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Northwest Missouri State University

Library Home » Articles & Guides » Agriculture Research » Agriculture Research Guide

Agriculture Research Guide

Research Steps Library Research Services

Identify Keywords:

    • Before beginning research, state the topic of the search concisely (in one sentence). An example of a concise search statement:
      What sustainable agriculture practices are applied to animal production systems in the United States?
    • From this search statement identify the main concepts of the search. In the above search statement, sustainable agriculture and animal production systems would represent the two main concepts of the search. Using the geographic area of United States would enable the search to be narrowed even further.
    • Brainstorm a list of keyword synonyms for each concept identified above. Use these keywords throughout a search to find variant terms used to describe the main concepts. Different indexes may use different terminology to categorize the same concept. (Remember, as the search progresses, some new keywords will be discovered to add to the list and some keywords on the list in the beginning will be discarded if found to be inappropriate.) Sample lists of keyword synonyms are shown below for finding information on the topic sustainable agriculture practices applied to animal production systems in the United States:


Concept 1: sustainable agriculture Concept 2: animal production Concept 3: United States (geographic region)
alternative agriculture cattle state names
sustainable forestry hogs America
agricultural ecology chickens USA
    • Link to University of Minnesota Libraries' Choosing Effective Keywords page for a further discussion of how to choose and apply keywords in a search.

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Search the Library Catalog:

Search the Library Catalog to locate books, periodicals titles, government documents, videocassettes, music CDs and other materials available in Owens Library.


Subject headings and subdivisions are categories used in the Library Catalog to classify the content of books and other materials available in Owens Library. Use a subject search if you want to find information about a single concept or idea such as agroforestry or aquaculture. Also use a subject search if you want to narrow a keyword search that retrieves too many irrelevant results. There are many related terms for the subject heading Agriculture. Agriculture subject headings are often divided into subdivisions (specific aspects of the main subject heading). Typically agriculture subdivisions are structured as shown below:

Geographic location -- Time Period

An example of a agriculture subject heading is given below:

Agriculture -- United States -- History -- 20th century

When entering subject headings in the library catalog search form it is not necessary to include punctuation or capital letters. For instance when entering the subject heading Agriculture -- United States -- Statistics, you could type agriculture united states statistics in the search form.


Use a keyword search when you need to find a match between two or more concepts. Combine search terms with the connectors and, or, not. A sample keyword search is shown below:

pastures and management and cattle

Truncation allows users to stem words or retrieve root words with several endings. The truncation symbol in the Library Catalog is a question mark (*). The search shown below will locate records in the Library Catalog that include the words cultivate, cultivation, or cultivating.


Keyword searches may include nesting. Nested terms are similar or related terms (such as agricultur* and farm* in the example below). You enclose nested terms in parentheses and combine them with an "or":

geographic information system* and (agricultur* or farm*)

Qualifying a search allows users to look for information in a specific field of a catalog record such as the author, title, subject or note field. The search shown below locates the word statistics in records with agriculture in the su (subject) field only.

Statistics and su agriculture

For advice on how to conduct other types of searches such as how to find videos or the call number and location of periodicals available in Owens Library, check the Frequently Asked Questions page of the Library Catalog.

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Find Periodical Articles:

Use periodical indexes to locate article citations and summaries on agriculture topics. EBSCOhost and Gale also provide selected online full-text articles as well as article citations and summaries.

  • A concise list of and description of indexes appropriate for agriculture is available at Recommended Agriculture Databases.
  • Biological & Agricultural Index Plus and the Journal Article Citation Index of Agricola are the two premiere databases for finding current agriculture related periodical articles available to Northwest students, faculty and staff.
  • Be sure to use the keyword synonyms formulated at the beginning of the search and refined during the library catalog search as search terms in the periodical indexes. Concepts for agriculture topics may be referred to by variant terms. Different indexes may use different terms to describe the same concept.

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Search Other Libraries:

  • Search the major research libraries in Missouri (including the University of Missouri system, Washington University and St. Louis University) by using the MOBIUS Union Catalog.
  • Search the National Agriculture Library collection.
  • Use Other Library Catalogs to search for books not available in at Owens Library.
  • Use the bibliographies in books, journal articles, web documents or other sources to identify related information about agriculture topics.
  • Books or periodical articles not available in Owens Library may be ordered through Interlibrary Loan.

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Research Agricultural Economics:

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Obtain Statistical Information:

  • If statistical information is needed, link to the Statistics section of the Agriculture WWW Resources page.
  • For a broader view of statistical information in areas related to the agriculture discipline, try the the Statistics WWW Resources page or the WWW Government Resources page.
  • Agricultural Statistics is a compendium of annual data that covers agricultural production, supplies, consumption, facilities, costs and returns. The most current printed volume is available Reference section on the first floor of Owens Library. The previous year's volumes are located in the Federal Government documents area on the first floor of Owens Library at the Su Docs number - A 1.47. The current 6 years are also located at USDA - National Agricultural Statistics Service: Agricultural Statistics.

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Select & Evaluate World Wide Web Resources:

  • Use the Agriculture WWW Resources page to locate Internet resources recommended by Owens Library information professionals.
  • Use the Search Engine Tips & Tricks page to learn how to enter focused, efficient searches in Internet search engines recommended by Owens Library information professionals.
  • Evaluate the agriculture web sites found with search engines using the criteria suggested on the Evaluating Web Sites page.

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Return to Course/Subject Resources