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Research Help: Start Here

Search Basics

The search box on the library's main page allows users to search for books, DVDs, videos, academic journals, magazines, newspapers, scholarly articles and more from one search box. If you're trying to access a book or article you already know about, you can enter the title or author's name here. If you're looking to find material about a specific topic, try entering two or three keywords that are likely to appear in discussions of that topic.

Main search box on the library's homepage

 

What are Keywords?

Keywords are the words you use to search for anything online and they determine how successful your search is. If you're researching the links between poverty and obesity in children, for instance, the most important keywords would be: poverty, obesity, children. Database searches usually work better when you only enter 2-4 essential keywords than when you enter a complete sentence or question.

Here a couple of common problems you may run into and ways to fix them using keywords:

I'm getting too many results!

  • use keywords that are more specific (not as general)
  • add additional keywords to your search
I'm getting too few results!
  • ‚Äčuse keywords that are less specific (more general)
  • remove keywords from your search
These results are not what I'm looking for!
  • try different combinations of keywords
  • think of synonyms for your keywords

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do I Refine my Search Results?

From your list of results, use the "Refine Results" tools on the left side of the screen to narrow your search. You can limit by publication date, source type, publisher, geography, language and more. 

Selecting Keywords

The search terms or keywords you use to search are what determine the results you get.  Here's a good exercise to help you generate keywords:

1.  Express your topic in a topic sentence: “What is the effect of television violence on children?”

2.  Generate keyword search terms by identifying the main ideas or concepts within that topic sentence while avoiding common words likely to appear in articles about unrelated topics, (e.g. leave out words like "impact," "effect," "study," or "research.")  “What is the effect of television violence on children?” = Television,  Violence, Children

3.  Expand your search terms by brainstorming related terms or synonyms that describe your main ideas:

  • Television – media, TV
  • Violence – aggression, hostility
  • Children – toddlers, youngsters, boys, girls

Combining Search Terms

You can create complex search strategies by combining keywords using the linking words AND, OR and NOT. For example, if your search terms are mathematics and curriculum:

  • AND – Narrows and focuses the search results. The search mathematics AND curriculum will bring only results where both the terms mathematics and curriculum are present.  
  • OR – Broadens the search results. Using OR will bring results where the term mathematics is present, or results where curriculum is present, or results where both terms are present.  OR is useful if you have more than one way to refer to a concept -- Example: elementary OR primary.
  • NOT – Excludes anything where the term after the NOT is present. 

Database Search Tips

  • Select Peer-Reviewed to limit you search to only articles published in peer-reviewed journals.
  • Select Full-Text to see only articles you can read immediately.
  • If the full text of an article isn't available, you can request it for free through InterLibrary Loan (ILLIAD). Articles usually take 24-48 hours to arrive, and are sent to you by email.
  • When you have found an article that is close to what you are looking for, look at the subject headings. Try searching these terms to find relevant articles.
  • Look at the references/citations at the end of an article to find more articles on your topic.

Wildcards & Truncation

You can add special symbols called "wildcards" to a search term in order to receive more results. Often times this is used if a you're not familiar with a spelling, a word has multiple spellings, or you're trying to recall specific information. Different search tools, databases, and database providers utilize different wildcard characters, but the asterisk or "star" (*) is one of the most commonly used.

Truncation allows you to search various forms of a word by finding alternate endings. The wildcard character is placed at the end of the first few letters of a search term or at the end of its root. A root is the base or most simplified form of a word.

For example, using the search terms "Indian*"  may find information containing "Indian, Indians, Indiana, Indianapolis"

Each database or database provider utilizes different wildcard characters and may have restrictions such as searching no less than 3 letters to achieve results.