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Where to Begin?
Procedure for effective searching:
- Determine the broad topic.
- Write down the words you associate with that topic. These will be Keywords.
- You may discover that there are search terms (keywords or key phrases) that work better than this term in finding information.
- You have to do preliminary research to do effective research.
- Identify related topics associated with the topic by browsing a variety of sources (related topics will help to generate more keywords to use to narrow the search, that is, to make the search results more specific):
- Electronic books.
- Library reference databases.
- Library periodical databases.
- Turn your topics into effective search terms.
- Decide if your search term is a commonly used phrase, e.g., “american history,” or two separate ideas, e.g., “united states” and “history.”
- Combine terms. Why combine terms?
- Combining terms is a step in Boolean algebra. See the Boolean Machine for visual examples of Boolean searches.
- Some databases supply the AND for you. Read search suggestions or HELP before searching a database.
- Or combine phrases,using the command AND, e.g., “united states” AND “civil war."
- Combine terms to reduce the number of retrieved items.
- Combine terms to make the search more relevant.
- Combine again, if needed, e.g., "united states" AND "civil war" AND "gettysburg."
- Keep track of which terms you have used and whether they were successful.
- Write the search terms down.
- Identify credible sources, that is, reliable sources.
- See our links on evaluating the credibility of web sites for more information.
- Library databases are purchased because they provide a greater likelihood of finding credible sources than an open search on the World Wide Web.
- Browse results of your search at each stage to determine if you have found relevant sources. Retrieved items do not have to be perfect! You can use relevant portions.
- Be sure to write down which documents you have used, if you have not made a print out or obtained a copy.
- If necessary, modify your search term(s) and try again.
- Ask the librarian for help.
Additional Helpful Research Guides
Refer to these Library Research Guides for additional assistance: