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Advanced Searching

Tips for improving your search results

Database Searching

1. Start by identifying the major concepts, themes, works, or authors that you want to research. These are your keywords. Only type your keywords into the search box- don't try to type in an entire thesis statement or research question. 

2. Most of the time, you'll either have too many search results to sort through, or too few to choose from. Use the following tips to expand or limit your search results as needed. These tips should work in most library databases. Some databases have additional or different tips you can try. When you're in a database, look for a link labeled "Help" or "Search Help" for information specific to that database.

Did you get too many search results or a lot of irrelevant sources? Try this:
Add additional keywords- (ex: college AND stress AND academics)
Choose more specific search terms- (ex: hiking AND DeLand instead of hiking AND central Florida)
Exclude words from your search results- (ex: travel NOT “time travel”)
Use search filters­- limit by source type, date of publication, language, subject, & more.
Choice of database- select a database with a narrower scope of subject matter
Search by subject- search for your terms as a subject instead of as a keyword
Search for a phrase- add quotation marks around a phrase to keep the words in that order (ex: "south africa" instead of south africa)

Didn't get enough search results? Try this:

Choice of keywords- choosing the right keywords is key. Try experimenting with different terms. (ex: Movie OR cinema OR film OR motion picture)
Too narrow topic- try looking for sources on a broader, related topic (ex: hiking AND central Florida instead of hiking AND DeLand)
Too many search terms- begin with 1-2 search terms that best represent your topic, then add more as needed. Avoid long phrases.
Too many search filters- avoid using any filters that are unnecessary
Choice of database- select a database with a broader scope of subject matter
Use wildcard & truncation symbols*#? Allow you to search for multiple spellings of a term
 
When you’ve found one source, try this:
Subject headings- does the database list any subject headings to your source? Click on these links to find more.
Reference List- browse your source’s reference list or bibliography to find additional sources on the same topic
Who’s cited this?- use Google Scholar or Web of Science to find sources that have cited your source since it was published
Author- has the same author published additional material on the topic?

Keyword vs. Subject Searching

Chart taken from Honors College Co-Curricular Workshops LibGuide, Lone Star College Library, Kingwood, TX

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