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Philosophy Library Guide and Resources: Overview

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are words (or, and, not) used to connect search terms to expand (or) or narrow (and, not) a search within a database to locate relevant information. Boolean operators are also called logical operators or connectors.

It is helpful to diagram the effects of these operators:

Or Relationship diagram

women or females

Or retrieves records that contain any of the search terms. It expands the search. Therefore, use "or" in between terms that have the same meaning (synonyms) or equal value to the search.

And Relationship diagram

women and media

And retrieves records that contain all of the search terms. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "and" in between terms that are required to make the search specific.

Not Relationship diagram

image not weight

Not eliminates records that contain a search term. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "not" in front of a term to ensure that the search will not include that term. Warning: Some databases use "and not" instead of "not." Check the database help screen.

Keyword Searching

  1. Use keyword when your term may be very new, very distinctive, or jargon, e.g. "instant messaging", "XML".
  2. Use a variety of keywords. There may be additional items on your topic that use different terms.
  3. Be aware that you may retrieve items not related to your topic (called false drops)
  4. When you cannot remember the exact title of an item, do a keyword search using the title words you remember.

Keyword Searching Examples

Variety of terms: If you are looking for items on the "movies", use additional keywords such as "film", "films", "cinema", or "motion pictures".

An example of retrieving results unrelated to your topic (false drops): using the keyword "cricket" will retrieve items about the sport as well as the insect.

An example of using keywords to find titles when you are unsure of the exact title:

Both CAGED and BIRD are in 6 titles.
There are 6 entries with CAGED & BIRD.

You searched for the WORDS: bird caged
Found 6 items:

  1. Caged bird medicine : selected topics / Charles V. Steiner (1981)
  2. I know why the caged bird sings (1969)
  3. Many voices. 8A-6B (sound recording) : for Adventures for re (1986)
  4. Maya Angelou / Miles Shapiro (1994)
  5. Poco / by Garry and Vesta Smith; illustrated by Fred Crump (1975)
  6. Voices in Black & White : writings on race in America from H (1993)

Choose the Right Resource

When choosing resources for your assignment, consider:

  • Assignment requirements—what does the professor want you to cite?
  • Learn about your topic -- You may want to use a reference book like an encyclopedia (print or online) to start out with if you don't have a clear understanding of your topic yet.
  • Time—the more current the topic, the less will be found in scholarly journals or books, which take longer to get published. Recent events will be covered on the Internet, in newspapers and magazines, as well as in the media.
  • Depth of coverage and/or the topic—scholarly journals and books cover topics in more depth than magazines and newspapers. Some topics are not covered by the popular press, e.g., research that would not be of interest to the average consumer.
  • Quality of the resource - see Step 3: Evaluating Sources
Type of Information You Need Try These Resources
Does your topic cover current events? Newspapers, magazines, Internet
Do you need general information on a specific topic, written in a non-specialist style?
Newspapers, magazines, Internet
Do you need in-depth information on a specific topic, written for the college student and above by authorities in the field? Scholarly journals
Do you need more detail and/or has the topic been written about for awhile? Books
Do you need an overview, quick facts, statistics on a topic? Reference books, Internet

Evaluating Internet Resources

Internet resources can be even more challenging to evaluate because dates and authors are not always readily available. Plus, we all know that anyone can create a website. Using the CRAAP test will help you thoroughly evaluate your source, but the following are some important things to consider when reviewing internet sources. 

Who Created the Information?

Websites do not always have authors so you'll need to find information on who or what organization is responsible for creating and updating the webpage. The following are links to look for on webpages that should provide more information on who is behind the website.

  • "About Us": usually provides information about the organization or company that is responsible for the webpage.
  • "Mission Statement": this will provide information on what the organizations values or goals are. 
  • "Contributors": provides information on who contributes content to the website, sometimes they'll even list the qualifications of their contributors. This section may also provide information on who funds either the website or the organization. *Beware of websites like Wikipedia where anyone can create an account and edit webpages.

Publication Dates

Finding the date a website was created or last updated can be difficult sometimes. If you can't find a date on a particular webpage, click around and look at the other resources on their website, can you find a date anywhere? Are there links to other sources that are out of date or dead links?

URL Domain Extensions

The following is a list of the most popular domain extensions, which can be used to help determine authority and objectivity. However, domain extensions alone cannot determine if a web source is quality or if it's right for your research.

.gov - Government. The intent of the site is to present official information collected by or about the workings of a government.

.edu - Educational institution. The intent of the site is to educate as well as present information collected by or about the educational institution. *Look out for student work or papers that haven't been published in an authoritative source.

.com - Commercial. The intent of the site is to sell goods or services, as well as provide information about the company.

.org - Organization, usually non-profit. The intent of the site is to present information collected by or about the organization. Sometimes, the intent of the site is to promote a particular point of view. *For more information about the organization check out Idealist.org

.net - Network, usually personal Web pages. The intent of the site is as varied as the individual(s) responsible for the content. *Usually not scholarly in nature, so if it is a personal page then make sure you research who that person is and what their qualifications are.

A more complete list of top-level domains is also available.

When to be skeptical?

