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ENH 206: Nature and Environmental Literature: Getting Started with Research

A Guide to Research Sources

Library Databases: Excellent Resources to Search for Articles & More...

What is a library database?

A library database is a searchable collection of different resources including articles from magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals, streaming videos, images, and more. You can find lots of great information for your cumulative course paper in the library databases.

Library databases are different than Google. The information contained in databases is not freely available via a google search.  You have access to the databases as an SCC student, so when you access a database from off campus you will be prompted to login with your MEID and password.  

Getting Started with Research

Step 1: Background Info 

Before you dive into your research, it may be helpful to do some pre-research.  Pre-research can help you to gather background information about your topic, identify keywords, and make the research process more efficient. To gather background information, you can read encyclopedia articles or other reference articles to gain an overview of your topic and all the different aspects that relate to it. With a strong understanding of your topic, you will be able to identify more specific issues to further research.  You can find overview articles and background information using the Reference Databases in the boxes to the right. Here are a few examples of the types of articles you can find in the reference databases.

While you read through the articles, you will want to take note of important terminology or keywords. Keywords will be your *key* to relevant search results when you begin researching.

Next: Select the tab, Step 2: Keywords


Databases deliver the best results when you search using specific keywords or short phrases rather than full sentences, questions, or strings of words. Thinking about your topic can help you to identify relevant keywords. You can also use the background and reference articles to identify keywords.  As you read through those articles, take note of the terms and keywords that are used.  Keep a log of these keywords, you will need them when you are ready to search the databases. 


What makes a good keyword?

  1. Good keywords are single words (usually nouns)  OR specific phrases (two or more words that must go together to make sense).  Here is an example of some keywords and phrases:

    1. preservation

    2. anthropocentrism

    3. Aldo Leopold

    4. ecology

    5. deep ecology

  2. Try to use keywords that are more specific than general.  For example, if you want to research environmental ethics think about specific aspects of the topic. Those keywords might be:

    1. conservation

    2. pollution

    3. climate change

    4. endangered species 

Search Statements

Once you have a list of keywords, you can create search statements. A search statement is made up of two or more keywords connected with the word AND. The search statement is what you will type into the search box in the database.  Remember, searching databases is different than searching Google, so you must search in the way the database will best respond.  Here is a few examples of search statements.

  1. anthropocentrism AND "Aldo Leopold"- this search statement will return results that include both of these keyword

  2. preservation AND ethics - this search statement will return results that include both of these keywords, but the results may not be related to the environment. Be sure to include relevant terms in the search statement.

  3. preservation AND ethics AND environment 

Search Tips 

  1. Quotes - use quotes around two or more words that must go together.  This tells the database to search for that exact phrase. Avoid putting quotes around words that do not need to be an exact phrase. Instead of searching "natural resource conservation" try searching  "natural resources" AND conservation

  2. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Synonyms and Related Terms - Think about synonyms and related terms for keywords that can be used in searching.  If you are searching for "climate change", also try "global warming" 

    1. Search statement 1: "deep ecology" AND "climate change"

    2. Search statement 2: "deep ecology" AND "global warming"

  3. Read your search statement: Does the search statement include the relevant terms for what you are looking for?  Remember you may need to search several times with different search statements.  Try different combinations of keywords to get different results.  Switch out synonyms or related terms. 

Next: Select the tab, Step 3: Search Databases

Database Searching 

Now that you have at least a few search statements ready to go, you can begin to search for information in the library databases.  You can use the library's OneSearch  (searches multiple databases at once) or you can choose to search within a specific database such as Environment Complete and others listed in the box to the right. 

Search Options - utilizing search options will help you narrow down or make your search results more specific by letting you select the options you want. Each library database may look different, but all have similar search options, or what we sometimes call filters or limiters.  These are some options to look for:

1. Full text: Select this option to view results you can read entirely online, i.e. articles, ebooks, etc. 

2. Scholarly/Peer Review: Choose this option to view articles from scholarly and peer-reviewed journals. This will remove magazine and newspaper articles from your list of results.  

3. Format, Content, or Source type: Choose a particular type of resource such as a book, newspaper article, etc. For example, if you select newspaper, then only newspaper articles will appear in your result list.

4. Publication Date: Choose to limit results to a particular date range. This can be helpful to filter out older information if you select to look at information published within the last three, five, or ten years.  However, for your environmental research topic, looking at older information may be helpful too.


Watch OneSearch basics for search tips.


Search Results

1. Click on a title from the results list to get more information about it.  You will be able to view the author, publication, etc information, as well as access the full text if applicable. 

2. Other helpful information that you may find is a list of keywords or subject terms.  Think of these terms as tags that have been selected because they are keywords closely associated with the content of the article, book, or video.  In other words, if you like the source, try using the suggested keywords in a search statement to find more like it. 

3. You can also find tools for printing, emailing, and citing. Also, see the citation guide for more info on citing. 


Next Steps

1. Read the abstracts (summaries) of articles or skim through sources before deciding if it is a good source for you. Don't rely just on the title.  As you read, take note of important keywords that you can include in your search statements. 

2. Revise search statements as needed. Try searching with different keywords and in different databases for comprehensive research.

3. Get help from a librarian if you have questions about your research. Visit us when the library is open, or chat with a librarian 24/7

Reference Databases

Use these Reference Databases to find encyclopedia articles and other background information.

Individual Databases to Search

Use these databases to search for further information about your topic.