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How To: Academic Research

Use the tabs below to explore the different aspects of conducting academic research.

Finding Sources

For more information about finding specific types of sources, please see the following guides:

  • Books & eBooks
    This page contains information about finding books on the library shelves and finding eBooks through the catalog. Included are video tutorials outlining the process for finding and downloading eBooks.
  • Searching Databases & Journals
    On this page, you will information about the databases accessible through WNC, basic and advanced search options, and other ways to locate articles about a specific topic.
  • Reference Sources
    This guide includes links to reference databases through WNC, as well as freely available web-based encyclopedias, dictionaries, and atlases/maps.
  • Statistical Sources
    This page includes links to various statistical resources available including those focused on the United States, international statistics, and those pertaining directly to Nevada.
  • News Sources
    In this guide, you will find links to newspaper databases, news wire services, mainstream national and international media outlets, and news outlets in the state of Nevada.
  • Biographical Resources
    In this page, you will find databases and other resources for doing biographical research.
  • Using Google Scholar
    Information in this page focuses on using Google Scholar to find articles and books that are not necessarily available through the library. Included in information about some of the main sources of articles through Google Scholar and how to obtain access to them.
  • Searching the Web
    This guide contains tips and tricks to finding information on the web and how to evaluate websites for academic or other purposes.
  • Finding Videos
    This page includes information about finding videos through WNC, as well as educational and massively open online courses (MOOCs), which are course videos and resources offered by major universities to the public, for free.
  • Finding Images
    This guide contains resources for finding digital images that you can use in your research from public and stock sites and institutional sites like museums and libraries. 

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact us at and the library staff will be happy to help.

Helpful Hints

Search Tips

  • Remember to start by searching the library catalog. For information about how to do that, please see the Searching the Library Catalog guide..
  • Reference sources can be found by adding encyclopedia, dictionary, guide, map, etc. to your subject term(s), depending on the type of information you need.
  • Check the listings of articles and books for keywords that you can use in your search.
  • Using the Advanced Search feature of WorldCat, you can search for your topic in a variety of formats. Besides books and articles, WorldCat includes listings for archival materials, music, sound recordings, and other media. 
  • When you find a good article or book, check the references or works cited at the end of the text to find additional sources. 


Boolean Operators

Exact Words or Phrases

Put exact words and/or phrases you want in quotes. 
Example: Searching for "biological anthropology" will return results that specifically use that phrase, whereas searching for biological anthropology will return results containing either or both of those terms and those containing the exact phrase.

Using OR, AND, NOT and/or parentheses to combine or exclude keywords in your search

Use OR if there is more than one term that may be applicable and you want results for either of them
Example: "biological anthropology" OR "physical anthropology" will return results that contain either of these phrases

Use AND to combine terms that you want to search; the results will include items with both terms
Example: "biological anthropology" AND forensics will return results that contain both biological anthropology and forensics; it will exclude any that do not mention both

NOT (or -)
Using NOT or a minus sign before the word(s) you don't want will tell the search function to look for results with the first word but will exclude any that contain the second one.
Example: "biological anthropology" NOT forensics will return results for biological anthropology and will exclude any that mention forensics

Parentheses ()
Use parentheses to separate search term strings; similarly to how math problems are done, everything within the parentheses is separated from the rest of the terms.
Example: ("biological anthropology" OR "physical anthropology") AND forensics will search for biological anthropology and forensics as well as physical anthropology and forensics

Number or Date Ranges

Ranges (..)
Number and date ranges can also be specified by putting two periods (..) between the numbers (including their unit of measure, if relevant), such as $150.00..$300.00 to return results showing those dollar ranges or 2001..2021 for results spanning those years.

Wildcard/Truncation Symbol

If you are looking for information about a keyword that may have alternate or multiple suffixes (for example: act, active, activate, activation), you can search for all of the options by adding what is called a wildcard symbol (? or *). If you search for act? or act*, it will return results for act, active, activate, activation, etc. If one option doesn't work, try the other; Google recognizes both, but not all search engines do. This technique can definitely be helpful, but be aware it may produce too many results.