Image by Bernard Gagnon
One of the most important skills you can develop as a researcher is the ability to approach your research problem from many different angles. One issue I see often with young researchers is the unwillingness to stop using certain key phrases or terms.
Often the language you and I might use to discuss a topic is not the same language an expert will use to discuss the same topic. You and I might talk about the death penalty, but scholars write about capital punishment. There are many excellent scholarly works discussing the death penalty that never use that phrase.
Sometimes the words we’re using are simply incorrect. We mis-hear, misspell, or mis-understand. Or, in the case of a recent question at the reference desk, we are relying on a typographical error.
A recent assignment asked students to find information on Kemp’s olive riddle sea turtle rather than the Kemp’s olive ridley sea turtle. Our reference librarian eventually uncovered the correct spelling, but not after much frustrated searching by the student.
When it comes to the initial stages of research you can safely assume that almost everything you know is wrong. Cultivate the habit of approaching your research problem from as many different angles as possible. And, if that fails, stop by and talk to one of our reference librarians.
For this question my first stop is usually ScienceDirect (make sure you’re logged in to Esearch). From there I start with a broad search (using, for example, the keywords: spices foodborne pathogens). When I get to the results page I refine my results even further. Using the tools on the left-hand side of the page I limit my search to only ‘journal’ articles. Then I use the ‘Search within results’ box and add another keyword or two (for example: e. coli). I can continue to narrow my search using the tools on the left-hand side, or by adding more keywords.
When I use ‘garlic’ as a keyword instead of ‘e. coli’ I find the article “Effects of spices on growth and survival of Escherichia coli 0157 and Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis in broth model systems and mayonnaise” by Renata G.K Leuschner and Juliette Zamparini. Once I have this article I can use the references at the end of the paper to locate more works on my research topic, or I can do another search.
You might also try Academic Search Complete (which you can find on the databases page). When using the key terms ‘Escherichia coli’, ‘garlic’ and ‘antimicrobial’ (and then restricting my search to ‘Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals’ by using the check box on the left-hand side) I found “Evaluation of antibacterial activity of Indian spices against common foodborne pathogens” by Sofia, Papachan Karur; Prasad, Rajendra; Vijay, Virendra Kumar; and Srivastava, Ashok Kumar.
You might also experiment with using SciRus, PubMed, CINAHL, and ProQuest.