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ENGL 1012: Madeleine Crum: Tips for Searching

Research Guide for Prof. Madeleine Crum's ENGL 1012 Class, Spring 2021.

Search Tips

4. While Google understands natural language searches, most library databases don't. It is good to get into the habit of setting up your searches in terms of keywords, and linking them together using AND. 

For example, if you're doing research about African American autobiographies, then a basic search could be:

   "African American" AND autobiography

It is also important to think about synonyms, alternate terms, and even variations in spelling. In this case, use OR to link your terms together.

For example:

  autobiography OR autofiction

  "African American" AND (autobiography OR autofiction)

It is important to brainstorm all the different keywords and phrases that might apply to your topic.  This will allow you to try a number of different searches until you get the most relevant results, and will help you be comprehensive in your searching. For example, if you're doing research about the history of your local bodega, what others terms or phrases might apply?

For example:

   bodega, corner store, general store, neighborhood market, local store, etc.

So some sample searches could be:

   bodega AND history

   (bodega OR "corner store" OR "general store") AND history

Tips for searches:

  • Don’t use full sentences or questions
  • Break your topic down into keywords and phrases
  • Brainstorm all of the different keywords and phrases that might be relevant to your topic 
  • Link keywords together with AND
  • Use OR for synonyms or alternate terms
  • Use quotes to search for an exact phrase (e.g. "speculative fiction")