STEP 4: DEVELOP A SEARCH STRATEGY TO FIND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Nearly everyone is aware of and uses Google and its other services, Google Scholar, Google Books, Google News, YouTube, etc., to search and find information on the open Internet, but there are special tips and tricks to easily search for good information. Searching in the library databases and catalog using keywords, limiters, and Boolean phrases will yield higher quality scholarly resources for your paper.
Unlike a web search engine like Google, research databases work more efficiently when you use Search Operators. For many students this is a new way of searching that requires new habits. The first thing you need to do is reduce your topic/research question down to only the most important keywords that describe your information need. Then put those keywords into combinations following the instructions below.
Search (Boolean) operators are used to combine concepts or ideas when searching. The three search operators you will use in searching are AND, OR, and occasionally NOT. The operator you select will determine if the number of results you retrieve is increased or decreased. In most searches you will use a combination of these operators in order to narrow or broaden your results as needed.
Use AND in between words in a search to:
EXAMPLE: Cats AND Dogs
Searches for cats AND dogs will retrieve articles that contain both the word "cats" and the word "dogs." If an article only contains the word "cats" but not the word "dogs," that article will not be retrieved.
Use OR in a search to:
EXAMPLE: Cats OR Dogs
Searches for cats OR dogs will retrieve all the articles that contain the word "cats," the word "dogs," or both. You can also add more search terms into the mix, with the understanding that this will further expand your search.
Use NOT in a search to:
EXAMPLE: Cats NOT Dogs
Searches for cats NOT dogs will retrieve all the articles that contain the word "cats" but exclude from that list anything that uses the word "dogs." You have to be very careful when using this operator, as it will severely restrict your results and you may miss something important. An example of when to use NOT might be when you're looking for articles about dolphins (the animal) and you keep getting results with Dolphins (the Miami football team). In this case, you could do a search like, dolphins NOT football.
Most databases give you the option of using limits to narrow your search results.
A few of the most commonly used limits are:
After forming a search using keywords, quickly scan relevant articles and pay particular attention to the subject terms and author supplied keywords. These will provide you with new keywords to incorporate into your search and provide you with more accurate results.
TOO MANY SEARCH RESULTS
TOO FEW SEARCH RESULTS