publishers.  Please visit the MaDGIC website for a list of resources.

For in-person and virtual service hours, please see MaDGIC's Contact webpage. (Appointments are recommended)

For workshops and events, please visit the following web pages: 

The Data Visualization Lab provides faculty and students with a range of state-of-art tools, including advanced computers, spatial and statistical software, and 3D and VR analysis and display technologies. Some of these tools include ArcGIS, ArcGIS StoryMaps, Adobe Creative Cloud, NVivo and Tableau (including Tableau Prep).  These facilities and the consultation services provided by the Lab, support a community of users drawn from a range of disciplines - from archaeology to conservation biology, environmental science to sociology - that together seek to understand and interpret the spatial patterns found throughout nature and society.

Data Analysis & Visualization Tools & Guides

There are several tools available for data analysis and data visualization.  Some are open access and some are commercial resources.  If you're interested in using tools available at the workstations in the Data Visualization Lab, please contact madgichelp@trentu.ca.


NVivo is a software that provides the ability to store, organize, categorize, analyze, and visualize date all in one platform. It has been designed for data analysis and data visualization in qualitative and mixed-methods research.  It accomodates a wide range of research methods, including:

  • action based research
  • organizational analysis
  • discourse analysis
  • grounded theory
  • conversation anlaysis
  • ethnography
  • phenomenology
  • literature reviews
  • etc.

It supports a wide range of data formats, including:

  • audio files
  • videos
  • digital photos
  • Word
  • PDF
  • spreadsheets
  • rich or plain text
  • etc.


Tableau Desktop

Tableau Desktop is a software that allows you to import data and apply a number of different transformations to that data, and eventually create a number of different visualizations. Tableau desktop is capable of complex data modeling and a wide variety of visualization outputs including graphs, plots, maps, etc. Furthermore, Tableau can compose multiple visualizations together and add interactive elements like filters, point-and-click functionality, etc.

Tableau Prep

From the company's website - "Tableau Prep changes the way traditional data prep is performed in an organization. By providing a visual and direct way to combine, shape and clean data, Tableau Prep makes it easier for analysts and business users to start their analysis, faster. Tableau Prep is comprised of two products: Tableau Prep Builder for building your data flows, and Tableau Prep Conductor for scheduling, monitoring and managing flows across the organization."

Other Resources

The links below are to helpful guides from other universities for data analysis and visualization.

Library Tutorials & Guides

Keyword Searching Tips




Keyword searching is an effective method for finding information in any computerized database, whether it's Omni, an online index, or Google.  Once you learn the basics, you are capable of searching anywhere, with better results.

Before you begin a keyword search, think about your topic. Do some background reading to become familiar with your topic and the words used to describe it.  Decide on some words (terms) to express the most important concepts, words you would expect to find in every item of interest to you.

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, abstract, author, author keyowrds or subject headings), 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, broad or related l terms, nouns, adjectives, and verbs, etc.

    For this example topic, Social isolation in seniors in rural communities in Canada, here are some concepts and keywords to consider:

Concept 1: Social isolation - loneliness or social exclusion or social connectedness

Concept 2: Seniors - elderly or older adults or older women or older men or oldest old or aging or ageing

Concept 3: Rural - remote or small town

Concept 4: Canada - Canada or Canadian or Canadian or British Columbia or Alberta or Saskatchewan or Manitoba or Ontario or Quebec or New Brunswick or Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland or Labrador or Nunavut or NWT or Northwest Territories or Yukon or Nunavik or Inuvialuit

  • Note: Use geographic place names cautiously as they can be very limiting since you're relying on the author to have used that specific place name in the article's title, abstract, author keywords.  If a database has a thesaurus or controlled vocabulary (i.e. list of subject headings) look in it for Canada and/or all the provincial names. If the research is about Canada (not just published in Canada) it may be tagged with a Canadian place name Subject Heading.  If available, adding a Subject Heading is a better approach than a  text word search. (Note: In the Web of Science the Countries/Regions filter is linked to the address of the authors, which does not necessarily reflect the geographic focus of the research. Using this filter could exclude articles about that geographic place).
  • 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. "social isolation"
    • Note: In the Web of Science the quotation marks can also be used around a single word to force the database to search only that form of the word.  Web of Science, like most databases or Google,  will automatically do some thinking for you, searching for various forms of a word. If it is important that only that form of the word be found, use quotation marks around it. 
      E.g. A search with aging or ageing will also find age or aged or ages
       A search with "aging" or "ageing" will only find those exact words.
  • 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. Canad* will find Canada or Canadian or Canadians or Canada's

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

    E.g. neighbo*rhood will find neighbourhood or neighborhood
  • Combining Keywords

