Environmental and Resource Studies

Search Tips

Keyword searching - With a keyword search you look for a word, no matter where that word appears. If you like, you canspecify 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.

    For example, for the topic 'Exposure to environmental contaminants through diet in northern Indigenous peoples'', the concepts and their corresponding keywords to consider may include:

    Concept 1:  Contaminants - contaminated or pollutants or heavy metals or organochorines
    Concept 2:  Diet - dietary or nutrition or food or fish or birds
    Concept 3:  Northern - Arctic or Nunavut or Northwest Territories or Nunavik or circumpolar
    Concept 4:  Indigenous - Aboriginal or Inuit or First Nations or native peoples or Indians of North America or Metis
  • 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. "First Nations"
  • 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. diet* will find diet or diets or dietary

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

    E.g. p*ediatric will find pediatric or paediatric
  • Combining Keywords

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

    E.g. contamina* and food* and Arctic and Indigenous

    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. Aboriginal* or Indigenous or Inuit

    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. (diet* or nutrition* or food*) and (contamina* or pollut*) and (northern or Arctic or Nunavut) and (Indigenous or Aboriginal or Inuit)

    Below is what this search could look like in the Web of Science..
    Web of Science Basic Search Screenshot

Refining or Narrowing your results

Check the database for ways to sort, refine or narrow your results:

  • Sort - e.g. Publication Date, Relevance, Citation number
  • Language – e.g. English
  • Document Type e.g. Articles, Review Articles
  • Date range
  • Subjects categories

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”

Below is what the results of the above search look like in the Web of Science: 

Web of Science Results Screenshot

Research Tip:  When you find a good article, use it to find others.

  • Look at the cited references (i.e works cited or bibliography).
  • Look at the list of citing articles.  Click on "Times Cited" in the Web of Science.
  • Check for other articles written by the same author(s). Author names are hyperlinked in most databases.
  • Use the "View Related Records" function to find related articles.
  • Scan the abstract and keywords/subject headings for new terms to search.

Web of Science Full Citation Record Screenshot

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.

If an article is not available, you can request an InterLibrary Loan (ILL) through RACER. 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 and to register for an account please go to the RACER web site.


Selected Periodicals




Below is only a selection of books in the Library.  Please search the Library Catalogue for many other books in this subject area.


Dr. Chris Furgal, an associate professor with Trent University's Indigenous Environmental Studies Program, is one of three producers of Utsuk: A Story of Fat, a documentary about the relationships between environmental change, marine fats and Inuit health.  Watch the full documentary here: http://www.utsukfilm.ca/.   Dr. Christ Furgal is also the co-founder/director of the Nasiwik Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments.