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FAS 361: Research Methods: Strategies for Better Search Results

This guide can be used for both SOC 391 and FAS 361.

Basic Search Skills

Here are two short tutorials that cover the most important skills to have when searching a database. It is helpful to know how to generate the right keywords for your search so that you can find the best articles. It's equally helpful to then know how to put those keywords together with connectors (and, or, not) to get the results that you need. Take a look:

Generating and Using Keywords for Searching Databases: https://www.asu.edu/lib/tutorials/storyline/generating-keywords/

Using Search Connectors When Searching Databases: https://www.asu.edu/lib/tutorials/storyline/search-connectors/

Strategies for Successful Searching

  • Be creative when deciding on keywords to search. Think about different ways to describe what you're looking for. After you do your first search look carefully at the titles and abstracts that you retrieve. Do you see other words or phrases that might be a better or different way to express your topic?
  • Link concepts with the word AND. Databases like PsycInfo allow you to do this easily by putting different concepts on different search lines. For example, a good way to find articles on predictors of the level of satisfaction in a marriage could be to search: marriage AND satisfaction AND predict*.
  • Adding an asterisk at the end of a word will get alternative words endings, e.g. predict* will retrieve predict, predictors, predicting. A search on child* will find the word child, but will also find childhood and children. Very handy! (Note that this does not work in Google Scholar).
  • If there are different ways to say the same thing, consider using the linking word OR. For example: marital satisfaction OR happy couples OR happy marriage.
  • To retrieve an exact phrase enclose it in quotation marks. "Marital satisfaction" will limit your search to that exact phrase. But be careful; often that will limit your search too much at the beginning. Try your search without quotation marks first.
  • Remember to check the box that says "peer-reviewed" or "scholarly". This will make sure you get the kind of research that you probably need for your assignment.
  • If you are not finding what you are looking for, please ask for assistance. We are here to help you!

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