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Search Tips

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.


Google Search Tips

Use Google Advanced Search to search more effectively with your keywords! 

Using the Databases

For information about using specific databases, see the directions that can be found on the different tabs on this guide, or use Help provided in the databases.

Library photo courtesy of Barry Halkin Photography