Using online search tools, such as the Library's catalog and databases, and the Internet itself, it's easy to get information quickly. However, sometimes good research takes time, and a little bit of thought! Read on for some search pointers.
Make a list. Before you even start, come up with a short list of 4-6 keywords, which are words, terms, and even names that could be used to describe your topic.
- For example, if you are researching euthanasia, you’d definitely want to try euthanasia, assisted suicide, and Jack Kevorkian.
- As you go along, keep an eye out for other words to add to your list.
Always check your typing and spelling. It’s easy enough to make a typo, and many words can have more than one correct spelling.
- For example, marijuana can also be spelled marihuana.
- Electronic resources can be very literal and may find different results if you use the singular form of a word and a plural form-you may have to try both.
Don’t overload the search box with too many words/limits.
- For example, use a few short words, like ethics AND euthanasia—don’t use What are the ethical implications of euthanasia?
- You can even use the words AND, NOT and OR to connect words.
Carefully construct search statements. Think about how you can combine names, words, and phrases to get exactly what you need.
- For example, typing “assisted suicide” with the quotes may get you different results than without them, assisted suicide.
- In addition to using AND, NOT, and OR, you can use quotation marks to group words together. You can also use these two techniques together, for example:
"assisted suicide" OR "euthanasia"
"death penalty" OR "capital punishment"
Change the search settings.- Most online search tools have a number of different setting for things like dates, kinds of publications, and kinds of searches.
- For example, if a subject search doesn’t work, try a keyword search. Or if the tool is set to retrieve information from the past 6 months, try extending the date to cover the previous year.
Try a different tool. Different research tools contain different materials.
- For example, if you can’t find any books in the Library Catalog, try searching for articles in the databases.
- Different databases contain different resources, though there may be some overlap. Sometimes it’s a matter of trying another database that would work better for your topic.