  • There is no author or organization associated with the website.
  • There are a lot of advertisements and pop-ups. Just because a website looks professional does not mean that it's authoritative.
  • Websites that ask you to take some sort of action: donate money, sign a petition, give your email, etc. 
  • A website that only cites itself, providing links that only lead you to other resources within the site.


Narrow or Broaden Your Search

Use AND between terms to narrow your search

example: television and violence and children

Use OR and/or truncate (*, ?) words to broaden your search

example: children or youth or adolescents
example: child* (will find child, children, etc.) Note: check online help for  the correct truncation symbol


  • Most databases allow for a symbol to be used at the end of a word to retrieve variant endings of that word. This is known as truncation.
  • Using truncation will broaden your search. For example,

    bank* will retrieve: bank or banks or banking or banker or bankruptcy, etc.

  • Databases and Internet search engines use different symbols to truncate. In general, most of the Library's databases use the asterisk (*) ; however, the exclamation point (!) is used in LexisNexis. Check the database help screen to find the correct truncation symbol.
  • Be careful using truncation. Truncating after too few letters will retrieve terms that are not relevant. For example:

    cat* will also retrieve cataclysm, catacomb, catalepsy, catalog, etc.

    It's best to use the boolean operator "or" in these instances (cat or cats).

Wild Cards

Some databases allow for wild cards to be embedded within a word to replace a single character. For instance, in InfoTrac, you can also use the question mark (?) within a word to replace a character. For example:

wom?n will retrieve woman or women

Access Databases from Off Campus

Only current CSUN students, faculty and staff can access our databases from off campus. To access the databases from off campus, click the name of the database. You will then see a screen asking you to log in, using your CSUN User ID and password (the same ID and password you use to log in to the portal).

For more information, see Accessing Library Resources from Off-Campus and the Library's Copyright Statement (in particular, the Appropriate Use of Oviatt Library's Electronic Resources section).

Searching for Periodical Titles in the Library Catalog

You can search by Periodical title by selecting the Periodicals tab on the homepage.

  • The Oviatt Library subscribes to over 1,700 print and over 25,000 online periodicals, which include research journals, magazines, and newspapers.
  • For online periodicals only, select the Search electronic periodicals only check box.

NOTE: The Library catalog offers title searching for periodicals, but not for specific articles. For access to periodical articles, search the databases listed on the Library's Databases by Subject page.

Searching for Videos, CDs, DVDs and Other Media in the Library Catalog

  • Many videos, DVDs, CDs and other media formats held by the Oviatt Library are listed in the Library Catalog and located in Music & Media.
  • Instructional media for K-12 are located in the Teacher Curriculum Center.
  • Search for media by Author (director, screenwriter, producer, artist, composer, etc.) and/or Title. Media can also be searched by topic (see Library Catalog Basic Search).
  • Limit search results to media as follows:
    • For videos/DVDs: In the Basic search screen, change View Entire Collection to Videos/DVD in the pull-down menu.
    • For all media types: In the Advanced screen under "Optional Limits" set the "Material Type" pull-down menu to specify the type of media you want.

What is Plagiarism?

To plagiarize means to:

  • Steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own;
  • Use (another's production) without crediting the source;
  • Commit literary theft;
  • Present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

(Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary definition of "plagiarize," retrieved June 20, 2005)

Evaluating Library Resources

Is that CRAAP?

Books and database articles should be evaluated to determine their credibility and relevance to your topic before selecting them for a research assignment. Use the CRAAP test below to help you evaluate whether a source is right for your research. 

Use this CRAAP test worksheet to evaluate your sources. 


  • What is the publication date of the book or database article?
  • How up-to-date are the citations in the bibliography?
  • How current does the information need to be for your topic or your assignment?  


  • Does the information relate directly to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the audience for the publication (scholarly or general)?
  • Is the information primary or secondary in nature?
  • Does it provide general background information or in-depth information on a specific topic? Which do you need?


Who created the information?

  • What are the qualifications of the author, publisher, or organization responsible for the content of the resource?
  • What are the author's education and/or experience?
  • Look for the author's biography or information about the publisher or responsible organization  either within the publication or use the sources below to find out more about authors, publishers, and organizations:


  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Can you verify the information in another source?
  • How extensive is the bibliography or list of cited references? Can you use these references to find more information on your topic?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?


    • What is the purpose of the information? Is it meant to inform you, sell you something or persuade you?
    • Does it present a fair and balanced view of an issue?
    • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religous, or personal biases?
    • Are opinions or propaganda easy to recognize?
    • Are there advertisements that suggest the information might be biased toward selling a product rather than providing objective information?


    Using Google Scholar

    You can find items the Oviatt Library owns using Google Scholar's Find Text capabilities. To activate the capabilities for your browser:

    1. Select Settings in the upper right, then Library links from the left menu.
    2. In the search box, type "CSUN" and select Find Library.
    3. Check the box next to "CSU, Northridge (SFX Find It)"
    4. Then select Save.

    Select the SFX Find It at CSUN link (to the right of the article) or the SFX: Additional Options link (located below the article description) for access to online full text, Oviatt Library holdings information, and Interlibrary Loan.