Frontiers of Science Research Guide: Searching the Libraries

A guide to using the Columbia University Libraries for students in the Frontiers of Science course.

Finding and Using Library Materials

Search Strategies

Boolean Operators

Use Boolean operators to make your search more narrow (AND), more broad (OR), or to exclude a particular word or phrase (NOT).

Image description: Three Venn diagrams on a white background. Each Venn diagram has the circle on the left labled "puppy" and the circle on the right labelled "kitten." The first Venn diagram is titled "AND," and the middle portion is highlighted to indicate search results the include "puppy and kitten" or both terms. The second Venn diagram is title "OR," and the both circles are highlighted to indicate search results for "puppy or kitten" or either term. The last Venn diagram is titled "NOT," and the first cricle is highlighted to indicate search results for "puppy NOT kitten" or just one term. /End image description

Advanced Search Tips

  • Search for exact phrases with “quotation marks” (“South Park”; "climate change")
  • Search for single character variants with ? (wom?n finds woman, women)
  • Search for plurals and multiple character variants with * (*celeration finds acceleration, deceleration; child* find childhood, children)
  • Citation chasing – use the bibliographies of useful articles to locate other articles and authors to search
  • Cited by – most databases will now give you information on articles that cite the article you are looking at. This is very useful not only in finding other relevant research, but also to determine how influential that work has been in the field.

For a more detailed guide to database searching, see the Columbia University Libraries' Database Searching Guide.

Finding Scientific and Scholarly Articles

The best way to find scientific or other scholarly articles is to use a database. Databases are organized collections of information that have advanced search algorithms that enable browsing, searching, and sorting of electronic resources. Databases index a variety of resources such as scholarly articles, manuscripts, book chapters, conference papers, dissertations, theses, archives, government documents & statistics, as well as image, sound & video collections. Most databases provide abstracts and full-text links to individual resources.

Access databases, including Google Scholar, through CLIO records for seamless off-campus Columbia University access.

Pro Tip: for more efficient and refined searches, choose a database other than Google Scholar for your search.

You can find additional databases covering research from the sciences and other disciplines via our Research Guides.