Skip to Main Content

PHYS/ASTR 040: Expanding Ideas of Time and Space: Databases and More

A guide with library resources for this course.


Use the tabs below to learn more about resources that you can use while writing your paper.

Resources and Tools

Google (or Google Scholar) are common places to start searching. The types of search operators (things you put in the box to structure a search a bit more) are the same in each.

A Google Scholar search for gravitational lensing in the Virgo Cluster without returning results about quasars

One of the benefits of searching Google Scholar is the breadth of content. However, that is also its major shortcoming. When you search, you will find things from across all disciplines with no way to filter down to just the one you need. I recommend using Google Scholar in tandem with other tools (see the tabs for the ADS and other useful databases) to ensure that you can quickly find what you need.

General tips:

  • Word order matters. Google's algorithms assume that you are typing in terms that are in a similar order to the results you will want.
  • Be flexible. If you see many results from irrelevant fields, try to see what they have in common and subtract the word or phrase that those things seem to have in common. For example, if you see that the name of something you are searching for is also the name of a medical device or pharmaceutical compound, try to subtract clinical, pharmaceutical, and other related terms from your search.
  • Use the quotation marks below each entry to grab a citation for every reference in Google Scholar — it will save time if you do this while you search.
  • Remember that not everything is online. The Library has document delivery services for books and articles we don't have.

Major operators:

  • Parentheses () help you structure a search via order of operations. This doesn't impact the search too much, as Google assumes that parts of your search next to each other are linked, but it does make complex searches easier to read.
  • Quotation marks "" will either (a) search as a phrase or (b) force Google to only show you results with a specific form of a word. Example: "neutrino oscillation"
  • Minus sign - will subtract a word or phrase from your search. Example: galaxy clusters -"Virgo Cluster" 
  • author: will search for a specific author surname. Example: author:Urry
  • AND will tell Google to force both terms to be in the results. Since AND is implicit, this doesn't impact the results too much unless you use parentheses; then, there will be a minor difference.
  • All-caps OR will show you results using either one term or another. Example: "extrasolar planet" OR "extrasolar planets" OR exoplanet
  • An asterisk * between two words will try to fill in the blanks with other words. Example: "galaxy * distribution"

In the new QuickSearch tool, you can search for general topics and narrow down to specific subjects using the facets to the left of your search results. This can limit resources to specific date ranges, languages, locations, online/offline, dissertations, et cetera.

On a record, you can also click on the subject terms assigned to a book relevant to your research. This will help you with digital serendipity by calling up books from across YUL that have those same subject tags. 

This is an image of a catalog record. A box has been drawn around the place where subject term links can be clicked.

In the old search interface, Orbis, you have a really interesting option that might be helpful to you. Library of Congress call numbers, which appear in either the catalog record or on the print spine (e.g., QK980 C35X 2012), can be searched. These call numbers are based on book topics, and you can locate other materials related to the book of interest to you with this search feature. 

An image showing that the old Orbis catalog can search by Library of Congress call number.Here, I'm searching for QK980, which will show me — in alphabetical order — everything with that subject.

A search for QK980 in Orbis.

Research Tips

Preprint: Original version of a manuscript. This is the manuscript that is (often) first uploaded to the arXiv, and it's the version submitted to a journal. Many preprint servers like the arXiv assign unique IDs to each preprint. Sometimes, authors may upload multiple versions.

Postprint: After a journal article has been peer reviewed, some journals allow the author(s) to post an updated version of their work to the arXiv or to an institutional repository. The postprint includes edits from the peer review process, but (usually) doesn't apply the style file of the publisher. It usually provides information about the journal that the article was accepted in; the best practice is to link to the version of record.

Version of record/publisher's version: This is the version of the manuscript published in a journal volume or on the publisher's website. It has been styled according to the publisher's formatting guidelines and has been assigned a digital object identifier (DOI).

In the sciences, many resources you use might be electronic-only, and you will typically access them via web content. I’m using the term web content instead of web site because web content contains multiple overlapping subcategories of information sources.

A 2012 conspiracy theory web site and the web site for a peer-reviewed journal on apocalypticism are both web content. You may access both of them via Google. However, the content is different, both in terms of accuracy and intended audience. The conspiracy theory web site’s target audience is other conspiracy theorists and potential conspiracy theorists. The peer-reviewed journal on apocalypticism may contain articles on 2012, but these will come from the perspective of trained sociologists, psychologists, and other academic professionals. (Peer-reviewed means that every article in the journal is sent to at least one other person by the journal's editorial team. The article is then checked for scientific validity, which adds an additional layer of authoritativeness.)

For academic research, it’s best to limit oneself to peer-reviewed and canonical resources when first investigating a discipline. The tab Articles and Books contains information about electronic (web-based) content, including CREDO Reference, Academic Search Premier, and the ebooks to which our library subscribes.

Occasionally, scientists will also write for popular news venues. When you think an article from the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, or other traditional or new media news site might fit, look at the author’s credentials and/or interviewees to determine if they are experts in a subject related to the article’s topic.

Tip #1: If you are looking for a book and know that you want it, copy its ISBN and paste that into Orbis. This requires the edition of the book to be the same as the one for the ISBN you have found, but it’s an excellent way to see if we have something in print.

Tip #2: In the sciences and social sciences, most articles have unique identifiers (think serial numbers) called DOIs. If you use the prefix in front of the DOI, it will automatically resolve to the version of the article on the journal provider’s web site. Here are some examples of DOIs:


So, if we were to prefix the first one, you would use as the URL.

Tip #3: If you want to make use of special collections, try the Yale Finding Aids Database. In science courses for non-majors, paper prompts are sometimes, but not always, open enough for these materials to be used if topically relevant.