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Use "quotation marks" to search for phrases e.g. "sign language"

Use ? to retrieve plural forms and variant word endings e.g. child? retrieves child, children, child's

When selecting keywords, be sure to consider synonyms, alternate spellings, other terms or phrases that express the same concepts.

Use subject terms in keyword searches that you perform in database searching.

To find background info...

The Library's Research by Subject guides include one for psychology, located at It was designed to advise you where to look for information on a particular topic.

A good way to begin research is to look at information sources that give you basic or a broad overview of a topic. The most common information sources are encyclopedias, dictionaries, biographical dictionaries and almanacs. Use these background sources to:

  • obtain background information on a topic;
  • focus your topic;
  • clarify concepts;
  • identify relevant keywords that can be used when crafting your searches;
  • identify experts related to the field;
  • identify seminal research works in the field; and
  • obtain recommended sources for further reading.

For example:

Using the Library Catalogue to Identify Books

Search the library catalogue (QCat) to find materials (such as books, ebooks, videos, journals, newspapers and government documents) available at Queen's University Library in either print or online. Books are an excellent source of "background information."

There are numerous ways to search QCat:

  • Search by Author: last name first name
  • Search by Title: omit initial articles (the, a, an, le, la, etc.)
  • Search by Journal title (e.g. Journal of Linguistics and Language Teaching)
  • Search by Keyword (like a Google search in which "and" is automatically placed between words.

The best way to find book (secondary sources) on a topic are with a keyword boolean search which allows you to control your search results by combining various words and phrases using the Boolean operators and, or, not. Group search terms by using parentheses.

A keyword (boolean) search looks for words located anywhere in the record, including in the table of contents which is increasingly provided through the catalogue. Search examples include:

Use AND to combine search terms and narrow results:   language and learning

Use OR to expand search results:   teenagers or adolescents