Where am I going to look?

Search strategy

I've got my topic. Now what is my strategy?

How long is this paper?

Short assignments don't need nearly the fine detail and in depth analysis that semester-long projects require. Here is a rough guide:

Subject Primary Source Secondary Source
Art Original artwork Article critiquing the piece of art
History Pioneer diary Book about life on the frontier
Political Science CNN report Newspaper editorial
Science Journal article reporting research results Textbook
Theatre Videotape of performance Encyclopedia of drama

Best Place to Start

For books, videos, CDs, audiotapes

For magazine and journal articles

need a few articles on a controversial issue?

need scholarly articles?

For newspaper articles

need some articles on a general topic?
start with NewsBank Newsfile

need articles on an Oklahoma topic?
start with Daily Oklahoman or Tulsa World

need historical newspaper articles?
start with Proquest Historical Newspapers

For searching the Internet

review hints from search tips for the web

have a very specific topic?
start with recommended search engines

broad topic or know just a little it?
start with recommended web sites

Why use (official) subjects vs. keywords?

The two most common methods of searching in online sources are by using (official) subjects or using keywords:

Subject

Why use the subject method: Subject searching is a precise - therefore efficient - method for searching. Avoid items on unwanted topics!

-- For example: I really want lemons (cars), not lemons (the fruit)!

How: Using standard terms or official "subject headings" that represent the main focus of a document.

Where: Library catalogs and most article and reference databases can be searched by subject. Indexes of web sites, like Google or AltaVista, do not have this feature.

Keyword

Why use the keyword method: Because keyword searching looks at all the words in a document, not just official subjects, it will find more results for you to sift through.

--However, many results might not be relevant. With a keyword search, information on Turkey (the country) will be mixed in with turkey (the bird) results.

--Keyword searching is best when your topic is specific (substance abuse during pregnancy), or not much has been written about it.

How: Using words that may occur somewhere in a document - in the title, description or abstract or full text of an article.

Where: This method is used when search web indexes. Library catalogs and article databases also allow keyword searching.

Big hint!! You must combine search terms effectively if you're using more than one keyword!!

Tips for combining search terms to get results!

Get better research results with less effort! This is where you learn some basic rules about talking to the computer. And where your alternate words - synonyms, broader and narrower terms - come in handy.

Try your searches with different words that reflect the same concept.

for example, try: smoking, teens, cancer
or smoking, adolescents, cancer
or cigarettes, adolescents, cancer

Keep phrases short!

Using "or" gives more results when using keywords
Using "and" gives fewer results
use when you are focusing or narrowing your topic
many databases default to "and"

Use quotation marks to keep an exact phrase together
example: "supreme court justices"

Examples:

  • Search used
  • Web search results (Google
  • chocolate OR chip OR cookie OR recipe
  • about 7,490,000 pages
  • chocolate AND chip AND cookie AND recipe
  • about 60,800 pages
  • "chocolate chip cookie recipe"
  • about 4,540 pages
  • "best chocolate chip cookie recipe"
  • about 155 pages!
  • "best chocolate chip cookies"
  • about 2,150 pages

Refine your search.

It's rare to get 100% good results on the first try.

If you get too few results:

  • try some synonyms for your topic
  • try a broader term
  • example: if using "wind power", also try "renewable energy"

If you have too many results:

  • add new concepts or limit search in some way.