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Search Strategies: Search Strategies

Search Basics

A basic search is constructed using keywords, which together form your query.

The keywords you choose to include in your query will have a direct result on the search results.

Keys to conducting a good search include:

· Do some background research on your research topic to gather potential keywords and phrases. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri and other reference materials will be helpful in learning the terminology used by professionals writing in the field.

· Conduct multiple types of searches. A keyword search will generally provide the most results, but not all results will be necessarily on topic. Try using a subject search, or try limiting your search by date or format. Use the Library of Congress system to find the cataloged items on a particular subject.

· Try searching a broad topic and then narrow down the search field by using supplementary links, and subject suggestions within the catalog & and the search within feature of the databases.

· Search multiple locations and look for a variety of sources. The SC4 catalog houses many formats including e-books, e-journals, streaming videos, DVD & VHS, reference books & circulating books. The library also subscribes to many academic databases, both broad in scope and subject specific.

· Combine words and phrases using the search strategies in this guide. Keep track of which terms you have searched, and of which combinations draw better results.

· Copy or save citations as you search for easier resource retrieval later.

 

These tips apply to all types of searching, whether you are using the SC4 Library Catalog, one of the Databases, or an Internet Search Engine.

If you need assistance, or feel a little lost – be sure to ask a SC4 Librarian for help!

(Try the Keyword Generator tool provided by The University of Texas at Austin)

Advanced Search Strategies

Boolean Operators

One of the easiest ways to refine your search is to use the Boolean operators. The three most common Boolean operators are AND, OR, and NOT, but there are others available. The operators AND and NOT will narrow your search and OR will usually increase your search results. (The AND operator is not necessary in Google; Google automatically adds the AND between words unless a phrase is put in quotation marks.)

The chart below explains differences between the Boolean operators.

 

Boolean operator

Function

Example

AND

· Narrows search result

· Finds articles/websites with both terms in them. Terms may not necessarily be next to each other

"global warming" AND hurricane* (retrieves articles with both terms)

OR

· Broadens search result

· Use to combine similar terms. One or the other search term must appear in the article/website

· Put parentheses around your ORs

"global warming" OR "greenhouse effect" (retrieves articles with either term)

NOT

· Narrows search result

· Use to eliminate terms from search

"global warming" NOT Antarctica (eliminates articles that have the word Antarctica in them)

 

Phrase searching

Most of the databases and search engines will AND the words of a phrase together. If you wish to search the term as a phrase, put quotation marks around it to refine your search.

identity theft = identity AND theft

“identity theft” keeps the words of the phrase together

Truncation

Most databases use the asterisk * to truncate words. For example, child* will search for the words child or child’s or children. Another example is listed below.

develop* = develop + develops + development + developmental

Google automatically looks for the singular and plural of a word.

Combining some of the skills together

Some examples:

(dog OR dogs OR canine*) AND (kennel* OR board*) AND “port huron”

(ipad OR tablet) AND (evaluat* OR review*)

 

Your librarian

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