Top Five Search Tips

 

Ask a Librarian

icon services

Any Question, Anytime

Research by Subject

icon open book

Research Guides A-Z, Course Support Guides

Subject Specialists

icon group

Contact Your Subject Specialist

Instruction

icon instruction

Schedule a Session, Assignment Planning & Design

Error message

Home >> Research Services >> Research Services Blog >> Top Five Search Tips
top 5 search tips magnifying glass on paper

Library research can be tricky. Follow the tips below to help you create a successful search today.

  1. Breakdown your research topic into keywords.
    • Trying to search a library database in full sentences will leave you frustrated as databases will search for every word.
    • Example
      • Topic: What are the top marketing strategies for targeting millennial consumers?
      • Keywords: Marketing, strategy, millennial, consumer
  2. Brainstorm alternative keywords that get at your topic.
    • Since there are many ways in the English language to say the same thing, it is helpful to brainstorm similar words to describe your topic. This way if the database uses an alternative word- your search string will still be successful.
    • Example
      • Topic: What is the impact of class size on student success in reading?
      • Keywords: “class size,” “student success,” “academic achievement,” “student performance,” reading, literacy, “reading achievement,”
  3. Use Boolean (AND, OR, NOT) to create a search string
    • Databases use Boolean logic to search through the mass amounts of data stored within them. In order to be successful in your searching, use AND, OR, NOT between your keywords to create relationships between your concepts.
    • Think of your search string like a math problem. You can create a complex search string using parenthesis. The parenthesis and use of OR tells the database to look for any of the similar terms.
    • Putting quotations around terms tells the database to search for those words in the exact order they are found. Use quotations when you are searching for a phrase.
    • Example
      • Topic: What is the impact of class size on student success in reading?
      • Keywords: “class size,” “student success,” “academic achievement,” “student performance,” reading, literacy, “reading achievement,”
      • Search: (“class size”) AND (“student success” OR “academic achievement” OR “student performance”) AND (reading OR literacy OR “reading achievement”)
  4. Use a Research Guide to find specialized database on your subject.
    • Click on the Articles Tab on any topical guide that fits with your topic. The listed databases will provide articles targeted to your research topic.
  5. Make An Appointment with a Research Librarian.
    • Stuck on how to get better results? There is a subject librarian at the library to help you with your particular area of research. Contact your subject specialist for a personal research help session.
    • Need help getting started? Stop by the Research Services Desk.

Need more help building a search?

Take a look at these worksheets and tools to help breakdown a topic and create database search strings.

University of Arizona Search Strategy Builder

CUNY Hunter Search Worksheet

Written by: Brittany Geissinger Questions? eref@mail.sdsu.edu

 

Contact Us

Research Services Contact

Location: Library Addition, 1st Floor
Phone 619.594.6728  Text: 619.567.9743
Email: eref@mail.sdsu.edu

sdsu library research services interior