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PDI Searching the Scientific Literature  

Guide for the PDI session on searching the scientific literature for non-scientists
Last Updated: Apr 2, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Getting Started: Databases

The following databases are the best "go to" science databases. If you don't know where to begin, start here.


PDI Outline



Get it for me now: searching for a known item

Potato vs. Solanum tuberosum: searching for something using keywords or terms

You want what? Searching for something that you aren't quite sure of

The meaning of life: Making sense out of the data or research information

Searching time & Questions


Tools for Effective Searching

1. Keywords, Broader terms, Narrower terms

Use a variety of keywords to describe your topic. Use the common name and scientific name, if you know both of those words/terms.  If you begin your research by using reference materials such as encyclopedias, you will often run across vocabulary to describe your topic. 

  • global warming or climate change
  • "mountain pine beetle" OR  dendroctonus ponderosae 
  • "alternative fuel*" OR ethanol OR biofuel*  
You should remove all "stop words" from your search. Stop words include articles, prepositions, or essentially any word that is not a crucial, meaningful word. 

2. Use quotation marks for phrase searching
  • "war on drugs"
  • "alternative fuel*"
3. Use truncation to get the database to search for a root word plus any possible endings
  • flood*  flood, floods, flooded, flooding
  • psycholog* psychology, psychological, psychologist
4. Use AND, OR, and NOT to combine your search terms
  • ("mountain pine beetle" OR  dendroctonus ponderosae) AND (colorado OR rocky mountain)
  • "war on drugs" AND Mexico AND United States
  • dolphins NOT football

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