Tip: Remember to check your assignment for the type of information you need and what sources to consult (books, articles, statistics, etc.).
Start with a simple search
If you start your search using all of your keywords you may end up with very few documents and possibly miss out on some pertinent information.
- Start with a couple of your search terms in one of the databases.
- Gradually add in more terms. Don’t forget to use the Boolean operators OR , and AND (see Combine Keywords).
- Use your search statements (see Create a Search Statement).
- Need more help? Look at the sections Too Many Results? and Too Few Results?
Make use of the database’s subject terms
Databases often have their own vocabulary. The terms may be called subject headings, subject terms, or subject descriptors.
Make these vocabularies work for you. They’re particularly useful when your results include too many irrelevant documents. Go to Using Subject Headings for more information.
- Always question what you find.
Is this what I need? Does it support my research thesis or my argument? Can I trust this information?
- Note It!
Keep track of which quotes you want to use and what you would like to paraphrase. Make note of all the relevant information for each of your information sources: author, title, publishing information, page number, date, etc. Include where you found it: database name, library, or on the web.
- Save It!
Save your document as you’re working on it. If you’re working in the college library, make it a habit to save every 10 minutes and put your document on a USB key or in an online storage space. If ever there is a power shortage and the library computers shut down, all of your documents will be erased. Don’t lose all of your hard work.