Library Orientation


August 29, 2017

Dom Taylor

Religion and Social Work Librarian

Elizabeth Dafoe Library

My goal as your librarian

My hope is for you to experience the library as something that is:

  • Useful: it helps with your research and university experience.

  • Usable: it is not difficult to figure out.

  • Desirable: you enjoy your experience in the library or using library systems.

​Aside from this, I want to make questions like, "How do I know what I know?", "How is authority and/or credibility established?",  and, "What perspectives have been excluded or included in this information?" more prevalent in your research.

What do libraries do?

What are some of your library experiences?

  • We can help you with research: identifying/narrowing a topic, finding references, suggesting keywords (e.g., synonyms), outlining some search strategies.
  • We can help you critically evaluate information sources.
  • We can have a conversation about your ideas: sometimes discussing ideas helps clarify them. We can help refine your arguments by providing counter-arguments and pointing you to alternative theories.

Information: finding, evaluating, using, and organizing it

Types of information

In a sense, information is everywhere, it is whatever informs you. Here are some examples of information:

  • Tree rings

  • Picture books

  • Audio recordings

  • Academic/scholarly publications


We will mostly focus on this last type of information.

Finding information

In order for something to inform you and to be useful to your needs, you must have some idea of how to interpret it.


For example, you need to know something about trees in order to use tree rings as information to figure out the age of a tree.


The same goes for scholarly information.


What do you need to know in order to find scholarly information?

Information landscape

Library searching

Internet searching


Library catalogue

Academic databases

Scholarly journal articles


Data + Stats


Google Scholar

(mostly) non-scholarly info

(mostly) scholarly info

Pay wall

Adapted from UoM Librarian Kyle Feenstra's (2017) diagram

(mostly) scholarly info

Scholarly information

Academic journal articles

  • Articles written for and by academics. Journals are often field-specific, but there are a number of interdisciplinary publications.
  • Can be more technical and jargony than books, but they also use citations more consistently and thoroughly than books (this is good for you for multiple reasons).


Academic-oriented books

  • Books published by University presses and academic or field-oriented publishers (e.g., Fernwood Publishing covers many issues related to Indigenous Studies, Social Work, and social justice that would be acceptable to cite).
  • Publication process is longer, so research is usually less recent than articles by default. Less consistent use of citation.

Identifying scholarly information

  • Usually the author has credentials (e.g., MSW or PhD) and/or is associated with an academic/research organization (this varies greatly from field-to-field).
  • There is a concern for citation and placing research within a broader context (e.g., reviewing related literature).
  • Methodology (i.e., how research is conducted) is usually discussed.
  • There is generally a concern for identifying and addressing limitations and competing viewpoints (i.e., there is a clear attempt to avoid bias)

Peer review?

Most scholarly journals are peer-reviewed. In fact, many of your instructors may ask you to use mostly or only peer-reviewed scholarly information. Does anyone know what peer review is?

Peer review explained

A peer reviewed source, such as an article, has been put through a publication process that involves the review of the article by a scholar in a similar field.


Using their field expertise, reviewers assess the article according to standards, some of which are field-specific (e.g., CASW Code of Ethics or qualitative research methodologies).


Authors of peer-reviewed sources, often have to make revisions in light of comments and criticisms made by reviewers. Peer-reviewed sources are vetted for quality. Not always perfect, but generally good indicator of information quality.

Using our catalogue

Making sense of a library catalogue record

Elements of a library record (for an article)

  • Authors: Walker, M., Fredericks, B., Mills, K., & Anderson, D.
  • Publication date: 2013
  • Article title: "Yarning” as a Method for Community-Based Health Research With Indigenous Women: The Indigenous Women's Wellness Research Program
  • Journal title: Health Care for Women International
  • Volume # and issue #: 35 (10)
  • Pages: 1216-1226
  • DOI (digital object identifier): 10.1080/07399332.2013.815754
  • Peer Review/Refereed: Aside from the catalogue, you can always check the a journal's homepage or Ulrichsweb

Quick exercise #1: Find an article using "Advanced Search"

Using databases and subject guides

Databases vs. Catalogue


  • Subject-specific
  • Often have their own database-specific subject terms/ controlled vocabularies. Sometimes they bring up more results than the catalogue.
  • Subject terms can be organized and structured to show relationships between terms (e.g., "Child Welfare" is broader than "Child support")


UoM Library Catalogue

  • Has articles from a variety of databases, but the coverage may not be 100%. It is worth checking both databases and the catalogue.
  • Subject terms are not presented hierarchically (no relationships)

Subject terms? Keywords? Both?

