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ENGL 100 University Writing

Using OCtopus Effectively

OCtopus is a powerful search tool, but, it isn't Google! You have to be mindful of the search strategies you use for finding information.

Best Practices:

  • Consider the keywords / phrases that describe your topic.
    • Avoid using words like 'connection' or 'effect' or 'outcome' and definitely do not type in your entire research question!
  • Use quotation marks when searching for names, titles, or keyword phrases of two words or more
  • One of the most difficult things to convey during a search is that you are looking for connections between one subject or set of circumstances and the effect it may have on another
    • Use the Advanced Search option to organize your search according to the keywords that describe your ideas or subjects (see example below)
  • Unless you specify otherwise, OCtopus will search for keyword matches in results. This does not necessarily mean your search terms are the main focus of the article.
    • Experiment with other search options, especially Subject searching. If OCtopus finds a Subject match to your search term, that is an indication that your chosen keyword is a primary focus of the result. 

In the example below, the research question is "Is increased social media use connected to an unhealthy lifestyle?" In each line of the search, the keywords are focused on one aspect of the question (ie. one line for social media and synonyms, one for specific health outcomes, and one for the group who might be subject to these outcomes).

Journals are like magazines except the articles are written by researchers. Peer-reviewed journals have articles checked for accuracy and reliability by other scholars and experts in the field.

Databases provide access to articles that are unavailable on the open Internet. Some databases only include descriptions (citations) of articles with "Where can I get this?" links, and other databases contain links to the full text of the article.

Strategies for finding articles:

  • Use OCtopus for a 'Google-like' experience
  • Use a specific database, such as Gale Literary Sources, that will only contain information related to your subject area.
  • Search within a relevant journal. For example, if you want Canadian sources or topics, searching within a journal such as "Canadian Literature", would help focus a search.

Articles from academic journals, newspapers, magazines, and other publications can be found in indexes and databases. OC Library subscribes to more than 100 article databases that are not available on the free web.

Use article reference lists to find other similar articles

Use database limiters, such as date or resource type, to get fewer, more focused search results

Why Use Databases?

The open Internet only holds a small percentage of the information stored online. Using Library sources gives you access to private information, such as:

  • Book content
  • Original, primary, and historical documents
  • Subscribed content
  • Copyright protected material

Peer Review

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