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Getting Started with Library Research: An Overview of the Process

A research guide to support your journey through the library research process. Contact a librarian for assistance!

Green magnifying glass icon with checkmark inside from Noun ProjectFinding information requires a lot of skills that you may not be aware that you have or that you are developing. Use this page to learn strategies for HOW to find the most relevant information to meet your needs.

Use the sub-pages to learn WHERE to search for research on your topic or question.

Library Databases vs. Search Engines (Video Tutorial)

Watch this video from WHMS Library to understand the difference between library databases and search engines.

Natural Language OR Boolean Searching

Natural Language Searching

You can search most library databases using natural language like you would in an internet search. For example, if you wanted information about college athletes making money from their image, you might do a natural language search like college athletes get football endorsements in a search engine. 

A screen capture of a popular search engine showing the search, college athletes get football endorsements, along with a preview of the first article result, which states, "The NCAA policy, which took effect in July 1, will allow college athletes and recruits to make money off of activities like autograph signings, endorsements and personal appearances as long as they are consistent with any applicable state law where the athlete's school is located. Sep 13, 2021" and a link,

Not all databases work with natural language. Some databases require Boolean-style searching using the AND, OR, and NOT operators. Review the information below to learn how each operator affects your search results. And get in touch with a librarian if you have questions!

Boolean-Style Searching

Use AND between terms to narrow your search

A search for football AND college AND endorsements will get you search results (articles and other documents or pages) that have ALL THREE TERMS. These results will most likely be about college football players who are allowed to make money through endorsements.

Image of a Boolean search phrase: Football AND College AND Endorsements = Search results with all three terms

Use OR between related terms to broaden your search

A search for College OR university or Endorsements OR Sponsorships will get you search results that have AT LEAST ONE OF THESE TERMS. In these two examples, using both terms with an OR will help you cast a wider net, broadening your results to include more.

Boolean OR examples: (College OR University), (Endorsements OR Sponsorships)

Tip: Keep the related terms inside parenthesis or in their own search box for best results

Use NOT to exclude something from your search

A search for football NOT soccer will EXCLUDE A TERM from your search. In this example, the results will most likely be about American-style football only and not European football or soccer around the globe.

Boolean style search showing Not operator: Football NOT Soccer = American-style football only

Put it all together in a database search

This screen capture shows a complex Boolean search that can also be shown as a phrase search uses the logical Boolean search operators, AND, OR, and NOT: (College OR university) AND (endorsement* OR sponsorship*) AND football NOT soccer NOT rugby [the last bit can also be NOT (Soccer OR rugby)].

A search result screen showing a Boolean style search for (college OR university) AND (endorsement OR sponsorship) AND football NOT soccer NOT rugby


  • Using Google? A space is recognized as if it were an AND so no need to type it. Some databases do this too, but not all. Use AND when in doubt
  • OR can be used between opposites too: athletes AND (amateur OR professional)
  • Avoid using NOT unless you really need to declutter your results. In Google, use a dash: jaguars -cars
  • Add an * (wildcard symbol) on the end of a word to search multiple variations: comput* searches for computer, computers, computing... etc.
  • You can always reach a librarian for help using our 24 x 7 chat or by scheduling a consultation using the link below:

Identifying and Finding Scholarly Peer-Reviewed Articles and Books

What are characteristics of scholarly sources?

In general, scholarly sources:

  • Are written by an author with an advanced degree, i.e., a college professor
  • Are written for an academic audience
  • Contain a credible list of citations/references
  • Include in-text citations
  • Often contain an abstract, literature review, methodology, results, or discussion
  • May or may not be "Peer Reviewed"

How can I tell if a source is scholarly?

  • Articles published in scholarly journals which cover academic and scientific research. Scholarly journals are often referred to as "peer-reviewed" or "refereed" journals. Journals can also be scholarly or academic, but not have the extra level of quality control known as "peer review."

  • Books are not "peer-reviewed," like articles. Instead, they are written by academic scholars, and edited and published (most often) by academic or university presses, e.g.: Routledge, IGI Global, or Oregon State University Press.

  • A book review can also indicate if the book is scholarly. Use LibrarySearch to find reviews of books.

  • When in doubt, ask a librarian!

​​​​What does it mean when scholarly journals are peer-reviewed?

  • Some academic or scholarly journals go through an extra process called "Peer Review" before they are published. These are considered the highest quality of academic journal sources because other scholars in the same field as the author (the author's "peers") review their work.
  • To check, you can look up the journal in our database called Ulrichsweb (link below). Look for the referee jersey icon to indicate that a journal (and the articles in it) is peer-reviewed.

How do I search for and find scholarly sources?

Articles in LibrarySearch 

Search in LibrarySearch* or library databases for articles and limit results by "academic sources" or "peer-reviewed sources." 

Screenshot of LibrarySearch search for alcohol restrictions by state. The search is highlighted by a green box with an arrow pointing toward the applied search filters: "Peer-reviewed Journals" and "Articles." The annotation overload on this screenshot notes "There are 26,185 articles in my search results, but only 21,844 of those articles are from scholarly "Peer-Reviewed Journals"

*LibrarySearch includes search results from many of the UO Libraries database subscriptions.

Articles in a Database

Databases often have a "Scholarly" or "Peer Review" filter option too. Here's an example from one of our EBSCO databases: 

Screenshot of Academic Search Premier (an EBSCO database) with the search terms highlighted in a green box: alcohol AND (restrictions OR regulations) AND (state OR "United States"). A dark pink box shows there are 2,879 results and the filter applied is "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals." The annotation overlaid on this screen shot says, "There are 2,879 search results for this search, and 2,825 are from scholarly or academic journals that are 'Peer-reviewed' journals."


Search in LibrarySearch by title or keyword. Many of our books are "scholarly," but look for the name of the publisher to find an academic press, e.g., "Princeton University Press."

Screenshot of a LibrarySearch search for "alcohol restrictions by state" with the eBooks, Print Books, and Book chapters active filters to limit the search to those "Resource Types." The annotation overlaid on this screen shot says: 1. Select eBooks, Print Books, and Book Chapters from the "Resources Type" filter. Look for University Press publishers. If you want only print, select "Available at UO" or a Library location. 3. "UO eResources" will exclude eBooks we do not have access to.

Pause to Reflect

Did you find the information you needed? Will it help you answer your research question? If not, it might be time to reach out to a Subject Librarian for an appointment.

As researchers, we should approach the evidence we find with an open mind. Research should broaden or inform our perspectives, and not confirm our own biases. If your research is just a collection of cherry-picked quotes, you may need to go back to the library catalog (LibrarySearch) or the article databases to gather more information and other perspectives to consider. 


"kirschenpflücken 2006-06by Brigitte Rieser is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0