Subject Terms

  • Usually defined by librarians or information specialists
  • Allow linking articles by topic instead of the specific terms used in a given article
  • It is easier to find articles related to your general topic
  • Sometimes inappropriate or out-of-date


  • Based on everyday language
  • Effective searching relies on knowing synonyms and commonly used terms
  • Can generate irrelevant results. Based on the frequency of the keyword rather than relevancy
  • Searches all available or selected parts of a resources (e.g., title, author, etc..)



Example of a database subject term

This is an example from  Academic Search Premier's Thesaurus (EBSCOhost database)

How do you find the right database?

  1. You can use the Database A-Z listing and do some searching
  2. You can go to a relevant Subject Guide

Subject guides

Provide you with field-specific information and resources:

  • Databases
  • Encyclopedias and dictionaries
  • Research, writing, and citation tools
  • Relevant associations
  • Other helpful info

Here are some guides that might be useful to your research

Quick exercise #2: Using subject terms to find related resources

A few quick search tips

  • Phrase searching: most search engines allow for phrase searching. This means that you can search for whole phrases (e.g., "child welfare") instead of individual words (e.g., "child" + "welfare"). Just put the phrase you want to search in quotation marks. This will help limit your results!

  • Identify synonyms: When you are using keywords, remember that authors do not always use the same words for the same concepts. For example, you may want to look up "substance use", "substance abuse," and "addiction*". Given that each of these terms is or has been in use, it is helpful to look them up. 

**You can find some video tutorials on search strategies here

A few more...

  • Truncation: * (asterix) symbol is added near the end of a word to find all variations of that word (e.g., "Indigen*" will find results for "Indigenous," "Indigeneity," and "Indigenism"). This will increase the amount of results. Not always the same symbol in every search engine. Be sure to check.
  • Wildcards: # (pound) symbol can be added within or at the end of a word to represent 0 to 1 characters (any character). This means you would add a "#" symbol for each character you want to search. For example "wom#n" will look up "women" and "woman;" "friend####" will look up "friend", "friends," and "friendship" (etc...). This will increase the amount of results. Not always the same symbol in every search engine. Check.

Just one more!

Boolean Operators (AND/OR/NOT): These are words that cause search engines to modify their behaviour according to the given word or "operator." Let's look at this diagram to get a better idea.





"Social Work"

A search for trauma AND "social work" will find results that contain both terms and will exclude results that only have one of the two terms.


"Social Work"

A search for trauma OR "social work" will find results that contain either of the search terms. This will generate more results. Handy for synonyms.

A search for trauma NOT "social work" will find results that contain trauma but do NOT contain "social work." Use this sparingly and play around with it.


"Social Work"



  • Built-in features in databases and catalogues that allow you to limit results. Limiting may seem strange, but when there are tens of thousands of results available, you need to narrow your search down. Limiters are an easy way to do this!

Limit to peer-reviewed and full text online

Limit to resource type (e.g. articles)

Limit by publication date

Limit to location if you want print resources

Basic search strategy

  1. Determine a topic: this is a good time to use encyclopedias/reference sources (e.g.,CREDO Reference), Google, Wikipedia, news publications, and blogs.
  2. Formulate a focused research question/thesis: neither too broad nor too narrow. This is tricky and will take practice. You can start by answering "who," "what," "why," "when," and "how" questions.
  3. Identify keywords, including synonyms and related concepts, and possible subject headings:  You can search for standard subject headings here. Concept mapping can be helpful.
  4. Combine keywords, phrases, subject headings into search queries:  Try many different searches and combinations of terms
  5. Don't forget to use limiters!
  6. Keep track of interesting articles! (see slide on Zotero below)

Evaluating information

  • How do we know something counts as "good" information?
  • Who gets to create and validate information? Who doesn't?
  • What is meant by expertise? Are official credentials the way to determine this?
  • What counts as trustworthy or credible?

Handy tool: CRAAP Test

  • Currency: When was the information published? If it is a website, has it been updated recently? This criteria is dependent on the purpose of your research and your instructor's guidelines (e.g., published within the last five years).
  • Relevance: Is the information appropriate for your research? Does it relate directly to your topic? Does research contained match your purpose (e.g., is it academic or a blog post)?
  • Authority: Who is the author and what are their credentials/expertise? Are articles peer-reviewed? Are books self-published or published by academic presses? Authority will depend heavily on subject.
  • Accuracy: This is difficult to figure out, but you can look for signs, such as citations in the source (the number and type) and the number of times a source has been cited. Is the claim verifiable? Is there an effort to "make a case" for the perspective put forward?
  • Perspective/purpose:  Is the purpose of the information clear? Does it acknowledge other perspectives/arguments and take time to address them? Is there a clear bias or is it balanced?

There are plenty of Academic Libraries that use a version of the CRAAP test. My take was inspired by this particular one from Western University.

