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BIOL2220: Organisms and their Relationships: Developing a Search Strategy


This guide was designed to assist with research for the origin of life assignment, as well as to provide general library information.

Need help with research and citation? Contact your librarian or schedule a meeting using the links below.

Search Strategy

For any search, it is helpful to develop a search strategy before you begin so that your search is narrowed and focused.

Tip: Check the finding information page for suggested resources for this assignment.

1. Define your topic

Decide what you want to research based upon your assignment requirements. For this course, you are one of three theories of the origin of life:

  1. Extraterrestrial origin (Panspermia);
  2. Special creation (Theology or Pre-Darwinian Science); or
  3. Spontaenous Creation/Generation

2. Choose your keywords

Begin with a broad search using the keywords from the origin of life theory you chose. You also need to research the scientist(s) that support the theory and provide evidence to support the theory.

Note. It's generally okay to use Wikipedia for background information and to find search terms (such as the names of scientists who support the theory). You can also go to the citations on Wikipedia and use those if they are credible sources. However, you cannot cite Wikipedia, so avoid reading too much into it. The same is generally true for Generative AI like ChatGPT, but always check with your instructor for permission.

Make your search more effective by using Boolean operators and other search symbols. Note that search engines may use the same or different operators/search symbols.

  • AND - find all the terms (ex. "special creation" AND Islam*)

  • OR - find any of the terms (ex. ("spontaneous creation" OR "spontaneous generation").

  • NOT - exclude a certain term (ex. panspermia NOT lithopanspermia)

The "quotation marks" in the above examples limit to a specific phrase which can help to narrow your search. The asterisk truncates your search to look for variations in suffixes (Islam* would find Islam and Islamic)

EXAMPLE: A search string based upon the above concepts could be:

("spontaneous creation" OR "spontaneous generation" OR "big bang") NOT (sheldon OR television) AND theor*

3. Select your search tools

You can find credible information using Library Search, the main search box on the library homepage. You also may need to select subject specific resources and/or search engines like Google to fully answer your research question. It is highly recommended to search both to find a breadth of authoritative sources on your topic.

Check the Finding Information tab on this guide for more information.

4. Search, refine, and search again

Search for your topic, refine your search string, and then search again. Research is an iterative process and searching is explorative.

Contact your librarian

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Kevin Tanner
Reg Erhardt Library
Stan Grand Centre, MC119
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