Skip to Main Content

ENGL 198H: Honors Seminar (Douglass, Spring 2024): Search Tips

Search Tips

Databases don't like sentences!

Databases are very literal and function by matching words and phrases exactly. Unlike Google and other search engines, most library databases won't offer alternative search terms and won't correct for typos and spelling errors.

It is up to you to think of all possible ways to express your research topic, and to spell everything correctly. 

  • Brainstorm all synonyms and like terms and connect these with the operator OR. Example:
    • "folk tales" OR folklore OR tales 
  • Use quotation marks to retrieve an exact phrase:
    • "physical space" OR "native american"
  • When you find a useful book or article, make note of the official subject headings or tags assigned to it and add these to your searches if applicable. 
  • The asterisk (*) symbol will bring up alternate endings to words with a common root:
    • environment* will also retrieve environment, environments, environmental, environmentalist, environmentalism.
  • Use the AND operator to combine separate concepts:
    • "fan fiction" OR fanfiction AND subculture
    • race AND "environmental justice" AND climate

A Good Man is Hard to Find. 1955

Image source: Amazon Books

Login to LibApps