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Environmental Science: Toxic Compounds: Watch the video!


Scroll down to see a complete transcript of this video. 


Hi! And welcome to the online program at Columbia College. As part of your coursework, you are required to find library sources on a toxic compound.

The purpose of this video is to demonstrate how to do that. First of all, let’s clarify what we mean by “library sources.”

The library at Columbia College subscribes to many online databases. These online databases give you special access to thousands of high-quality, credible articles from a variety of sources, such as, but not limited to: peer-reviewed journals, professional trade publications, magazines, and specialized encyclopedias. Articles and entries from these types of sources are what you will be expected to find and use in this assignment.

It should be stressed that these online databases are very different from the internet. While it’s easy to confuse the term “online database” with “online website,” in reality, the only thing that library databases and websites have in common is that you need a computer with internet access to view both. The quality and credibility of your average dot com website can often stand in stark contrast to the quality and credibility of a vetted journal article from a database.

So while it may be tempting to simply surf the web for information on your chosen toxic compound, you are encouraged to keep in mind that the assignment specifically requires you to use library resources.

Sources such as Wikipedia, blogs and obscure websites will not be accepted.

Now let’s talk about how to find and use these online databases. We recommend using two particular online databases: Credo Reference and Academic Search Complete.

To access these databases, your instructor will likely provide you with links that will take you directly to each database so that you can begin your search. But you can also access these databases by pointing your browser to

This will take you to the library’s homepage. From there, click the Databases tab. You will be taken to an alphabetical listing of all of the library’s online databases. Simply scroll down a bit to see the Academic Search Complete database. Or click the letter “C” to get to the Credo Reference database. We’ll start with Credo Reference.

Credo Reference is an easy-to-use database that contains a giant online collection of articles and entries from highly-specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias. It’s the perfect place to go to get essential, important information on your toxic compound.

The nice thing about Credo Reference is you will only need to enter the name of your chosen toxic compound in the search box. You won’t need to worry about adding another word, or coming up with a search phrase. 

Although it is not one of your choices, just to illustrate how to use this database, we’ll use the toxic compound carbon monoxide. We enter that term into the search box, and click the search icon. As you can see, many results come up. And they come from a number of highly specialized sources. There is even a Topic Page, which will contain a thorough overview of this toxic compound.

When we click on the topic Page ent, we are taken to a Summary Article, from The Columbia Encyclopedia. What you are looking at is the very same article you would be reading if you had the hardcopy version of The Columbia Encyclopedia right in your hands – except, of course, this article is completely online.

Another nice feature of Credo Reference is pre-generated, ready-made citations. Scroll down to the very end of any article and you’ll see a variety of citation formats. Make sure you know which format your instructor expects you to use. In the sciences, it will likely be APA. As long as you use material from the article or entry, you can feel free to copy and paste the citation into your assignment or bibliography. And don’t worry: it won’t violate academic integrity. These citations are provided for this very purpose. But it does come with a caveat. 

Not all pre-generated, ready-made citations are created equal. It is your responsibility to make sure that any citations you use are complete and accurate.

One final note before we leave Credo Reference: While it is very likely that this type of article will have the answers to at least a few of the questions your instructor wants you to explore, this single article probably won’t contain all of the answers. So it’s imperative that you peruse other articles and entries as well.

We’ll move on now to Academic Search Complete.

Academic Search Complete is a multidisciplinary database that contains articles from newspapers, magazines, professional trade journals and peer-reviewed academic journals. It’s a much more robust database than Credo Reference.

You’ll notice that there are a lot of search options listed beneath the search box. But really, the only one you’ll need to be concerned with for this assignment is the full-text box. You’ll definitely want to select that, so that all articles that come up in your results list will be available to read full-text.

Now to start typing some search terms in.

With Credo Reference, just the name of the toxic compound was enough to easily get us the articles we needed. But in this database, when we click Sear, you can see that the sheer number of results could be a bit overwhelming. So we need to adjust our search strategy. There are a few things you can do here.

The most helpful thing – and what we would recommend – is to add another word or two to your search term “carbon monoxide.” The best way to figure out what word or words you should add is to go back and look at the description of the assignment. Take a closer look at the questions your instructor wants you to answer. Look for clues within these questions. Do you see important key words that jump out at you? You may want to circle or highlight what you find.

Here’s what we came up with.

Jot down some of these terms and be thinking of other synonymous terms you could use in their place.

OK – back to the database. Let’s try adding the word “environment.” This give us 597 results, which is still a lot – we still have a bit more work to do - but it’s much better than 8000. 

Now, did you notice something else? Something we did with our search terms? We combined our search terms using the connecter “and.” In effect, we’ve told the database we want results that contain *both* terms – carbon monoxide AND environment. This means that our results will be more narrow and focused than if we just went with the term “carbon monoxide.”

But, 597 is still a lot. And not only that, but many of the articles you’ll find come from peer-reviewed academic journals with very complicated sounding titles and difficult to understand content. So there’s one more thing you can do to help narrow and focus your results on the types of articles your instructor would expect you to find.

Scroll down a bit and look on the left hand side under Source Types. Academic Journals are what we just mentioned. They tend to be aimed at specialists in the field and often contain the results of scientific studies. Magazines are your typical mainstream publication that you’ve probably seen before. Trade publications are sort of between Magazines and Academic Journals. In other words, they’re aimed at professionals in the field, but are a little more scholarly than your average magazine. And then you have Newspaper articles and Book Reviews. 

Your instructor will likely not expect you to find academic journal articles, as this is more of an introductory course. However, they will want you to find articles more substantive and specialized than just a magazine or newspaper article or a book review. So your best bet here would be to check-mark the Trade Publications box.

And this gives us 22 results from trade publications such as Machine Design, Farmers Weekly and Pollution Engineering. These types of articles will be more appropriate for your assignment. On the one hand, they’re not generic news articles, but on the other, they’re not going to weigh you down with a lot of technical jargon and difficult to interpret studies.

Hopefully, at this point in your search, you’re about ready to start looking at an article or two. To get to the article itself, just click on the title. Once you’ve looked over the article and have decided it’s something you’d like to use, you’ll definitely want to utilize some of the tools on the right-hand side. Some are fairly self-explanatory but one in particular that we’d like to point out is the Citation tool.

Similar to the citation feature in Credo Reference, the Citation tool allows you to select a pre-generated, ready-made citation. Again, you’ll likely be using APA style. And, as with any citation generator, you’ll want to double check for accuracy.

And that concludes our video tutorial on how to find library sources on toxic compounds.

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