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FYS 100 -- Exploration & Understanding Our World (Brylawski): Basic Search Concepts


Basic Search Concepts

Keyword searching--Watch this tutorial from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. If your search term is a phrase, e.g., liberal arts, enclose the phrase in quotation marks. "Liberal arts" is a more specific search than typing the words separately.

Boolean operators (AND, OR, AND NOT) These words are used to combine your search terms. AND means every term must be in the item and narrows your search. OR means one or more of your terms can be in the item. It is used for synonyms, broadens your search and finds more items. NOT excludes a term from your results.

Truncation--Use the asterisk * to retrieve all variants of a word. For example, explor* will retrieve explore, explores, explorer, exploring, exploration. But be careful! Exp* will not only retrieve explore but also explain, explanation, expletive and all other words that start that way. You will get many irrelevant items.

Field--A field is the location in the record where your terms are located, e.g., title, subject, author.


Basic Research Steps

  • Select an interesting and doable topic.
  • Identify each component of your topic.
  • Select appropriate terms to describe the components.
  • Determine the correct use of Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT).
  • Select fields to search if appropriate (author, title, subject).
  • Limit your results as necessary (date, scholarly vs. popular, etc.).
  • Evaluate your results and rethink your strategy as necessary.