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English 2100: African American and Caribbean Narratives of Historical Revision and Historical Recovery: Basic Searching Tips

General Tips

  • When searching authors, put the surname first.
  • Non-English names/titles may be transliterated or translated in various ways, so try variant spellings.
  • Literary works and films may be listed by their original non-English title rather than by an English translation.
  • Put an AND between words when you want to find all the words: Arab Americans AND Food
  • Put an OR between words when you'd be happy with one word or the other or both: Arab Americans AND (Food OR Cuisine)
  • Use truncation symbols to search for variants: femin* retrieves feminism, feminist, feminists, feminine, etc.
  • Use a wildcard to substitute for letters within a word: wom*n retrieves woman OR women
  • Use quotation marks around a phrase to retrieve that exact wording: "ethnic identity"
  • If you get too much, limit your search to subject headings or descriptors.

Subject Searching

Many databases "tag" or add terms to the articles  --  similar to tagging pictures in Facebook.  

The agreed-upon, standard terms used in library catalogs and databases are called subject headings or descriptors

The subject headings in a catalog or database record will often help you locate more books/articles that are similar.  It works much as "find more like this" or "find similar" links do elsewhere.

 

Full Text Searching

Searching in full text databases often retrieves many things that seem unrelated. The search engine is finding the words, but they are far apart in the document. Proximity operators help solve this problem! These tell the search engine to return results when two words are within x number of words of each other. So Wilmington n5 riot, retrieves newspaper articles with these words within 5 words of each other: race riot in Wilmington, Wilmington North Carolina rocked by riot, etc.

The abbreviation used as a proximity operator varies from one database to another. When you are in the database, look for the "help" button to find specific search tips.

Boolean Or Combined Searching

Your searches will work best in most databases if you break your topic apart and then combine the concepts with AND/OR.  This is called Boolean logic and is named after a mathematician

AND  - narrows your searches
   Ex.  Obesity AND Sugared drinks

 

OR - broadens your searches
    Ex. sugared drinks OR sweetened beverages OR soft drink*

 Most databases will have pull down boxes where you can select AND or OR.

You can also use these together by using parenthesis.
     (obesity OR overweight) AND (sugared drinks OR sweetened beverage* OR soft drink* OR juice OR sports drinks)

The above in pictures 
   OR - gets all the info from both circles

   

AND - gets only the info where the circles overlap
     

Demo: Boolean Operators