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Information Literacy: More Search Hints

A guide to finding better resources, avoiding plagiarism, and writing better papers.

More Hints for Searching

Truncation: *

  • Truncation is a method used to replace any number of letters at the ends of words.
  • The most common symbol used is an asterisk (*)
  • Most electronic resource databases will use * - check each search engine help page to see which truncation symbol is used in that particular search engine or if * doesn't work in particular database check that help page.
  • Truncation may be combined with any of the other hints below.
  • Example: librar* finds library, libraries, librarian, librarians, librarianship
  • Example: elect* finds elect, elects, election, elections, electorate, electioneering

Nesting: ()

  • Nesting allows you to group words and is especially useful when combining Boolean Operators in a search query.  Nesting tells the database to look at those combinations first - must as you do numerical calculations of numbers in parentheses first.  (i.e., (1+2) x 3=9 versus 1 + (2x3)=7)
  • Example: censorship AND (books OR films)
  • Example: elections AND (Democrats OR Republicans)

Phrases: ""

  • Phrasing tells the database you want to find those words side by side, not scattered randomly in the sections being searched
  • Very helpful when searching for an individual or corporate name or for a title
  • Enclose phrases in quotation marks ("") when searching.
  • Phrase searching in individual databases may vary.  Check the helps pages when unsure.
  • Example: "united states senate"
  • Example: "gone with the wind"

Limits:

  • Most databases will let you limit your search results before (usually this is found on an advanced search page) or after (usually found on the left-hand side of the search results page) your search.  Some limits include:
    • Language
    • Publication type
    • Date of publication
    • Peer-reviewed/Scholarly works
    • Source (Such as a journal title)
    • Full text

Help for Researchers

*1. Proximity Searching

Problem proximity searching addresses: You want to find two related words close together – not at opposite ends of a document.

It is assumed here that you want the two words to be located within 3 words of each other (not counting “noise” words); so all examples will have the number 3. You may change it to another number.

 In all cases, the proximity operator is placed between two words (or phrases if they are enclosed with quotation marks).

Examples of Proximity Searching

Most researchers seem to just sit down and enter words. Better searches focus on citations with two words or phrases which appear quite close – are related – to each other. Below are examples of search strings where the words or phrases are within 3 words of each other. (The distance may be changed by using a different number, and a phrase may be substituted for a word if the phrase is placed in quotation marks (“ “).)

Database: Letters/numbers (case sensitive):
EBSCOhost First word N3 second word
Gale/Cengage First word n3 Second word
ProQuest First word NEAR/3 Second word
Google First word AROUND3 second wordOR: first word * second word
Jurn.org Google search techniques
Bing First word near:3 Second word
Yahoo! First word AROUND3 Second wordOR: First word NEAR second word

 2. Techniques Offered by Search Engine Cheat Sheets

For hints and techniques to get more from a major online search engine, go to About.com and make a search for: search engine cheat sheets. Wendy Boswell, About.com search editor, says: “You can use these Search Engine Cheat Sheets to become a better searcher…” Scroll down to find links for Yahoo!, Bing, Google, and Ask, plus a special one for advanced student researchers, http://adulted.about.com/od/studyskills/tp/10-Search-Engines-For-Students.htm. Be sure to try the DuckDuckGo.com cheat sheet – lots like the search engine with the funny name http://websearch.about.com/od/enginesanddirectories/p/Duckduckgo.htm.

3. Data and Statistics

Directories of statistical resources/aids for topics may be found by going to the Directory Project. Here is a simple example for Statistics http://www.dmoz.org/search?q=statistics.

Google offers freely downloadable Public Data from 136 online resources. And, many sources can be located by making an Images search in Bing.com or Google.com. If somebody else has compiled the data/statistics, it probably will appear there. (Note though the date in its heading or at the end of the source when it was last updated.)

4. Locating Sub- or Related Topics Using EBSCOhost or ProQuest Databases

Researchers using either EBSCOhost or ProQuest databases should go to the left ribbon and scroll down to the word "Subject" once a search is made. Click it and its companion link "More…" to see a list of 50 (for EBSCOhost) and around 100 (for ProQuest) sub- or related subjects. These may be used to refine/focus searches.

 

Thanks to the Evangel University Library Staff for compiling these great helps!

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Most of this information was created by the librarians at East Texas Baptist University. Check out their LibGuides here.