Limitations of CRAAP

  • Currency: Field/subject specific. You may need background knowledge or expertise to know how currency affects the usefulness of info.
  • Relevance: Again this is field/subject-specific. Also, you have to be sure that relevance doesn't just mean "information that says what I agree with." Relevance has to be wider and focus on relevance to the larger topic.
  • Authority: This is a difficult one to tease out. Finding out about an individual author can be problematic. Tools like peer-review, citations, and credentials help.
  • Accuracy: If you are new to a field or learning about a particular topic, how are you supposed to determine the accuracy of a given info source?
  • Perspective/purpose:  Often, the purpose of an article doesn't match up with how it can be used. For example, a documentary on the history of Canada can be used in the classroom as an "educational tool" (i.e., potentially it's intended purpose) or as an example of the erasure of actual history and the propagation of a harmful narrative (e.g., critical analysis of Terra Nullius-based assumptions).

Why cite?

Relationships, accountability, and conversation

  • Information gains value through relationships (e.g., the more it is read and cited). Citation provides a way for you to relate to the information you are researching and, in turn, relate it to your audience. You are providing the information you are citing, as well as your own research, with more value by doing this.
  • Citation is a way to be accountable to the author of the information you are citing (by providing acknowledgement) and to your readers (by providing tools for them to find out how you came to your conclusions). Since you are a researcher using these tools, it makes sense to return the favour.
  • Academic conversation is enhanced by citation. Citation allows researchers to follow your train of thought. It also facilitates building on the ideas of others and engaging other researchers. In an online world, citations are tracked.

A few more reasons to cite

  • Provides consistency in information (e.g., APA, MLA, and Chicago styles of citation)
  • Gives readers familiar cues and clues to figuring out your ideas
  • Helps with avoiding issues with academic integrity (e.g., plagiarism)

APA Style: Resources

  • UoM APA Quick reference guide

= online

APA basics

In-text citations

  1. Direct quotations: Author, date, page #: (Taylor, 2017. p.12)
  2. Paraphrases/indirect mention (changed wording + structure): Author, year: (Taylor, 2017) OR Author, year, page # (Taylor, 2017. p.12). ASK YOUR INSTRUCTOR WHAT THEY PREFER!

**Look at the resources listed in the above slide for more examples (e.g., how to cite sources with multiple authors and electronic sources)


References (at the end of your paper)

All of the sources you cite in your article (with the exception of personal communications) should be listed in your References.


Quick exercise #3: Citing a book and citing an article for your References

Long, D., & Dickason, O.P. (2011). Visions of the

Book citation example

heart : Canadian aboriginal issues (3rd ed.). Don Mills, ON, Canada: Oxford University Press.

Stiegelbauer, S. M. (1996). What Is an Elder? What Do

Article citation example

Elders Do? First Nation Elders as Teachers in Culture-Based Urban Organizations. Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 16(1), 37-66. Retrieved from

Keeping track of citations

  • Often times you will re-use good information in multiple assignments. This is fine, but don't plagiarize yourself!
  • It is helpful to have an organized list of articles that you want to use.
  • Instead of re-writing citations down every time you use them, there are tools that make this work easier! Some tools even extract citation information automatically from databases and individual books and articles.

Some citation managers


  • Multiple citation styles available
  • Keep a list of resources on your e-shelf and organize them into folders
  • Attach PDF versions of articles
  • Automatically create citations
  • Plug-in for Word
  • Open source/free

Library Catalogue

  • Multiple citation styles available
  • Keep a list of resources on your e-shelf and organize them into folders
  • Free


  • Not always an option
  • APA style is not always available
  • Sometimes you can create lists, but this is usually within specific database providers (e.g., EBSCO and ProQuest).
  • Free through UoM

Delivery of print resources

Document Delivery

If something is not available at WNC or UoM Libraries, you can order it from other libraries (throughout the world) through Document Delivery.

  • Takes a few days
  • If it is an article or a chapter, please specify. This often means you can get an electronic copy of the information you seek

Requesting resources

  • If you find something interesting that is physically available at one of the UoM Libraries, you can request it to have it sent to any one of our locations (WNC is not currently an active location)
  • Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library is the closest Library to WNC
  • Instructions for requesting materials can be found here.

Additional help and tools

Go to the "Writing Resources" for good research tips and handouts! Also, I will be adding some Social Work Specific resources on the Social Work Subject guide.

The "Student Supports and Services" section has some helpful information. It's best to get an early start on this.


Dom Taylor

Religion and Social Work Librarian

Elizabeth Dafoe Library


Library Orientation: MSW-IK

By Dom Taylor

Library Orientation: MSW-IK

An overview of finding, evaluating, using, and organizing information in an academic library setting. Aimed at graduate level research in Social Work.

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