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EDUC-U 215 Foundations for Undergraduate Success at Research Universities

Essential Tips

  • Keywords are powerful. Learn more in the boxes on the right.
     
  • What types of sources do you need? Choose a research tool with the right types of sources. 
    (e.g., IUCAT for books, library databases for scholarly articles, specialized databases for plays or theater reviews). 
  • Search strategies depend on the research tool. Experiment with keywords and search options.
    (In databases choose search terms more carefully.)

Boolean Operators

Use AND, OR, and NOT to narrow or broaden search results.

Using AND

  • narrows results
  • ALL terms must be in each search result

Note: in most, but not all, databases, the AND is implied. For example, Google automatically puts an AND in between search terms.

Example:  renewable energy AND China

Using OR

  • broadens results
  • searches for ANY of the terms in search results
  • connect similar concepts (synonyms)

 

Example:  renewable energy OR solar OR wind

 

Using NOT

  • narrows results
  • exclude words from search

Example:  peacekeeping NOT United Nations

 


Adapted from SAIS Library, Johns Hopkins Univ. "Database Search Tips" Guide (no longer extant).

Database Search Fields

Records in library databases are made of "fields." Fields can help narrow your search.

Examples:

  • author
  • title
  • journal title
  • abstract
  • publisher
  • date/year of publication
  • subject/descriptor
  • all text (searches the full text, if available)

 


Improving Search Results with Fields

  • Most databases automatically search by keyword (looking for the term anywhere in the record).
     
  • Limit the field for a search term to narrow the results. 
     
  • Fields are usually in drop down boxes.
     
  • If the database has a single search box with no drop-down menu, look for an "Advanced Search" option.
     

Adapted from SAIS Library, Johns Hopkins Univ. "Database Search Tips" Guide (no longer extant).

Identify Keywords with Subjects

Subject Terms can help you identify effective keywords. Most databases list Subjects in their search results.

To use subject terms from you search results: 

1. Do an initial search. 

2. Under Refine Search click on Subject.