SWRK 3324: Oppression, Diversity and Social Justice: Using Library Resources

Where Do I Search?


The library collects a variety of materials, including books, newspapers, DVDs and scholarly journals. Knowing where to search for these items can be the key to finding what you're looking for.

  • If you're looking for books, ebooks, films or print journals and newspapers, you'll want to use the library's online catalog. For more information about using the library catalog, see the Finding Books page on this guide.

  • If you're looking for scholarly journal or newspapers online, use the library's databases. The Finding Articles page on this guide provides more information on selecting and searching databases, as well as some suggestions of databases that may be relevant to researching oppression and social justice.

  • Not sure where to look? Try using OneSearch to search across all of the library's resources.


Still not sure how to find what you're looking for? Ask a librarian and we'll help you identify where you need to search.


Some Tips for Searching Library Resources


It's Not Like Google

While Google does a good job of returning relevant results from searches phrased based on the way we speak (e.g., "How many hate crimes occurred in the U.S. last year?"), by default the library catalog and library databases search for all of the words in your query. This often means that searches in library resources using natural language return few results because few resources contain all of the terms in the query.


Selecting Search Terms

Because of this difference between library databases and internet search engines, it's important to isolate the key concepts that you want to have present in your search results and use those as keywords in our search. So if we used the example above, "How many hate crimes occurred in the U.S. last year?," our keywords might include:

  • "hate crimes"
  • U.S.
  • 2016

Note that quotation marks are used around the phrase hate crimes. As with many search engines, using quotation marks in the library catalog and databases searches for an exact phrase. Without the quotation marks, the search would results containing both the word hate and the word crimes, but would not be limited to that specific phrase.


Boolean Operators

The library catalog and library databases use Boolean operators to allow us to specify more precisely what we're searching for. These include AND, OR, and NOT. Note that in most databases Boolean operators must be capitalized.

AND is used to connect two words or phrases when you want both included in your search results.  e.g., "Hate Crimes" AND 2016

OR is used to connect two words or phrases when you want at least one of the search terms to appear. OR can be helpful when searching for a concept for which may synonymous terms may be used.
e.g., U.S. OR United States

NOT excludes records containing a word or phrase from search results. While NOT can be a helpful tool for excluding irrelevant books and articles from your search results, it can also exclude relevant sources that happen to contain the excluded term. Be careful and think about what exactly you're excluding when using NOT.

Parentheses specify the order of application when multiple Boolean operators are used. Consider this query: "Hate Crimes" AND U.S. OR United States. Most databases default to processing AND first. This means that this search would return all results containing both "Hate Crimes" and U.S. and all results containing United States. Obviously, many of these results would be irrelevant to research on hate crimes in the U.S. Using parentheses and searching for "Hate Crimes" AND (U.S. OR United States) would yield more precise results containing either both "Hate Crimes" and U.S. or both "HatCrimes" and United States.


Truncation and Wildcards

Truncations and Wildcards are useful alternatives to OR when there are multiple spellings or variations of your search terms. 

Truncation is achieved using an asterisk (*) and is used at the end of a stem to search for all variations of a common root. For example, searching for rac* would return results containing race, racism, racist, racial, and racialization. 

The question mark (?) serves as a Wildcard and is used within a search term to account for spelling variations, replacing one letter. For example a search for coloni?ation returns results containing both colonization and colonisation.


One Search

Search most databases at once



OneSearch is a tool that allows you search nearly all of the library's materials. It aggregates results from the library's catalog and the databases to which the library subscribes. It is helpful if you're not sure what database might have information on your topic or you're working with a topic that may be studied in many different fields 

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