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CJ 4100: Colloquium (Grometstein)

Database Search Strategies

The ability to conduct searches to locate relevant sources for a research paper is an acquired skill. It takes practice.  Below are some search strategies that you can employ in your own research process. If your initial approach doesn't work, don't worry. Try a different combination of words and concepts until you get the results you want. Research is a process and sometimes it takes several attempts to get the search results you want. 

Developing Keywords

Typing in a whole sentence for a search ususally doesn't get good results because the database is trying to match the whole thing - it's best to try to pull the main ideas out of what you are trying to search for - keywords.

All databases (including Google) use a keyword search to return results. (Library databases are also organized by Subject, but start with keywords.)

This online tool can help you create useful keywords from your topic sentence.

These one-page guides will also help you develop search keywords that will get results:

    Search Tip #1: Boolean Searching +

    Quotation Marks vs. AND vs.OR (and a nod to the asterisk)

    The approach you take when entering your search terms in a library database will affect the results you get.  Before building a search, think about how you want to combine your search terms.

    Putting words in quotation marks - if you want a group of words to appear exactly as written, place the words in quotation marks.  You might use quotation marks so those terms appear as a phrase and not isolated from one another.  Example: "prisoner reentry"

    Using AND to combine search terms -  when you combine terms using AND, you will retrieve results in which these terms appear somewhere in the fields searched. Example: Prisoner AND Reentry -  Prisoner could  appear in the first sentence of the abstract and Reentry could appear in the subject fields. 

    Using OR to combine search terms - combining terms with OR will increase the number of results that you get.  You would use OR when you have multiple terms that describe your topic. This will broaden your search results.  Example: death penalty OR capital punishment


    Using an asterisk (*) at the end of a word will bring back variations of the word.

    Example: prison* will retrieve results with the words prison, prisons, prisoners etc.

    Warning: Be careful to not place the asterisk to early in the word because it may retrieve irrelevant results.

    Example: pris* will retrieve prison, prisons, prisoners, but it will also retrieve results with words like prism, prissy, etc. which are not likely on point. 

    Search Tip #2: Research Article Trifecta

    ILLiad: Get Articles, Books or A/V from Another Library