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CJ 3135: Advanced CJ Research Methods: Search Tips

Developing Keywords, Search Strategy & Exploding Articles

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:

    And, Or, Not

    Combine all your concepts and terms with AND, OR, NOT:


    AND - use this when ALL the words must be in your results. This will narrow your results.   Example: apples AND oranges; peanut butter AND jelly

    OR  - use this to connect synonyms, when ANY can come back in your results. This will broaden a search. Example: women OR woman OR girl; cat OR kitty OR kitten

    NOT - use with caution since this will eliminate results with the specified word.

    See a visual guide to Boolean here!

      Scholarly vs. Popular

      Scholarly Articles Popular Articles
      Authorship Scholars/experts in a field. Authors are always named and their institutional affiliation is given. Staff writers or journalists.
      Publisher University presses, professional associations, research organizations. For profit corporations.
      Review Peer review process by other experts in the field of study. Fact-checker and/or editor.
      Audience Researchers, scholars, other experts. General public.
      Content/Length Usually longer, focusing on a research study, or a review of research literature in a field. Often shorter, with a more general focus.
      Language Technical, discipline specific terminology. Written for a general reader with easier vocabulary.
      Sources Cited in a bibliography adhering to a specific citation style (MLA, APA, etc.) Usually not cited, and when they are, are not generally standardized.
      Structure Usually includes: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, and bibliography. Specific formats are not followed.
      Advertising Some. Copious.
      Scholarly Journal Popular Magazine


      Exploding an Article through Citations

      In addition to preventing plagiarism, citations serve another key role in the research process. They help to provide a longitudinal look at a research topic, providing connections to prior research that the author of an article (or other types of resources) used and to research that came after. Some databases such as Google Scholar and Criminal Justice Abstracts provide tools that can help you "explode" the article you are looking at to related articles. The tools are:

      In the library's databases look for:

      • Cited References - This is the article's reference list. It pulls in the full-text for any of the resources listed if those items are also in that database.
      • Times Cited - This connects you to other articles in the database that used the article you are currently looking at as part of the research.

      In Google Scholar look for:

      • Related Articles - These may be articles from that article's reference list or those that match the same search algorithm that found that article based on relevancy. 
      • Cited by - This connects you to other articles indexed through Google scholar that used the article you are currently looking at as part of the research.