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Tips, techniques & links to help you find answers for your research papers & projects


Discover@MU is the main search box on the MU Libraries home page.  

Things to know about it:

  • Google-like (very large)
  • Searches articles AND books
  • Searches ONLY what MU owns
  • Full text may be a few clicks away
  • Natural language searches are OK
  • Harder to do precise searches

Database Search Tips

 -- applicable in almost all databases

All databases, including Google, are based on what is called "Boolean logic," using the connectors AND,  OR,  and to a much lesser extent, NOT.   If you understand what a database is doing behind the scenes, it will help you devise a better search to find what you need. 

YouTube video that illustrates Boolean logic.


-Break your research question into essential key words and connect with AND,  e.g., "Is race a factor in death penalty sentencing?”    becomes    race and death penalty 

 -Brainstorm synonyms and connect with OR, e.g.,   death penalty   or  capital punishment 

-Don’t get stuck on one term if there are other ways of expressing it.


 -Think about the best databases to use, based on the focus of your research.  Besides Sociology, maybe Law, Psychology, or Political Science would be useful database categories to search. 


-Use wild card/ truncation symbol (*) to get plurals and variant endings, e.g.,  method*  will find method, methods, methodology, methodologies, methodological   


-Use “Advanced Search  for more control and flexibility.   


 - Limit to the abstract to help eliminate irrelevant results.


-Put quotes around a term that’s a phrase to keep the words together, e.g. “vocabularies of motive”  “feminist pedagogy”


-If applicable, limit your search to “Academic Journals” or “Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals”


-When you find a good article, always look at the works cited or reference list at the end to help identify other useful articles and books on the same topic.



Google Scholar

Google Scholar is very current, with links to articles citing other articles.  Some scholars have created Scholar Profiles that can be very useful in finding an author's most cited works, including books, which are underrepresented in databases like Scopus.

Google Scholar Search

Set up Google Scholar for off-campus access

View a brief video that shows how to set up Google Scholar to link to copies of articles provided by MU