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Basic Information Literacy: Search Strategies

Tips to Remember!

Remember when searching that you need to be intentional about the words you use in your search.  Databases are not as good as Google at figuring out what you mean so separate your search words, and remember if you don't ask it to search a word it won't!

For instance, if your research question is looking at stress levels around testing for African American teenagers

You would want to search: stress AND testing AND African American AND teenagers

If you don't get many results make sure to add "OR" after each term.  Which will give you extra synonyms to search: teenagers OR adolescents.

Search Strings

To retrieve the most relevant search results, you will need to construct a search string

A search string is a combination of keywords, truncation symbols, and boolean operators you enter into the search box of a library database or search engine.

1:00 AM and Your Paper is Due at 8:00 AM? Here's what to do...

Go to Academic Search Ultimate, and then once you are in look for the "Full Text" box -- check that!

Search Methodology

If you are finding too few results-- you need to widen your search.  Do this by using OR or Truncation (*, ?, #).  Here is an example:

Operator Examples Results
OR

children 

OR

kids


 

Results must contain    
ALL of the search terms.  This means there will be less material that contains both or all of the words you use in your search.

Truncation

(*, ?, #, $)

Used at the end or within the word. 

Examples:

wom#n

teach*

Results will contain any variation of letter or letters in that place. 

Examples would then search the following words:

woman, women, womyn

teach, teaches, teaching, teacher

If you are finding too many results-- you need to narrow your search.  Do this by using AND or NOT.  Here is an example

Operator Examples Results
AND

business AND ethics

cooking AND Spain

Results must contain    
ALL of the search terms.  This means there will be less material that contains both or all of the words you use in your search.
NOT

java NOT coffee

Clinton NOT Bill

Excludes results containing
the second search term. In the first example maybe you want the song "Java Jive" and coffee keeps coming up in most of the results.  In the second example, this would be helpful when searching for "Hillary" Clinton rather than "Bill."

For more advanced searching tips, visit their Inside Search site.

Search Strategies Examples
Queries are not case sensitive.

Barack Obama and barack obama produce the same results.

Results will typically include each word or punctuation mark included in the query. Some stop words or exceptions apply.

 

Keep queries descriptive, but use as few terms as possible. Avoid natural language.

Use colorado statehood instead of when did colorado first become a state.

Google automatically truncates search terms. To prevent this, use a + sign in front of each term.

A query on child retrives results with "children" and "childcare".

Use double quotations marks (" ") to search terms as an exact phrase.

A query on "Barack Hussein Obama II" will retrieve only those sites that refer to Obama by his full name. Sites that refer to him as simply 'Barack Obama' may be overlooked.

Use the site: feature to limit your results to a specific website or class of websites.

The query cloning site:online.wsj.com will only retrieve articles about cloning from the online version of the Wall Street Journal.
A query on cloning site:.gov will only retrieve results within the government domain.

To allow for either of several words to appear in your results, use the OR operator. The operator must be in all caps.

A query on hotel OR lodging OR inn will retrieve results with any or all of these terms.