Tips for More Effective Searching
1. Formulate a search question. What information are you looking for?
Example: I am looking for recent articles on the habitat of the little pocket mouse.
2. Identify the key terms from your question.
Example: little pocket mouse and habitat
3. Identify any synonyms or related terms to include.
Example: Perognathus longimembris, range, distribution, environment
4. Identify any terms you want to exclude from the search.
Example: Perognathus longimembris pacificus, east or eastern
5. Identify the limits of your search. Do you want to limit your search to one particular author or to a particular journal?
Example: journal articles, 2006-2012, terms to appear in abstract or in descriptors but not necessarily in title
6. Examine your search results and refine or broaden your search query.
Sometimes it is better to begin with a broader search and then refine it after you see what results you get. You can locate a citation from your search that most closely matches what you are looking for and use the descriptors (key words) from that citation to refine your search.
Once you locate an article that matches what you are looking for, examine the literature cited by that article to identify more relevant articles, authors, journals, or key words.
1. Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT
AND - all terms must be present
Example: mouse AND habitat; results must have both terms
OR - either or both terms may be present
Example: mouse OR mice; results may have either mouse or mice or both
NOT - contains the first term but not the second
Example: mouse NOT rat; results will have mouse but not rat
Use parentheses to combine operators.
Example: (mouse OR mice) AND habitat; results will have the term(s) mouse and/or mice as well as the term habitat
2. Exact phrases: all of the words must be present in the exact order listed within quotation marks
Example: "little pocket mouse"
3. Truncation or wild card
Each database uses its own symbol for truncation. The most common is the asterisk (*). Truncation is used to get derivatives of a word or words containing specified letters. It indicates that one or more characters is missing. It can be used if you are unsure of the spelling, want to include plural forms, or want all forms of a word or all words that include the specified letters.
Example: habitat* will pull up habitation and habitats; wa*n will pull up warn, warden, washington, etc.
Each database uses its own symbol for wild cards. The most common is the question mark (?). Wild cards are used to indicate the possible absence of one character anywhere in the word except at the beginning.
Example: M?cDonald will retrieve both McDonald and MacDonald