Library Notes for Political Science

Teaching resources, news, and links to keep McGill’s Political Scientists informed

Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

Google Scholar and legal materials

Posted by Megan on July 7, 2011

Google Scholar is clearly a pretty awesome tool for research in many different disciplines. Over on the Slaw blog, law librarian Susannah Tredwell notes that “although the bulk of legal materials on Google Scholar are American, there are enough Canadian resources on it to make Google Scholar a worthwhile tool for Canadian legal researchers.”

However, she goes on to outline some of the difficulties with locating specifically Canadian legal materials with the search engine.

The “site” operator can be used to limit the search to materials published on the .ca domain, restricted to legal opinions and journals. For example:


However, this obviously excludes articles published in journals whose publishers do not have Canadian websites.

Another possible tactic is to include the terms

can OR canada OR canadian

to the “publication” box on the advanced search options. Again, though, this would not retrieve journals that do not have the word Canadian or Canada in the title.

For Canadian case law, CanLII is still the best option, but Google Scholar does include options for limiting by American jurisdiction.


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Google trick: AROUND operator

Posted by Megan on March 25, 2011

Several library databases (such as EBSCO and Factiva) have proximity operators that allow searchers to specify limits on the distance between the search terms they’ve entered.

Google has a somewhat secret proximity operator of its own: AROUND.

Using the word AROUND (all caps) with numbers in parentheses allows you to find words or phrases within a certain number of words of each other on a web page. For example…

“cold war” AROUND(3) kennedy

…retrieves only web pages that include the terms separated by less than three words.

Hat tip to the Google Operating System Blog.

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Google trick: -site:

Posted by Megan on March 1, 2011

Despite the simplicity beloved by web searchers, Google has an ever-increasing array of tips and tricks for narrowing, refining, and manipulating search results.

One new one to me is the idea of combining the minus sign with the site domain limiter.

On its own, the minus sign (or NOT operator) excludes web pages that contain a particular term. For example, if you type…

“Full body scans” -MRI

… no pages with the word MRI will appear in the search results.

The site: operator limits results only to pages that have a particular domain or web address. For example, if you type…

“Airport security” “full body scans” site:gov

…only pages on the U.S. government domain .gov will be found.

Thus, the following search will exclude all web pages on .gov pages:

“Airport security” “full body scans” -site:gov

Hat tip to Edward Bilodeau.

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Search within cited articles on Google Scholar

Posted by Megan on January 12, 2011

One very handy function of Google Scholar is its cited reference searching capability. Each entry on a Google Scholar search results page has a link for “times cited” that brings other items indexed in Google Scholar that cited the original item.

Aside: of course, there are limits to this data! Google Scholar does not index everything and has been criticized for inaccurate metadata. For more, read this article by Peter Jasco.

Limitations aside, this feature can be extraordinarily useful in locating related literature and getting a sense of a given article or book’s impact.

Often, though, there are simply too many citing citations to sort through. A few months back, Google introduced a feature to help with this, allowing users to search only articles citing the original document.

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bX recommendations

Posted by Megan on January 8, 2011

Frequent users of McGill’s online article subscriptions have probably noticed a feature in the “Find at McGill” window which lists articles related to the original item that they have selected to view.

The recommended citations can be downloaded to citation management programs like EndNote. You can also click on the Find It link for a given item to find out if McGill has access to the full text online.

Just like Amazon and other retailers, this service, called bX recommender, suggests similar items based on usage logs from McGill and other libraries that use the same product to link across journal subscriptions. More than 5 million historical usage log entries have been collected back to April 2007). The publishing/harvesting of local data is now processed on a ongoing basis.

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ProfHacker’s tips for new grad students

Posted by Megan on August 28, 2010

Last week, the ProfHacker blog from the Chronicle of Higher Education posted a set of tips for incoming graduate students.

I just couldn’t help but highlight two of the pieces of advice:

“Build a personal research library”

The advice here is to keep track of research-related reading from the very beginning. Tools like EndNote and Zotero are recommended to stay organized and save considerable time later.