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

    E.g. social isolation AND seniors AND rural AND Canada

    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. social isolation OR loneliness OR social exclusion OR social connectedness

    Proximity operators are an advanced way to combine keywords. You can use them to find words within a specific number of words of each other. This is useful when you are looking for concepts that might be expressed by multiple different phrases These vary between databases. NEAR/X is the proximity operator in the Web of Science.  Replace the X with a number to specify the maximum number of words that separate the terms.
    E.g. older NEAR/2 adult* will find older rural adults or older male adults or older community dwelling adults

    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. (social isolation OR loneliness or "social exclusion" or "social connectedness") AND ((older near/2 adult*) or senior* or elder*) AND (rural* OR remote* or "small town*) AND (Canad* or "British Columbia" or "Colombie Britannique" or Alberta* or Saskatchewan or Manitoba* or Ontario or Quebec or "Nouveau Brunswick" or "New Brunswick" or "Nova Scotia" or "Nouvelle Ecosse" or "Prince Edward Island" or Newfoundland or Labrador or Nunavut or NWT or "Northwest Territories" or Yukon or Nunavik or Inuvialuit)

    Below is what this search would look like in the Web of Science, using one search line per concept (highlighting where the ANDs and ORs should be placed).

    Web of Science Search Screen Capture

Narrowing your results

Check the database for ways to limit your results to:

  • Language – e.g. English
  • Publication Type e.g. Empirical study, case study
  • Scholarly articles/Peer Reviewed articles
  • 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”

Getting the Full-Text

Sometimes the database you are searching also provides full text journals. In this case you may see below or next to the citation a 'Full-Text' link to the article.

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.

Note: If you see the notation below a citation, “ Trent Library does not have this journal”, please ignore as it is not always accurate. Omni will be able to better tell you if we have the journal.

If an article is not available, you can request an InterLibrary Loan (ILL) . Keep in mind articles via ILL 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 7-10 days. For more information please go to the Interlibrary Loan web page

Tips for Finding Qualitative Research Articles

To narrow your search to Qualitative research articles you need to think about the keywords related to the questions this type of research seeks to answer and the methodologies.

  • Try adding the word qualitative to the your search strategy.
  • Qualitative research may include questions about meaning, experience, attitude, perception, opinion, emotions, decision making, etc.  These are some of the very words you can use as keywords in your search for articles.  
  • Try adding adding a word(s) related to qualitative research design and methods of data collection. These may include grounded theory, ethnography, ethnological research, ethnomethodology, phenomenology, purposive sample, hermeneutic, heuristic, semiotics, narrative, cluster sample, action research, observational method, content analysis, thematic analysis, constant comparative method, field study, theoretical sample, discourse analysis, storytelling, photovoice, focus groups, interviews, etc. 
  • Some databases offer filters to narrow your search to qualitative research.
    • PsycINFO has a Methodology filter which includes options to limit your search to papers tagged as being a Qualitative Study or having used a more specifical methodology such as focus group or interview.
    • CINAHL, Medline, and PubMed all offer an option to limit your search by Clinical Queries which includes an option for Qualitative Research. Behind these limits are pre-arranged search strategies that will be added to your subject search to filter out the best research.

Tracking Searches & Managing Results

Tracking your searches helps you to avoid unnecessary repetition in your searching and can save you valuable research time. Below are some tips to help you track your searches:


Consider logging your searches including information about:

  • When you searched
  • Where your searched and why (e.g. Google Scholar, Web of Science, PsycINFO)
  • Search terms (e.g. text words or subject headings searched)
  • Limits (e.g. Language, Date, Peer Reviewed, Publication Type, Type of Research)
  • Results (number of articles found, number of articles saved/exported to citation manager)
  • Comments (e.g. combinations that were successful or not successful, new words identified)

A table or worksheet can be useful way to log your searches. See a brief example in the Word document linked below. This could also be done in an Excel worksheet.

Printing/saving database search strategies

Some databases have options to print or save the text of your search strategy to a Word, Rich Text, or PDF document. If a database doesn't have this option you can try copying and pasting the text or snipping an image of your strategy.  To permanently save search strategies so that you can create an alert or run them again at a later date, you normally need to have an account in that database. See the tutorials below about how to to do this in platforms on which many of our databases are provided. 

Managing your results

  • When you set up an account in a database you usually also have the option to save selected results in addition to the strategy.  The tutorials above include that information.
  • Consider exporting your results to a Citation Manager. A citation management tool can help you manage your citations (i.e. references) by building a personal online filing cabinet of citations and formatting bibliographies for your papers. For more information see the Library's guide on Citation Management.