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Basic Research Guide

English 1000

Search Strategies

Save yourself time & aggravation by answering the following questions & following the tips & techniques on this page

1.  What's my topic?

  • Sugared drinks are a main cause of the obesity epidemic

2.  What are my main concepts? 

  • sugared drinks
  • obesity

3.  What are other terms or synonyms for my topics? 

  • sugared drinks - soft drinks, soda, cola, juice, sport drinks
  • obesity -  obese, overweight, fat

4.  What types of sources or materials can I use? 

  • journal articles, magazine articles, newspapers, books

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

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.

Truncation  - find all words starting with the letters you have typed.   Most common truncation symbol is the asterisk *
Ex, obes* = obese, obesity
      child* = child, childhood, childlike, children

Wildcard - used to substitute letters inside a word
Ex. wom*n = woman OR women
      colo*r = color OR colour 

Exact Phrase - use quotation marks around your term to get that exact phrase
Ex. "high fructose corn syrup"

Field Searching - you can search specifically in the title, the abstract (summary), or by author.   
Most databases have pull down menus that let you select which field you want to search.