Most research today is conducted using online databases. Even looking for a physical book will usually require a search through an online catalog. This page gives some guidelines for creating successful searches.
Key things to remember:
Use Key Words and Phrases, not Sentences:
This is the most important rule of searching. Think of the words that are most important to your topic.
For example, instead of searching for:
Laws for teenagers using cellphones while driving
use the words:
laws, cell phones, teen drivers
This way, your search doesn't get hung up on the generic words like for, using, and while.
Think of Synonyms for the Key Words:
It can be useful to think of a couple of synonyms for key words. Using the example above, you could use “mobile phones” as well as “cell phones.”
Slang is often a problem in searches. For example, “car” will get different results than “automobile” in many databases.
Having trouble thinking of some synonyms? You can always try a thesaurus:
Another common problem is misspelled words. If you are not getting any results for a search with a common keyword, you should check the spelling.
The easiest way to do this is to go to Google and do a search on the word the way you think it should be spelled. Google will give you a “We think you mean…” message.
Here are some other ways to check your spelling:
Connectors are used to link your key words together.
Here is a sample search using AND, OR, and NOT. Notice how the number of results increases when OR is used and decreases when NOT is used.
|Cell phones||Cell phones
|Teenage Drivers||Teenage Drivers||Teenage Drivers|
|234 Results||312 Results||274 Results|
These connectors are also called "Boolean Operators." This video segment provides a few more ideas on how to use them.
A wildcard is a placeholder that can be a letter or letters, like a joker in cards. For example, “teen*” would mean teen, teens, teenagers, teenage, and so on.
This video segment discusses wildcards, along with some other symbols you might see in web searches, and some more ways to use connectors or boolean operators.
Drop-down connectors in EBSCOhost.
Constructing a search by typing connectors in Gale.
These strategies will help you search in the different databases to which Ivy Tech subscribes.
Some provide you with drop-down boxes to select connectors, but others might require you to type the connectors yourself.