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Western Carolina University

Environmental Science 150: Home

Introduction to Environmental Science

Resources for Credible Information & Scholarly Research

Don't forget Krista's search tips!

  1. Search words not sentences. 
  2. Try variations on your keywords.
  3. Put phrases in quotation marks
  4. Stuck for 10 minutes or more?  Chat for help.


  1. biodiversity assessment pollution
  2. wildflowers, wild-flowers, wild flowers
  3. "carbon offset" or "forest restoration"
  4. "Ask us" or Krista's email.


Google Search Tips


Tips for making Google work better for you!

  1. Use - before a word to exclude it:  environmental science -law
  2. Use quotation marks for words/phrases (see Krista's search tips above):  "green technology"
  3. Limit results to a certain site or domain:
  4. Enter most important term first:  environmental fire effects

See UWW's list for additional tips!

You can accomplish a lot of these same tips by using Google's advanced search!

Google Scholar Tips for Full Text

If you are using Google Scholar (GS) - particularly if you are using it from off campus - you'll want to connect it with Hunter Library's resources.  That means that when you search, GS will include full text options from Hunter library for you.  Once you get that set up, here's what it looks like:

Google Scholar citation result with orange arrows pointing to FullText@WesternCarolinaU link.

So how do you set this up?  Follow these steps!

  1. Go to Google Scholar and look for the three vertical lines in the top left corner.
  2. This opens an options menu in Google Scholar.
  3. Select "Settings" (it's the one with the gear icon).
  4. Look for "Library links" in the list of options in the top left corner.
  5. Type in Western Carolina University to search for Hunter Library.
  6. Check the box next to Western Carolina University - FullText@WesternCarolinaU.
  7. Click the Save button.

And that's it, you will now be linked to many of the library's holdings in Google Scholar.  You can then click on "FullText@WesternCarolinaU" when it appears next to a citation and be taken to WCU's access to the content.  If you are off campus, you will be asked to login.

Policy and Regulatory Resources

Council of Scientific Editors

Council of Scientific Editors Style offers three different systems for citing sources:  citation-name, citation-sequence, and name-year (See links below for additional information).

  • Citation-name
    1. End of paper reference list = alphabetic order by last name; each citation numbered
    2. In-text citations = number of reference.
  • Citation-sequence
    1. End of paper reference list = arranged by the order in which they appear in the paper; each citation numbered
    2. In-text citations = number of reference.
  • Name-year
    1. End of paper reference list = alphabetic order by last name
    2. In-text citations = last name and year of citation in parentheses

Brief guidelines for most commonly used cite types:

Journal citation:  Author(s). Date. Article title. Journal title. Volume(issue):page numbers.

Book citation:  Author(s). Date. Title. Edition. Place of publication: publisher.

Book chapter:  Author(s). Date. Title. Chapter Title.  In: Editor(s) name, editor.  Book Title. Place of publication: publisher. chapter pages.

Website:  Title of Homepage. Date of publication. Edition. Place of publication: publisher; [date updated; date accessed].

CSE Style requires journal titles to be abbreviated (see Journal Title Abbreviations in left column).

You Asked, I Answered

Thank you all for the questions you submitted!  I think I've answered them all.  I was a little long with some of my answers, but hopefully most of what you wanted/needed to know is answered.  Please email me or come by the reference desk if you have any questions about these!

Q.  What is the best way to skim papers and not waste time looking at outdated or unimportant articles?

One way to make sure you aren't looking at outdated materials is to set search limiters for a specific time span.  For most o four databases you'll find that those limiters are on the left side or are on the search page and you can scale them accordingly.  However, I will warn you that some topics go in and out of fashion, so if you aren't finding recent papers on your topic but you are finding dated material, that may be the cause.  Reach out to me and we will confer about what to do if this is the case.

For unimportant articles, that's a bit harder.  Definitely reading the abstract is a good starting point. From there, is may be personal preference to what you need to look at to see if it's relevant.  If you want papers that focus on a certain process (let's say counting species for diversity purposes), then skimming the methodology section might work best.  Some papers allow you to turn on keyword highlighting and that (or a ctrl F) can help you look at your keywords in context to help you determine relevancy.

Also, when searching in our databases, you'll see different subjects or keywords assigned to the paper (generally when you are looking at details about the paper, not opening the item itself).  If your keyword or a very closely related keyword isn't in that subject set, then that may be a clue that it's not one of the paper's main focuses.

