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FYS 100 -- Evolution: What's All the Fuss About? (Fall 2015): Getting Started

Getting Started

athlete at starting line

Using Keywords to Search

Start With Your Assignment

An obvious but sometimes missed starting point is the actual assignment you are given.
  • Make sure you understand the requirements.
  • Look for key words, items in bold, vocabulary words that are new to you. Keep a log or list of the words so it is easier to select alternatives when you begin to search on the computer.
  • Become familiar with a good a dictionary and/or thesaurus to determine precisely what you are being asked to do.
A good dictionary and thesaurus are valuable throughout the research process.  A good one to start with can be found at

Background Information

Print sources are easy to browse and can provide overviews and references for additional reading.

  • Encyclopedia of Evolution, Oxford University Press (Ref 576.8 E56p 2002)
  • Encyclopedia of Science and Religion, Macmillan Reference USA (Ref 291.175 E56V 2003)

Below is a link to Credo Reference, which can provide basic and background information.

A Word About Wikipedia

caution sign

Most professors do not want you to use Wikipedia as a reference.

However, at the beginning stages of research, it can provide vocabulary, names of important people, and lists of references that you can investigate and evaluate on your own.

Basic Search Concepts

Keyword searching--Watch this tutorial from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. If your search term is a phrase, e.g., natural selection, enclose the phrase in quotation marks. "Natural selection" is a more specific search than typing the words separately.

Boolean operators (AND, OR, AND NOT) These words are used to combine your search terms. AND means that every word must be in your search results and will narrow your results. OR is used to connect similar concepts or synonyms and will broaden your results. OR IS MORE. NOT eliminates a word from the search and should be used with care.

Truncation--Use the asterisk * to retrieve all variants of a word. For example, educat* will retrieve education, educating, educator. But be careful! Con* will retrieve convict, contract, constitution and all other words that start that way. You will get many irrelevant items.

Field--A field is the location in the record where your terms are located, e.g., title, subject, author.