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Articles are published in journals, magazines, and newspapers that are indexed in a variety of online databases. Since no single database provides access to every article ever published, you may need to search multiple databases to find what you are looking for. See Indexes and Databases to browse databases by title or subject.
(a) Getting better search results using AND & OR
The best search strategy is different for each topic and in each databases. A few useful ideas:
- Formulate your preliminary research question. Be prepared to narrow or broaden it as your topic evolves during the search.
- Once you have defined a research question, list the main concepts along with alternative terms.
- Combine your terms with Boolean operators for better results: AND will narrow down your search, OR will broaden it.
- Use your search terms in various combinations to run multiple searches in QuickSearch and selected databases.
- Take advantage of available functions, such as truncation (dog*), wildcards (wom?n) and phrase searching (“companion animal”).
- Remember to save results that look good for later use.
TIP: Research is an iterative process. It involves locating and assessing information from multiple sources As your research topic evolves, you may want to go back and run more searches to your ideas and support your thoughts.
Expert Search Strategies
- Read the description of the database to find out what you are dealing with and works the best (HINT: don't hit the CONNECT button too fast).
- Watch a quick tutorial about the particular database, you will be surprised what you might have missed.
- Check out the thesaurus for better search terms or controlled vocabulary (i.e., the terms preferred by the database).
- Try finding "review articles" first. They will provide not only a good review of what has been written on your topic so far, but also an extensive list of references.
- Once you identified an article extremely relevant to your topic, you can benefit tremendously from
- its bibliography to find more on your topic, i.e., from its Cited References, usually provided for free even with no access to the full text
- other articles citing this particular one, which is provided by most databases as Find Similar or by Google Scholar as Cited By
- terms the database uses to describe the article, i.e., Subject Headings, such as MeSH terms, or keywords - include those in your next searches in combination with the original terms
- the author, who might have written more on the same topic, including books and book chapters