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MSCH R429 Public Relations Campaigns

Instructor: Kang

Quick Search Tips

When searching in databases, the following tips will help you refine your results:

  • Experiment with keywords related to your topic. For example, if searching on "recruiting volunteers," also try: 
    • recruitment 
    • volunteer/s
    • volunteerism
    • retention
    • service learning
    • etc
  • Use AND between key terms
    • recruitment AND volunteer
  • Use quotes to search for phrases to keep terms together
    • "public relations"
    • "service learning"
    • "internal branding"
  • Use limiter options on the left hand side of the search results page to narrow results by:
    • year - more recent information
    • type - scholarly, trade, news, etc
    • full-text 
    • subject 
  • Look past the first page of search results!
    • Results are often sorted by "relevance," but the algorithm doesn't know what is relevant to you.
    • Research should be thorough, not a matter of settling for the first available thing.

Database Search Fields

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

Example of common fields in databases:

  • 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).

Subject Terms

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

For example, in OneSearch

1. Do an initial search. 

2. Under Refine Search click on Subject.

Boolean Operators

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

Venn Diagram dipicting the example search Renewable Energy AND ChinaUsing 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 ORVenn Diagram depicting the example search Renewable Energy OR Wind Or Solar

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

Example:  renewable energy OR solar OR wind



Using NOTVenn Diagram depicting the search Peacekeeping NOT United Nations

  • narrows results
  • exclude words from search

This operator is great when you notice your search term is used in different disciplines. You might use this example when researching peacekeeping in the context of interpersonal conflict but your search results in documents about international conflict.

Example:  peacekeeping NOT United Nations


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