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:
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.
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: