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LIB 111: Expository Writing: Search Strategies

Where Can We Find Sources?

Some sources are self-explanatory. If you're interested in what people are posting on Twitter about a certain subject, you might open up the Twitter app on your phone and search for a related hashtag, word, or phrase. If you want to see if there is a Wikipedia article on a topic, most likely you will search for the topic in Google or another Internet search engine and Wikipedia will be either the top result or close to it.

But other sources aren't as straight forward. We can we go to find items like magazines, newspapers, or trade journals? What about academic journals or books? Are we only supposed to use the library's databases, or can browsing Google actually be useful?

If the Library Doesn't Have What You Need: Interlibrary Loan!

If you come across an article or book that is not in our collections, you can still get it! Just use Interlibrary Loan to request that we get you a copy of it. We'll borrow it from another library, and get it to you (usually an electronic copy) in a few business days.

It will automatically be an option in most databases, or you can fill out the form: InterLibrary Loan

Search Strategy Suggestions: Boolean

Boolean Connector Purpose

AND

Connects different concepts (keywords).

Narrows down the number of results.

OR

Connects synonyms.

Expands the number of results.

NOT

Excludes a concept.

Use with extreme caution (even librarians don't use this one much).

Search Strategies: Boolean Examples

These are some examples of how each type of Boolean operator looks when used with keywords:

OR: Connects Similar Concepts 

It expands the number of results on the topic.

Examples Topics of Interest  Search terms connected by OR
College Students college OR university OR higher education OR undergraduate OR post secondary
Racism racism OR racial bias OR prejudice OR systemic racism OR racist
online courses online education OR online learning OR online teaching 
learning communities community OR engagement OR connection OR presence

 

AND: Connects Different Concepts

It narrows down the number of results.

Example Topics of Interest Search terms connected by AND
College students experiences of racism.

college OR university OR higher education OR undergraduate OR post secondary

AND

racism OR racial bias OR prejudice OR systemic racism OR racist

The role of engagement in successful online courses.

community OR engagement OR connection OR presence

AND

online education OR online learning OR online teaching 

 

NOT: Excludes a Concept 

Use with extreme caution.

Example Topic of Interest Search terms connected by NOT
Quitting tobacco, but just smokeless tobacco (eg vaping). Tobacco cessation NOT smoking
Cloning, but excluding sheep. Cloning NOT sheep

 

Search Strategy Suggestions: Make the Database Work More

Truncation

...uses the asterisk (*) to end a word at its core, allowing you to retrieve many more documents containing variations of the search term.  Truncation can also be used to find the singular and plural forms of a term. 

Example: educat* will find educate, educates, education, educators, educating and more.

Phrase Searching

...is when you put quotations marks around two or more words, so that the database looks for those words in that exact order.

Examples: "higher education," "public health" and "pharmaceutical industry."

 

Citation Chasing

... is when you read the reference list of an article to find potential additional sources for your own research AND when you use a citation database (eg Scopus, Google Scholar) to find more recent publications that have cited the article you're already using. 

 

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