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PHS 109 (General Oceanography)

Strategies for making your search for information more effective

Brainstorm search terms

  • List words to describe your topic (global warming, climate change, etc.)<
  • Think of narrower,more specific terms (el Nino, greenhouse effect, fossil fuels, drought, etc.)
  • If you are not finding enough, think of broader, more general terms (climatology, weather, environmental change)

Use quotation marks and wildcards

  • Force a search for a unique phrase by using quotation marks ("attention deficit disorder"  "offshore oil drilling"  "American nurses association")
  • Use ? as a wildcard to replace a single letter (wom?n will find articles about women or woman)
  • Use # for alternate spellings (harbo#r will find harbor and harbour)
  • Use * when different endings are sought (child* will find child, childhood, children)

Combine search terms

  • Use AND to narrow your search (cars AND trucks finds items that contain information about both cars and trucks in the article)
  • Use OR to broaden your search (cars OR trucks finds items that contain information about cars or about trucks but not necessarily both)
  • Use NOT to limit your search (cars NOT trucks retrieves information about cars but not about trucks)

Use subjects and keywords from your search results

  • Look at the subjects used in articles you find and use them in further searches
  • Look for alternate terms and spellings for your topic in the text of the items that you find
  • Look for suggestions for other Subjects or Thesaurus Terms supplied by the database you are searching

Know what kind of search to use

  • Subject - when you are looking for  books or articles ABOUT a particular topic or a particular person
  • Author - when you are looking for items written BY a particular person
  • Title - if you know the exact title, use a BROWSE search.  If you know a few words of the title, use a KEYWORD search
  • Keyword - searches in more places, usually  author, title, table of contents, summary, introductory text (Databases only) and subject terms
  • Entire Document or All Text - searches all keyword fields, plus the full text of the item.  (This search is only available in the Databases.)
  • For more information - look at the Help link for the Catalog or Database that you are searching.


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