Q.  What differences should I consider between the databases while searching for sources?

I'm going to answer this in general, rather than the specific two we worked with in class.  There are a couple of things I recommend and they are both topic, assignment, and time dependent.  For your topic, picking a specialized database may be something to consider.  For example, if your topic is on the effects of pollution on human health, Medline Complete (the main medical and human health database) may have more of interest than a general database like Environment complete.

If your assignment requires you to use certain types of resources (books, popular science articles, primary research articles, review articles), then you may want to consider what database is more likely to have what you are required to use as part of your assignment.  For example, the library catalog for books, MasterFile Premier for popular science articles or newspapers, Science Citation Index for research articles.

if you are tight for time, you may want to consider a database where you know there's more full text available.  We saw some of that in class where Environment Complete had more full text readily available than Science Citation index.

Q.  What if you find results but none of them fit the specific topic that you're looking for?

There are a couple of things you can do in this case:

  • Try different keywords (narrower or more specific keywords if you are getting a lot of result; broader keywords if you aren't getting enough responses) if you haven't already.
  • Try a different database.  Databases sometimes have better coverage on some topics than others.  It never hurts to change it up.
  • Reach out to me or use the "ask us" popout chat.  We can make recommendations on places to search, keywords to use, etc., that you may have overlooked.  Sometimes a slight shift based on a suggestion can make all of the difference

Q.  What are some other resources I could use for [the] paper we are writing in this class?

The answer to this is somewhat topic dependent  The two databases (Environment Complete & Science Citation Index) cover a lot of ground.  However, you can also try searches in databases listed on this page:  Environmental Science Database List. For most topics, I'd recommend Agricultural & Environmental Science Database, Biological & Agricultural Index Plus, GeoRef (better for hydrology or geology related topics) and Wildlife & Ecology Studies Worldwide.  If none of these are giving you what you need, contact me and we'll brainstorm other ideas.

Q.  Could we ask or come to you if we have more questions about specific or special citations that isn't on the ES 150 home page?  If not, where could we find more resources whenever we have questions about how pages should be set up?

I'm so glad you asked this question!  Yes, you can come ask me about citations and help with citing weird or unusual things.  However, I do want to be clear on what I do versus the writing center.  While I help with individual questions about citations, etc.,  I don't read papers for folks or review of a list of citations to provide feedback.  If you need that, reach out to the WaLC to schedule a review time (and hurry, they fill up appointment times fast). 

The WaLC has writing support resources on their website:  Writing and Learning Commons Writing Support Website

The library has some additional help here:  Hunter Library's Write and Manage Citations Guide

Q.  Do you have any source recommendations that explain APA citations the best?

See the question above.  If you get bogged down in APA, though, reach out to me, come to the reference desk, or make an appointment with the WaLC to help get you unstuck.

Q.  What do you do if you are missing a component for a journal citation?  For example if you can't find the journal volume?

Tricky citations are so much fun!  No, really.  I really do mean that.  Most citation styles have explanations for when a normal piece of expected information, like journal volumes, are absent.  Sometimes we have to check the style guide or manual for them and you can either ask us over chat to help or come in person.  Very occasionally, there's no guidance so we work with you to figure out something together.  We do get these questions pretty frequently, so don't be afraid to reach out!

Q.  What's the best way to pick a paper?

This may be the hardest question to answer here!  If you are sorting through a lot of possibilities that all seem to have the information you want/need and you don't know which ones to pick to read further, I'd recommend starting with things that are more recent and/or looking for a review article.  The good thing about review articles is they can point you to the most significant research done recently and that generally is a good starting point.  If there isn't a good review paper and all other things being equal, I'd recommend going for the one that sounds the most interesting and seems like you can understand the research the easiest.  You'll get used to skimming, reading, and picking articles and develop your own habits and preferences over time, though.

Q.  What the most efficient way to search for good solid texts?

A).  Stay within the library's resources.  There is definitely quality control going on with those resources that you don't get out in the web. 

B).  Use keywords to identify subject terms.  Subject terms are "official" words or phrases assigned to articles, books, etc.  Once you identify those that are of interest, you can use them to find other articles that are tagged with those same subject terms.  Think of subject terms like hash tags, as they do perform the same basic function.

Q.  How do you get involved in writing your own research?

This is a question I'm not sure I totally understand.  Are you asking me - Krista - personally or are you asking more like "how does a person get involved in writing their own research," or have I totally misread the question?  The answer to this is a lot longer than I can type in here, but if any of you really want to know the answer, reach out.  It can be a complicated process! 

Questions to answer

On the board, find your topic number then answer the following, briefly:

  1. What did you like about Science Citation Index?
  2. What did you like about Environment Complete?
  3. Which resource (SCI or EC) did your group think had the best results for your topic & why?