Library catalogs and databases provide access to books, journal articles, and more, but finding relevant information effectively usually requires knowing how to search by their rules:
Keywords are the most important terms, usually substantive nouns, that are likely to appear in publications about your topic. Avoid using more generic, non-essential words (e.g., effects, impact, influence, reasons, etc.).
Sample research question with keywords bolded:
What kinds of dropout prevention programs have proven most effective with Hispanic students?
Phrase searching uses quotation marks to find multi-word terms in exact order:
A phrase search narrows results and works best when phrases are well-known terms, short (four or fewer words), and represent a single concept:
Many databases assume word adjacency, but when using quotes is available, results can be more precise.
AND, OR, and NOT connectors (also known as logical or Boolean operators) determine how keywords are found. Use them to narrow or broaden your results.
Advanced searching tip: If AND doesn't narrow results sufficiently, consider using proximity operators.
Wildcards can save time and broaden results by finding multiple endings of a distinctive word stem. The asterisk (*) is the most commonly used wildcard of this type.
In many databases a wildcard is no longer needed to find simple plurals (e.g., teacher usually finds either teacher or teachers). The wildcard is very helpful, however, for finding more complex variations. For example, educat* finds:
See more examples of wildcards.
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