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How to Start Your Research

Tips and tools for starting your research and searching for information in library databases and catalogs.

In This Section

magnifying glass iconIn this section, you'll find tips for

When to Use Google

Google combs the whole internet for your search terms or questions which means that you'll get a wide range of information, and that can sometimes be a useful thing! Google is great for finding

  • Information about people, companies, or organizations
  • Information from professional associations, such as reports, guides, or other publications
  • Blogs or other virtual spaces maintained by practitioners within your field of study
  • Data and statistics, especially from government organizations
  • Crowd-sourced or open encyclopedias, dictionaries, or other sources of basic information on specific topics (like Wikipedia)
  • News articles, especially local news
  • Primary sources from archives, museums, and libraries

The search tips below will help you focus your Google searching to find the kinds of information in this list.


Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate

Just remember: it's especially important to dig into and critically evaluate your sources when you find information online!

Search Tips

Google Search Tips

  1. Search phrases by enclosing them in quotation marks
    • "african elephant"
    • "dungeons and dragons"
  2. Site search: search only one domain or one website
    • protest art
    • women's suffrage
    • nursing professional development
    • covid
  3. Search hashtags
    • #blacklivesmatter
  4. Limit by date: click on "Tools" below the magnifying glass part of the search bar, and then on "Any time" at the top of your search results to see date range options
  5. Add words that describe the type of source you need
    • For data, add "data" or "statistics"
    • For primary sources you might add "digital collection" or "digital archive"
      • civil war digital collection
      • women's suffrage digital archive



  1. Search by usage rights: in an image search, click on "Tools" below the magnifying glass end of the search bar, and then select "Usage Rights" - choose "Creative Commons licenses"
  2. Reverse search an image: right click (or control-click if you're on a Mac) and select "Search image with Google Lens" - this can help you track down where images and artwork first appeared and who created them so that you can give proper credit


Google Scholar

  1. Link the UJ Libraries to Google Scholar! See the slides below - this is probably the most useful thing you can do.
  2. Track down citation chains
    • In your search results, look for "Cited By" links - these will lead you to sources that cite the articles in your results
  3. GS is great for quick look-ups, but less so for extensive research

Link Google Scholar to the UJ Libraries