And even dearer to my heart:

“Meet your subject librarian”

“Meet your subject librarian. In your first few weeks on campus, you might not want to add one more person to your list of people to meet. But getting to know your subject librarian can be invaluable. Your librarian will be the person who best knows the university’s entire collection of databases, journals, and books in your field; consequently she or he will be able to help you find the things you didn’t even know were there but are necessary for your scholarship. Plus, the subject librarian is the person who controls library acquisitions in your field. Get to know ‘em and they will likely buy the books you need. (My subject librarian easily bought me 30 books.) Your subject librarian can also teach you how to most effectively use your library’s catalog. As easy as that might sound—how hard can a search box be?—we’re here to tell you that your catalog is idiosyncratic and you’ll be much faster if you get some quick tips. Finally, your subject librarian likely has an advanced degree in your field. Consider him or her another mentor, even if s/he is in a different building.”

The other tips include:

  • Expect to feel lost and out of place for a bit
  • Recognize that graduate school is a job
  • “Networking” is not just a word for MBAs
  • Recognize that graduate school should not be your entire life
  • Understand that you’re not locked into a particular field, project, or personality
  • Plan ahead for more than one job
  • Build an online profile [librarians can help with this, too!]
  • Use Dropbox
  • Share what you know with others
  • Finally, be informed about the whole of higher education

Read more in the full article…and share with your students or classmates!

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WorldCat Local account

Posted by Megan on August 6, 2010

Did you know that you can set up an account in McGill’s WorldCat catalogue? This account allows you to save and track research conducted in the catalogue through the following features:

  • Lists
  • Watchlists
  • Reviews
  • Tags
  • Saved Searches

Note that this account is different from your McGill library account, which is where you can see which books you have out, if you have fines, etc.

To create a WorldCat account, just click on sign in in the upper right corner of any page in the WorldCat interface and then click on create a free account.

Once you’ve established a WorldCat account, you can sign in from any WorldCat page. Click the Sign In link on the right-hand side of the WorldCat menu bar at the top of the page. Under “Existing Account,” enter your user name and password, then click the Continue button. Then you can access your saved items in WorldCat.

Search results pages always include a button to save marked items to a list.

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Journal tips: finding what’s popular

Posted by Megan on June 4, 2010

Now that online publishing is the norm, journal providers are expanding their features for allowing readers to stay up-to-date and discover new articles.

For example, many publishers offer functions that allow you to see other articles that have cited a given work. This is incredibly useful for chaining ahead in time from a pertinent work. Google Scholar, Scopus, JSTOR (using Google Scholar) and Web of Science all offer this, among many others. See an example below.

Most journals and databases also allow you to set up RSS or e-mail alerts when content is added or when new items match particular search criteria. Check out ticTOCs alert service for an easy way to get table of content alerts. (This Common Craft video offers a simple explanation of RSS.)

One journal publisher with a special alert feature is Sage, which allows you to set up alerts for the most-read articles in a given journal. For example, I have set up alerts for the journal Comparative Political Studies. Every few weeks, I get an update in my feed reader with the most-read articles that month.

An account is required to set up search alerts for particular criteria, but it is not need for “most-read” alerts. More help with setting alerts in Sage is here.

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Reminder: Eduroam

Posted by Megan on May 30, 2010

This a repeat post: a reminder about the Eduroam network as summer travel season begins!

McGill University is a member of Eduroam, an authentication service that allows users (researchers, teachers, students, staff) from participating educational institutions to securely access the wireless network of any Eduroam-enabled institution by using the same credentials they would use at their home institution.

For McGill users, this means that if you are traveling to any of the institutions participating in Eduroam, your McGill username and password will give you wireless internet access on those campuses. You can then configure the McGill Virtual Private Network (VPN) to remotely access McGill library resources.

You can access the Eduroam network at any participating member site (including most satellite campuses that provide wireless access) in the following regions:

Further details can be found in McGill’s IT Knowledge Base.

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EndNote and the library catalogue

Posted by Megan on May 11, 2010

EndNote users: I plan to write a series of posts on with some tips for working with EndNote version X3 and the library catalogue.

First off, citations can be directly exported from WorldCat Local. From the full record for an item, click on the icon labeled “Cite/Export” and then choose “Export to EndNote.” The citation should be directly transferred to your open EndNote library (if prompted, choose the option to OPEN the file).

You can export more than one reference at once by creating lists in WorldCat. This requires that you first sign up for a WorldCat account. To do this, click on WorldCat sign in in the upper right corner of any page and then click on create a free account. (Click here for more information about WorldCat accounts.) You can add items to your lists from the full record. To export a list of references to EndNote, go to the WorldCat link on the right side of the page and choose “My Lists.” Click on the list name to view it, then choose the “Citations View” tab to export the references to EndNote.

Click on the video below to see a demonstration of creating a list in WorldCat and exporting it to EndNote.


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