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Advanced Searching

Tips for improving your search results

Search Tricks

Phrase searching allows you to search for a phrase. Use quotation marks around the phrase in order to tie all the words together in the order they must appear in. For example, search for "skin cancer" or "the girl with the dragon tattoo."

Wildcard. A wildcard is a placeholder that can represent one or more characters in your keywords. Usually represented by a question mark. For example, searching for colo?r would return both color and colour.  

Truncation. Truncation is a placeholder that can represent one or more characters at the end of your keywords. Usually represented by an asterisk. For example,  searching for educat* would tell the database to look for all possible endings to that word.  Results will include educate, educated, education, educational, or educator

Proximity searches use operators to designate how closely, and in what order, you want the search terms to appear. Typically the proximity operators are composed of a letter (N or W) or word (NEAR) and a number (to specify the number of words appearing between your search terms). For example, curriculum N3 theories would search for curriculum within 3 words of theories, in any order. 

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.

searching tips for when you get too many or too few results

When you’ve found one good 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 Go  ogle 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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